‘A Day Without a Woman’ in the newsroom
The Editorial Board
Considering yesterday was International Women’s Day, it is important to note that our production staff is entirely comprised of women. Therefore, we felt obligated to print our publication accordingly to show its support of “A Day Without a Woman,” the strike aimed at paying respects to women’s impact on the socioeconomic makeup of America.
Our decision to leave page nine blank represents what American newspapers might have looked like this morning, without the contributions from female reporters, copy editors and page designers if they participated in “A Day Without a Woman” and took their work day off.
Because after decades of fighting for reproductive rights, financial equity and sexual freedom, ratios between male and female journalists are still disproportionate in 2017.
This isn’t the first time that an editorial board has brought this subject into the forefront. For instance, Newsweek’s cover story for March 23, 1970 was titled “Women In Revolt,” which attempted to rationalize the rampant feminism of the era. On the same day, according to a Newsweek retrospective, 46 women announced “they were suing Newsweek for [sex] discrimination” after a decade of being employed as “mail girls, clippers, researchers and sometimes reporters, but almost never writers.”
The landmark lawsuit was justified, as Newsweek didn’t even enlist an in-house female to write their cover story. According to Patricia Lynden, a former Newsweek writer, the female staffers were said to be “flighty” and “couldn’t cope because of their periods.”
During this time, the only woman who had been promoted to junior writer was Lynn Povich. Five years after she helped file the lawsuit, she became Newsweek’s “first woman Senior Editor” in the midst of a newly egalitarian staff.
Nearly 50 years since then, gender disparities in the journalism world have only improved by a slim margin. In June 2015, the Women’s Media Center ran a study about the “Status of Women in the U.S. Media.” Although women make up over half of the U.S. population, according to the WMC’s findings, they are still “assigned to report stories at a substantially lower rate than men.”
Based on the study, women are only onscreen for 32 percent of evening news broadcasts. In newspapers, women report 37 percent of the stories. In online news, women report 42 percent of the stories.
Gender misrepresentation not only applies to reporters, but for columnists as well. Opinion sections are a vital way for newspapers to discuss the ethics of politics, which is “a traditionally masculine topic” according to the Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly in its June 2014 study.
This research pointed to an average of 22 columnists in each major newspaper across the nation. Six of the columnists on those staffs are generally women, with “only one of [them] an ethnic or racial minority.”
Oddly enough, out of the eight North Texas Daily columnists, exactly half of them are women and over half of them identify as a racial minority. Although our paper has come a long way since the days of Don Draper, yesterday’s movement makes it clear that everyone else is in need of improving.
If the Women’s Strike aims to show the “significance that women have on the U.S. and global economics,” it’s crucial to address some of the women who have made the spread of this news possible.
Look at Barbara Walters, a living legend known for making “ABC Evening News” and “20/20” what they are today. Another example is Ida B. Wells, who went into investigative journalism after three of her friends were lynched, changing the game for women writers and eventually co-founding the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
The biggest reason that the environmental movement achieved globalization was due to 1962’s “Silent Spring,” written by Rachel Carson to bring attention to pesticide dangers. And in light of President Trump drawing comparisons to the Nixon administration, consider how that coverage was achievable thanks to Katharine Graham. She led The Washington Post for over two decades and resisted White House pressure that could have terminated the Watergate investigation.
Judging by these innovations, publications need more awareness to represent all demographics. Not only should different races and perspectives be accounted for by the press, intelligent women must be hired more often to make opportunities better for reporters everywhere. Women have enough battles to fight for, and newsroom gender politics shouldn’t be one of them.
Featured Illustration: Samuel Wiggins
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