THE WELLESLEY NEWS STAFF EDITORIAL: Journalism lacks adequate female voices

Unsurprisingly, a report released by the Women’s Media Center indicates that men hold most of the positions of power in journalism. Male journalists account for 63 percent of bylines in the nation’s top 10 papers and are predominant in the opinions pages. All but one of this year’s Pulitzer Prizes went to male journalists. Because media plays a large role in shaping society, the presence of women in influential media positions is essential. If front page articles are written mostly by men and the opinions pages are full of arguments from men then the media will continue to propagate gender inequality by keeping important stories off the table.

Male journalists tend to quote more males than females in their articles. According to a Women’s Media Center study, men were quoted three times more often than women for articles featured on the New York Times front page. This discrepancy propagates gender roles by representing a male-dominated authority in subtle ways that the public takes for granted when reading articles. This absence of female figures of authority is dangerous because the public internalizes the association of the male gender with power.

Having more women in positions of power means having more articles not only by women but about women’s issues.  Journalists like The Daily Beast’s Michelle Goldberg and Washington Post’s Sarah Kliff have dedicated countless articles to topics such as reproductive health and women in health care reform that have reached millions of readers and brought attention to issues particularly concerning women. Increasing female representation in journalism places more women in positions of power and changes the messages  transmitted to society. Nevertheless, women in journalism do not necessarily have to write about women’s issues nor should we assume women by nature are the ultimate authority on those issues. Female journalists are just as capable of reporting on “hard news” like conflicts or controversies.

The challenges that aspiring female journalists face in the job market, according to writer Liza Munday of the New York Times, are closely related to the advent of a more technological media. The writers that are spearheading online journalism ventures are predominantly males who close deals with investors. As the use of technology grows in journalism, publications engage in a higher level of non-institutional negotiation — negotiations in which women are less likely to be included. The closer you get to money and power, Munday states, “the more writers look like the people they are covering.” The lack of female voices in newspapers comes from the deep-rooted history of gender inequality and a society that is not structured to support women in the workforce.

As members of The Wellesley News editorial board, we take great pride in having a board completely comprised of female journalists. We are proud to belong to an institution that has educated journalists like Michelle Carruso-Cabrera ’91, Linda Wertheimer ’65 and Diane Sawyer ’67. Our alumni have increased the visibility of female journalists and have overcome the stereotype of journalism as a male-only field. We hope to continue that trend. As we close the academic year, we are thankful to be part of an all-women’s newspaper that allows us to assume leadership positions in journalism and that prepares us to be better leaders when competing in the male-dominated industry.

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