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1st Female Editor Denies Influence of Gender

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Monday, September 12, 2011

No Difference in Taste or Sensibility, Jill Abramson Says

On 9/11, Newsroom Responded With Memorial Service

Angry Crowd in Cairo Turns on Journalists

Obama to Black Groups: "I Want You Guys to Pump This Up"

CNN Defends Partnership With Tea Party Express

Photographer on Assignment Sees Wife, Child Carjacked

Latina Magazine Celebrates 15 Years With 15 Latinas

Digitized Newspapers Could Be Boon to Black History

Short Takes

Jill Abramson, left, became executive editor of the New York Times last week, succeeding Bill Keller, center, who became a full-time writer. Dean Baquet, right, rose to managing editor for news. (Credit: Fred R. Conrad/the New York Times)

No Difference in Taste or Sensibility, Jill Abramson Says

Jill Abramson, who last week became the first female editor of the New York Times in its 160-year history, said Sunday, "The idea that women journalists bring a different taste in stories or sensibility isn’t true."

The statement was challenged by women who have studied the topic of women in journalism.

Abramson's comment came in an interview with the Times' public editor, Arthur S. Brisbane, published Sunday. Brisbane asked, "Will the public see a change because a woman is now in charge?"

Abramson replied, "Do you think any readers noticed it when I was a managing editor and had a major role in the play and picking of stories online and in print? The idea that women journalists bring a different taste in stories or sensibility isn’t true. I think everybody here recognizes and loves a good story, and the occasions are rare when there is disagreement about that."

 June O. Nicholson, left, Wanda S. Lloyd, Karen Magnuson and Megan Kamerick say women bring a different perspective to the editor's officeThe idea that people with different backgrounds bring different perspectives to their positions has been a consistent argument for diversity in the news business.

"I disagree" with Abramson's statement, Megan Kamerick, president of the Journalism & Women Symposium (JAWS), told Journal-isms. "Women do have different experiences than men to bring to a situation. The Global Media Monitoring Report on Women found that stories by female reporters contain more female subjects than stories by male reporters and are more likely to challenge stereotypes as well." She recalled the Times' handling of the gang rape of an 11-year-old in Cleveland, Texas, to make her point. More on that later.

Kamerick is a senior reporter at New Mexico Business Weekly and an independent radio producer.

"I don't thoroughly agree with Jill Abramson," said Wanda S. Lloyd, executive editor of the Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser and one of four editors of "The Edge of Change: Women in the 21st Century Press." "While yes, everybody loves a good story, it has been my experience that my female-ness has been able to shape some stories with a different sensibility.

"I challenge taste for my newspaper when photographers come back with images that I know do not fit the comfort level of our conservative community — at least in print. We know, for example, that the Web has a different level [of] tolerance."

The editor who introduces that book, June O. Nicholson, director of graduate studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, told Journal-isms, "Some women in newsrooms, editors and others at the top of companies, say that women do bring a different perspective than men to newsrooms, news coverage and to decisions made by the top leadership of news companies. Some say that women overall lead differently than men. Others disagree.

"But I think that collectively the presence of women as top editors and leaders does make a difference. Part of this is life experience.

"Diversity among editors and top management helps ensure that a variety of perspectives are a part of the decision-making and coverage of issues. Diversity, including gender diversity, should be an important consideration in every newsroom and company. "

Karen Magnuson, editor of the Democrat and Chronicle in Rochester, N.Y., and co-chair of the Diversity Committee of the American Society of News Editors, said Abramson was right — to a point. "I agree with Jill to a certain extent," she said. "It really depends on the personality and background of the person in charge, not whether they are male or female. On the other hand, I also believe that female editors can and do bring a different perspective to the editor's office, especially if the history of the editorship at the newspaper has been male-dominated. This fresh perspective can manifest itself in a variety of ways ranging from leadership style to content innovation. It's inherent in the beauty of diversity."

Nicholson cited a 2002 study, "The Great Divide: Female Leadership in U.S. Newsrooms," [PDF] conducted for American Press Institute and the Pew Center for Civic Journalism. It divided women into "career-conflicted" and "career-confident" women. The "career-conflicted" women, 45 percent of female news leaders, "say they probably want to move up but have 'concerns' about advancement, including sexism and the lack of opportunity. They report lower satisfaction with salary and relationships with their bosses, and different tastes in news."

These women said too few resources go to health and medical news, the interests of women, the interests of parents and recreation, and too many go to crime and political news, according to the report.

