Volume 41, No. 1, Winter 2013
Newspaper Obits Still Favor Men, New Analyses Show
Two recently published studies show that newspaper obituary space overwhelmingly belongs to males, continuing a trend identified in years past that stubbornly refuses to change.
Dana Liebelson, writing for Mother Jones, said, “Big papers' lists of significant deaths in 2012 overwhelmingly feature men. The Washington Post put 18 women and 48 men on its list. On the other side of the country, the Los Angeles Times listed 36 women and 114 men. And lest you think this is some kind of freak 2012 phenomenon, the New York Times has consistently listed many more men than women over the last five years.”
University of Iowa journalism educator Stephen Bloom devised a class project that analyzed NYT obits during the month of February from 1942 to 2012. The researchers were students at the University of Michigan, where he had been a visiting professor. He reported on the results for Columbia Journalism Review in November 2012. They discovered that the Times, probably the nation’s most important newspaper of record, publishes far fewer but much longer obituaries today than in the 1940s and 1950s. While the subjects have become more diverse in terms of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and occupation, the low representation of women has been a constant (as has the high representation of Ivy League college alumni). “The obits have always been male-heavy. In 1972, a typical female obit was two paragraphs, and spoke not of the deceased’s accomplishments but of those of her husband and sons,” Bloom said.
Goal: Gender-Neutral Media Environment, Healthy Images
The Healthy Media Commission released its long-awaited report in November 2012. A pledge to create such a commission was made at an organizing conference in Washington in October 2010. That conference was a partnership among the Girl Scouts of the USA, The Creative Coalition, the National Association of Broadcasters and the National Cable & Telecommunications Association. The report’s most extensive remarks about initiating change are directed at the industry:
“Media content is driven by those who create it. Leaders devoted to positive and healthy media for girls are more likely to promote this cause with their staff and create a culture of awareness. Industry should provide staff, writers and actors with training on gender equity in media and address social issues such as girls’ self-esteem, body images and relationships; increase the amount of balanced and healthy media; provide opportunities for boys and girls to create and share media; create public service announcements on this topic; and offer opportunities for young people to participate in career exploration.”
The Commission’s full report can be accessed here: http://www.girlscouts.org/who_we_are/advocacy/healthymedia/pdf/hmc_report_recommendations.pdf
Fonda, Steinem, Morgan Say It’s Time for Female FCC Chair
Jane Fonda, Gloria Steinem and Robin Morgan, co-founders of the Women’s Media Center in New York City, aren’t happy with the male tilt of President Barack Obama’s second-term appointments.
Though it’s not clear when or if the Federal Communications Commission and related agencies will have vacancies at the top, the trio say when they do, women should be tapped.
“Never in the 80 years of the FCC has a woman of any race or group been its chair, though women have been the nation's majority for a long time,” they wrote in an opinion piece for CNN.
A Fond Tribute: ‘New Directions’ Founder Paula Kassell
We’re entering the season of corporations’ annual meetings, where stockholders can face executives and critique their performance in the past year. One such encounter in the spring of 1986 resulted in a sea change in terms of respect for women and the way they are described by the news media.
The determined woman who attended the annual meeting of the New York Times Company that April and brought about those changes was Paula Kassell, a long-time activist for feminist causes and the founder of a durable publication for women. Paula, a longtime MRTW supporting subscriber, died last August at her home in Dover, NJ. Her publication, New Directions for Women, which began as a New Jersey periodical and went national, began in January 1972, before Ms. magazine got on the stands, and continued until 1993.
Although she was sometimes rueful at being known mainly for one event, Paula’s most conspicuous moment was at a public debate in 1986 with Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, then publisher of The New York Times, about use of the courtesy title "Ms." in the newspaper. The debate, at a stockholders' meeting, immediately preceded the Times's adoption of the usage.
British Women’s Groups Press For Change in Coverage of Women
The following is an excerpt from one of the most important media analyses to come out of the UK in years. It is from a collaborative effort by four women’s organizations: EAVES, Equality Now, End Violence Against Women Coalition, and OBJECT. The report was released in November 2012. Its find-ings are a devastating indictment of the British press’s reporting about women:
“We argued that much current newspaper reporting about crimes of violence against women promotes and reinforces myths and stereotypes about abuse (such as 'real’ and ‘deserving’ victims, ‘provoked’ or 'tragic’ perpetrators etc.); is often inaccurate; and does not give context about the true scale of violence against women and girls (VAWG), or the culture in which it occurs. Such reporting can tend towards the normalisation, eroticisation and even condoning of VAWG. It sends a message to survivors of abuse that they will not be believed or that what happened to them will not be taken seriously, and it tells potential perpetrators that their actions will not be sanctioned. As the Crown Prosecution Service stated shortly after we gave evidence to the [press regulation reform] Inquiry, this prejudicial reporting may seriously undermine the justice system by having an impact on jurors’ decision-making.
“We find that across the British national press there is consistent, systematic sexism, which has the potential to negatively impact on women’s enjoyment and participation in public life, and women’s access to justice where crimes of violence are committed against them.”
The full report, with many examples illustrating the problem, can be accessed here: http://www.object.org.uk/files/Just%20the%20Women%20-%20Nov%202012(1).pdf
Research in Depth — Technology is my BFF: What Are New Communications Technologies Doing to/for Girls? by Martha McCaughey
Research in Depth — Framing as Media Ritual: Fox News Network Re-Frames the Bristol Palin Pregnancy by Frank Durham and Hye Jin Lee
Analysis -- Media Conglomeration is Women’s Business: FCC Reports Female Broadcast Ownership Below 8% by Carolyn Byerly
Plus News Briefs, People, and Books, Flicks, etc.!
Media Report to Women has hard copies of back issues dating to its founding in 1972. Indispensable for research!