The feminist critique of the newsroom

In “The Gendered Realities of Journalism” the author argues that female journalists face difficulties dealing with both the predominately male newsroom and the assumption that they cannot cover hard news.

The author points to several statistics to prove the first point: women only comprise about one third of the profession as a whole and perhaps 80 percent or more of the people in power-editors and management-are male.  Female journalists, on average, are paid less than male journalists and are less likely to be promoted; they are also excluded from the macho newsgathering and male-bonding aspect of the newsroom, making them outsiders rather than equal participants.  The author also mentions that female journalists have to strike a balance between seeming feminine and being tough, responsible journalists.

The author approaches the second difficulty first by looking at feminist critiques of objectivity.  Some feminists seek to root male subjectivity out of the norms of objectivity and go for gender-neutral reporting.  Others look for gender balance, ensuring there are equal number of male and female reporters and decision-makers.  A third group would dump objectivity altogether as an obviously male notion that facts can be separated from ideology and say that it only reinforces the patriarchy.  Furthermore, women are usually assigned to soft stories and their gut reactions-those praised in male reporters-are often dismissed.

I have a couple of problems with some of the ideas the author presented.  For one thing, I would like to see some data on the number of female journalists and the number in important positions compared to the number of actual applicants.  I agree that men should not be promoted over women simply because of outdated biases and macho camaraderie, but it’s possible part of the reason the number of women is so low is that there just aren’t enough applicants around.

Also, I have a hard time reconciling some feminists’ critique of objectivity as part of a male-imposed, male-oriented notion of truth.  I realize this is all tied into the feminist critique of Enlightenment thought and modern philosophy, but I don’t believe there’s necessarily male- and female- truth.  If just-the-facts objectivity is a flawed value because it is male-imposed and serves the patriarchy, why should women complain when they are only handed feature assignments?  I don’t see how someone could say one the one hand, that women should be given equally hard news assignments, and on the other, that hard news coverage is based upon inherently male notions and only serves to support the patriarchy.