Kamerick, of JAWS, raised the gang-rape case and added the issue of access. She wrote Journal-isms:

"I just gave a TEDx talk touching on some of these issues and one example I brought up was the March story that ran in the NY Times this year by James McKinley on the gang rape of an 11-year-old girl in a small Texas town. That story brought a huge amount of criticism to the Times because for one thing, we heard almost nothing about the victim except that she wore clothes that were too old for her and she wore makeup. But we heard from other sources lamenting the impact of this on the men arrested for the crime. The paper’s ombudsman eventually wrote a column pointing out failures in the paper’s coverage.

"Three weeks later, the Times revisited the story and added Erica Goode to the byline. I can't say for sure if it was her presence on the story that made this follow-up more complete, but the picture we got was quite different. The young girl and her family lived in abject poverty. She was assaulted numerous times by many different men. And she still had a bedroom full of stuffed animals — that gives us quite a different perspective than some kind of inference that she dressed like a slut and was in a place she shouldn’t have been in the first place. And it had the social context and nuance the first story lacked. By the way, stories about violence against women often lack such context and are full of stereotypes.

"Then there is the question of access. Much of our foreign policy revolves around countries where the treatment of women is a major issue, such as Afghanistan. We are told one of the primary arguments for not leaving that conflict is the fate of women there. What kind of stories will you get if you don’t have female reporters on the ground who can talk to women, especially in more traditional areas where a male reporter would have much more difficulty getting access? Isn’t it important to get those women’s stories if we’re told that’s one of the reasons the U.S. Military cannot leave that country?

"One of JAWS’ former presidents worked on the 1994 Pulitzer Prize-winner series at the Dallas Morning News on women around the world. She told me not only would the series likely never have happened without a female assistant foreign editor pushing it, but they never would have gotten some of the stories without women on the ground reporting and photographing. That was especially true for a series on female genital mutilation. Male reporters just aren’t going to be allowed into those situations.

"Having more people at the table with different perspectives is always a good idea. That means people of different race, gender, sexual orientation and economic background. We all have unconscious biases and blindspots of which we are unaware. Having people with different perspectives making news decisions ensures that all angles are considered. It’s about giving our readers and viewers an accurate picture of reality.

"One of my board members once worked at a daily in California where the sports editor neglected to write a story about the local woman’s basketball team advancing to regional or state finals. But it did have a story about the local men’s team, which didn’t do much that year. Angry readers demanded to know why the women’s team wasn’t covered. The sports editor didn’t have a good reason except that he forgot. Would he have forgotten if there had been a woman on the sports desk?"

Just before noon on Sept. 11, 2001, employees silently gathered in the newsroom of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram for a 25-minute memorial, 'something I'd never seen done at a newspaper,'  wrote columnist Bob Ray Sanders. (Credit: David Kent/Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

On 9/11, Newsroom Responded With Memorial Service

"It was a day when the usually bustling newsroom momentarily stood still in shock, collapsed quickly into mourning and then relied on pillars of prayer and patriotism for support," Bob Ray Sanders wrote Sunday for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. He was recalling Sept. 11, 2001.

"I had never seen anything like it, but then the country had never experienced anything like what happened on that September morning 10 years ago today. . . .

"I rushed to the office, where other staff members were showing up on impulse. We gathered around newsroom TV monitors and watched in horror as the first tower crumbled into a cloud of dust; then the second.

"Seasoned reporters and editors hugged themselves, held their hands over their mouths in disbelief and watched helplessly before frantically setting in motion plans for trying to cover the catastrophic event.

"The news got worse as reports came in about the attack on the Pentagon and the plane crash in Pennsylvania.

"At one point, Executive Editor Jim Witt asked me whether there was something we should do, inside the building, to try to bring some sense of solace for the staff.

"As others planned an extra edition and considered how to cover the tragedy, I put together an agenda for a 'memorial service' — something I'd never seen done at a newspaper — set for noon.

"I asked someone to find a U.S. flag, and suddenly one was placed prominently in the newsroom. Where it came from, I don't know.

"Just before 12 o'clock, people silently gathered in the middle of the newsroom for what would be a 25-minute memorial.

"We prayed in the name of 'God, Jehovah, Allah' and read scripture from the Torah, Bible and Koran. We spoke of pain, peace, unity, freedom and love of country. . . .

"Once it was decided we would 'go to the story,' Managing Editor Kathy Vetter led a team of 10 reporters and three photographers who drove three vans straight through to New York, leaving around 5 p.m. Sept. 11 and arriving in New York on the night of Sept. 12.

". . . Witt said: 'It was one of the best decisions the staff ever talked me into during my 15 years as editor of the Star-Telegram. We were part of the Knight Ridder chain of newspapers at the time, and even though there were several papers much closer to New York than we were, they didn't make the effort while we got there within 24 hours and essentially became the 9-11 bureau for Knight Ridder.' "

Angry Crowd in Cairo Turns on Journalists

"An angry crowd lingering near the Israeli embassy in Cairo after an attack on the building a day earlier turned on journalists reporting the incident Saturday, accusing at least one of being an Israeli spy," Ivan Watson reported Sunday for CNN.

