Tags: Gender | Discrimination | Newspapers

Gender Discrimination in Newspapers

Thursday, 17 March 2005 12:00 AM

This is a longstanding problem, which my students at USC Law School and I have been collecting data about for some years. Alicia Mundy wrote about the under-representation of women at The New York Times in Editor & Publisher a decade ago; in February of this year, there were no women at all on the op-ed page of The New York Times on 12 of 28 days, or nearly half the month.

Former Washington Post ombudsman Geneva Overholser, one of the most respected women in journalism, pointedly wrote about the issue, as well. For the first nine weeks of 2005, according to The Washington Post's own Howard Kurtz, 90 percent of the articles on the op-ed page of that paper were by men.

Two years ago, I was one of the leaders of an effort to protect the one female news columnist at the Los Angeles Times when there was a proposal to downgrade her column – and we provided our results to Tribune leaders then. Only one of six New York Times columnists is a woman – even so, and even including the one woman news columnist, who was finally moved from the inside of the metro section to the op-ed page, in January of this year, before we began our current effort, The New York Times still printed a slightly higher percentage of women (16 percent) than the Los Angeles Times (14.3 percent), which is hardly much to crow about.

Since Feb. 14, when we began public scrutiny at the Los Angeles Times, the percentage of women on their op-ed page has increased 10 percent.

With a new round of attention to what everyone acknowledges is a real gap comes the question whether those who are in a position to do something about it will recognize the need to do more than simply keep an eye out for a few good women, as everyone promises, and has been promising for years, to absolutely no avail.

People rarely sit down these days and say, let's not call any women. Mostly, they call everyone they know – who happen to be the people they went to school with, played sports with, worked with in the past. Friends call old friends. Men call men. Editors call other editors, or other columnists, people who are already members of their club. They'll ask, "What would be great?" and the answer will be a page that looks like us.

At my first Harvard Law School faculty meeting more than 20 years ago, I listened as my very senior colleagues – those I respected most in the world – described the ideal young recruit. Each described himself.

Unconscious discrimination produces pages that are 80 percent and 90 percent and sometimes even 100 percent male from people who feel annoyed at those who force them to confront the fact that what feels like neutral decision-making isn't. And since the other newspapers look just alike, they would probably pay no attention were there not some other controversy.

In this case, the controversy became Estrich vs. Kinsley. It was not what I intended. I started out trying to get a letter to the editor published and ended up in a public battle. My favorite was the suggestion that I would lead a campaign against a newspaper to get my own column run by that newspaper, a suggestion that would be comical if it weren't so revealing.

I have a greater goal. The numbers speak for themselves. They can't be avoided. My reward will come when I pick up the paper someday and see memorable columns by smart women who say they've never been the victims of discrimination.

One of them may be my daughter. Or yours.

COPYRIGHT 2005 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.

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This is a longstanding problem, which my students at USC Law School and I have been collecting data about for some years. Alicia Mundy wrote about the under-representation of women at The New York Times in Editor & Publisher a decade ago; in February of this year, there...
Gender,Discrimination,Newspapers
624
2005-00-17
Thursday, 17 March 2005 12:00 AM
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