Not Even Half the Story

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By Write(H)ers participant Nathan Nye, T'13

“I’m sure I could think of other ways for a pretty girl like you to make a living.”

Did you just read that? Did you shudder just a little? I think we can all agree that there is a large creep quotient contained in the above sentence. This is one of the many submissions on the tumblr  Said to Lady Journos. Somehow this person managed to demean women, journalists, and the boundaries of decency in 18 words. The site makes it clear that this kind of occurrence is not uncommon. My personal favorite was said to a woman covering a murder trial, and when the testimony was getting gruesome, a man looked at her and said, “You might want to cover your ears, young lady.”

It’s tough to be a lady journo. The kind of sexism we see on screen and in print is just as prevalent behind the scenes. Men dominate journalism- 74% of journalists at national papers are men. It gets more depressing when you go into more traditionally gendered sections of the paper- 3% of sports writers are women. As a note, at schools like Georgetown 59% of journalism majors are women. So this isn’t about women not being interested in journalism. Surprise, institutional sexism is afoot.

Last year I started a project to see how often women made the front page of large national papers. The methodology was simple. Pick 50 random dates from 2005-2010 and find the gender of the reporters wrote the front-page stories. After hours of looking at microfiche (which is a very unfamiliar experience for a child of the Internet age, by the way) I had some concrete evidence, and results were startling. 

I’m not claiming that these numbers gleaned from a small sample are definitive, what I’m positing is that these numbers are indicative of trends that others have (often more eloquently) also written about here, here, and here.

So yeah, there’s a problem of sexism in media. You’re probably about to click the back button while muttering to yourself, “duh.” Here’s why I care, and here’s why you should too- it matter who writes the news. Some might disagree. They might say, “news should be objective” or “the truth is the truth.” I say that if you don’t believe writer’s biases affect their writing, you aren’t paying attention. Our experiences shape how we address issues. The experience of men and women in this country is fundamentally different. Until we have a plurality of experience represented in the media, we’ll never be representing the news as it’s lived by citizens. It’s simple.  With only 30% of reporters being female, we aren’t even getting half the story

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