"As a CNN crew filmed the embassy from across the street, another crew from American public television — led by Egyptian television producer Dina Amer — approached the building.

"The crew's Russian cameraman was preparing to film the embassy when a woman in the crowd began hurling insults at the TV team, Amer said.

" 'There was this older lady who decided to follow me and rally people against me,' Amer recalled.

"She said 'you're a spy working with the Americans.' Then they swarmed me and I was a target.'

"A growing crowd surrounded Amer and her colleagues, as they tried to leave the scene.

"Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, a producer working for CNN, rushed to help escort Amer through the angry crowd. But suddenly the two reporters were pinned against the railing of an overpass by young men who were accusing Amer of being an Israeli spy.

"Yelling 'I'm Egyptian,' Fahmy managed to pull Amer another 10 meters down the road, until the pressure from the mob overwhelmed the pair.

"Amer screamed as she and Fahmy were knocked to the ground and the crowd started to trample them. . . .

"When Margaret Warner, a correspondent with the PBS program ['NewsHour'] managed to get the vehicle moving away from the crowd, men threw stones at the departing vehicle. . . ."

Obama to Black Groups: "I Want You Guys to Pump This Up"

President Obama maintained again that "I don't think of my job as president of the United States as looking at different segments of the population" even as the White House and the Democratic National Committee continued targeting African Americans and Latinos with Obama's message on jobs. The president told black groups, "I want you guys to pump this up."

He also held a roundtable with Hispanic journalists, making news with a declaration that "a Palestinian bid for recognition next week at the United Nations was a 'distraction' and would not result in viable statehood," Agence France-Presse reported.

Obama made a "surprise" appearance at a question-and-answer session with black Internet media at the White House Monday afternoon to promote his jobs package, MJ Lee reported for Politico.

" 'I want you guys to pump this up,' Obama told the audience after taking a few questions about the American Jobs Act, which was sent to Congress on Monday. 'No, look, we are in a critical juncture here. I’ve been fighting for two-and-a-half years to get through this economic storm, and we have stabilized ... but the unemployment rate is still too high, and too many people are still hurting.' "

In an interview Saturday, Brian Williams of NBC News said to Obama, "I want to ask you about African Americans. I'm hearing and reading from many, and not just Mr. [Tavis] Smiley and Professor [Cornel] West, who say you've exhibited to them what they see as a mystifying silence on the especially crippling unemployment rate, poverty, and especially where young African American males are concerned in our urban area."

Obama replied, "The most important poverty program is a job. And so what we talked about on Thursday will help most directly those who have the highest unemployment rate: African Americans, Latinos, rural communities, young people. And so, you know, if, if you look at everything we've done for the last three years, my entire focus has been providing ladders of opportunity for people so that they can make it. And by definition, that means that communities that are hurtin' more are gonna get more help."

Williams also asked, "So you don't see yourself as being in a special role to deliver a special message?"

Obama said, "My job is to be the president of the United States. My job is not to, to be a pundit, or a columnist."

The Hill newspaper reported Monday that the Democratic National Committee put up a new website that "breaks down the impact of Obama's $447 billion plan on women, Latinos, African-Americans and low-income Americans — all groups whose support was key to Obama's first campaign."

On Monday afternoon, the White House hosted the “Open for Questions” event with Interactive One, which includes News One, Hello Beautiful, Black Planet, The Urban Daily and Grio, all black-oriented websites. Administration officials answered questions submitted through the sites. Among the more than 150 people present were representatives of nonprofit organizations, educators, faith leaders, entrepreneurs, business representatives, and members of advocacy and youth groups.

The White House also circulated a Saturday story by Errin Haines of the Associated Press that began, "President Barack Obama's jobs pitch is already playing well with blacks, who had grown plenty irked with him over what they perceived as his indifference to their needs."

Eight Republican candidates took the stage Monday night in a debate co-sponsored by CNN and the Tea Party Express. (Credit: CNN)

CNN Defends Partnership With Tea Party Express

CNN is rejecting criticism of its partnership with the Tea Party Express that produced Monday night's Republican presidential candidates debate.

The media watch group Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting complained Monday, "It's unusual for a centrist news outlet to take an openly partisan group as a partner in producing a political event; we can't recall progressive groups being granted any similar opportunities in recent years."

"Is there really a need for another national cable news channel devoted to promoting far-right elements within the Republican Party?"

FAIR urged readers, "Ask CNN why it has decided to damage its credibility by partnering with the Tea Party Express for tonight's Republican debate."

A CNN spokeswoman replied for Journal-isms, "During the primary debate season it's not unusual for news organizations to partner with groups who are part of the coalition of that party. Here are some other examples:

"CNN has partnered in the past with the Florida GOP (2007) and the Nevada Democratic Party (2008). CNN has also partnered with the Congressional Black Caucus, SCLC," the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, "as well as BIPEC," the South Carolina Business and Industry Political Education Committee.

Photographer on Assignment Sees Wife, Child Carjacked

"While covering a high speed pursuit spanning 3 counties last night, photojournalist Carlos Rodriguez became part of the story when the suspect carjacked his vehicle with his wife and two-month-old son inside," Andrea Brooks reported Sept. 4 for KTXL-TV in Sacramento, Calif.

". . . The California Highway Patrol was chasing 28-year-old Brett Phares.

". . . Phares led them on a pursuit from San Joaquin County through Stanislaus County and south into Merced County. When Rodriguez caught up with the pursuit, Phares was already headed north again — driving the wrong way, against traffic on southbound Highway 99 just south of Turlock.

" 'There was a split second where I see the vehicle go by, but the suspect wasn't in the vehicle and the next thing i know there was pounding and screaming coming from the inside of my car — I run up and see the suspect throwing the car in gear and speeding off with my car," Rodriguez said.

"He was still rolling video. In that video, you can see Rodriguez's white Nissan Cube peel away — with his wife and two-month-old son inside. When listening to the video, you can hear Rodriguez, unaware that his camera was still recording, yelling to C.H.P. officers, 'My wife and two month old kid are in that car,' he says.

". . . In the video, Rodriguez can be heard saying, 'He has a scanner in the car.' With a scanner, Phares could hear everything the C.H.P. was doing to catch him.

"Miraculously, though, just two exits away, Phares let Rodriguez's wife
and son out of the car. . . .

"While we had turned to Jennifer Lopez for our first cover and our 10th anniversary one, this time around we really wanted to capture the Latino evolution," Latina magazine said. (Credit: Latina)

Latina Magazine Celebrates 15 Years With 15 Latinas

"Has it been 15 years already?" HuffPost's LatinoVoices asks.

"Latina magazine celebrates its 15th anniversary with a special collector’s issue, '15 Latinas We Love,' which highlights fifteen of the most influential Latina celebrities on its October 2011 cover since the magazine hit the stands 15 years ago.

"In the 3-page fold out cover, from left to right: Shakira, Selena Gomez, Salma Hayek, Zoe Saldana, Eva Longoria, Gloria Estefan, Michelle Rodriguez, Jessica Alba, Daisy Fuentes, America Ferrera, Rosario Dawson, Ana de la Reguera, Natalie Morales, Rosie Perez and La La Anthony."

Latina posted an average monthly circulation of 505,173 for the first half of 2011, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations. It claims "single readership of 2 million bilingual, bicultural women in the United States" and to be the largest magazine edited by and for Latin women."

The Spanish-language Siempre Mujer posted a circulation of 514,558, and People en Español recorded 569,081.

Digitized Newspapers Could Be Boon to Black History

New databases "enable researchers to perform keyword searches in some of the thousands of newspapers printed in the United States since the colonial era; what would have taken lifetimes of relentless reading could suddenly be completed in seconds," Stephen Mihm wrote Sunday in the New York Times.

". . . Perhaps the biggest dividend of digging in digitized newspapers was the light it could shed on figures whose papers weren’t considered important enough to preserve: African-Americans, for example, or women.

"Graham Hodges, a professor of history at Colgate, found this out while writing a biography of David Ruggles, an important but largely neglected African-American antislavery activist in 19th-century New York City. Using digital newspaper archives, Professor Hodges reconstructed the elaborate networks that linked Ruggles with other, better known activists.

"The result is a much more nuanced insight into antislavery activism than was ever thought possible. 'I suspect that that the history of reform movements such as the Underground Railroad will be rewritten once historians appreciate how famous and little-known activists communicated through the newspapers,' Professor Hodges said."

Short Takes

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Richard Prince's Journal-isms originates from Washington and is published Monday, Wednesday and Friday. It began in print before most of us knew what the Internet was, and it would like to be referred to as a "column." For newcomers: The words in blue (on most computers) are links leading to more information. The Web site BugMeNot.com provides passwords and user names to some registration-only news sites, but use may be illegal in some states. Any views expressed in the column are those of the person or organization quoted and not those of any other entity.

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Controversy?  What controversy?  Everybody knows a wise latina reporter with the richness of her experiences would more often than not find a better story than a white man.

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