Tag Archives: Reporting

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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  I agree that men should not be promoted over women simply because of outdated biases and macho camaraderie, but it’s possible part of the reason the number of women is so low is that there just aren’t enough applicants around.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.

The ethics of objectivity

In their article, William Rowley and William Grimes argue that objectivity can be redefined to become a valid objective for journalists, while Theodore Glasser argues that objectivity-even an amended notion of it-is just a way for journalists to cover their butts and not serve the public.

Rowley and Grimes acknowledge the historical roots and problems with objectivity as a goal, but feel they can figure out a new, better interpretation of the term that journalists should strive for.  They describe three sub-principles that add up to a whole ideal.  The first, factual objectivity, is a matter of getting all the facts straight and putting them in a logical and understandable order.  Next is dramatic or aesthetic objectivity, which is a matter of story telling and attempting to include the emotional flavor of an event or experience.  The third is moral or ethical objectivity, which involves both reporting the larger, moral implications of a story and attempting to identify the reporter’s biases and not let them color the reporting.  The authors describe several very different stories all of which, they believe, came close to this new idea of objectivity, including Tom Wicker’s coverage of the Attica prison riot, the AP story about integration in Little Rock, Arkansas, Ernie Pyle’s World War II coverage and the Watergate story.

Glasser, on the other hand, traces objectivity as little more than an efficient way to do news that takes away the journalist’s responsibility for his or her work.  By only including the facts and taking him or herself out of the story, a journalist doesn’t have to be responsible, he says, and brings up Edwards v. National Audubon Society where the New York Times argued it should print an accusation even if it could be false-they were reporting the accusation, not making it.  Another problem cited is the tendency to accept official sources and he status quo.  Also, Glasser says objectivity robs reporters of creativity and analysis.

I’m not sure I really understand Rowley and Grimes’ three-section definition for objectivity.  Perhaps if they just used a different term, like “truthfulness,” it would make more sense to talk about being objective in reporting emotion.  Even for a totally subjective piece, like an opinion column or book, writing about other people’s emotional states is walking in a land mine-you don’t really know how they feel, after all.  It’s easy to talk about obvious cases, like saying soldiers in World War II were tired, or that a crowd is howling and shrieking.  But what about the emotional state of a serial killer?  It’s an important issue that people no doubt want to know about, but how can you be emotionally objective in any sense when the accused may be innocent, raging inside, completely cold-blooded or clinically insane?  Any of those could be ready from an impassive face in a courtroom.

I’m not saying we should not report emotional or ethical issues.  But I still think it’s important to separate what is undeniable fact (the man is accused of murder) from what someone has said (the prosecutor thinks he did it, his mother doesn’t) from what may be pure speculation (his calm demeanor seemed to be reptilian and cold-blooded).  I recognize many of Glasser’s arguments, but I’m still not convinced we should throw those distinctions out when writing.

State Project: California

Compiled by Jason Morrison

The following pages provide a wealth of information about California. It is the end result of a large internet research project I completed as part of the course Information Literacy: the News and the Net at Ohio Wesleyan University.

This project should provide a fairly good digest of sources of information about the state available online. My reasons for placing this online are twofold: First, to provide anyone seeking information on California or another state (many of the sites I used could be used for other states as well) some guidance and suggestions. Secondly, because I think completing a 50+ page, 30+ hour project about the web and then printing it out and not posting it online is ludicrous.

Part I — information about california.com, .gov, .edu, etc.

Part II — state facts

Part III — federal government resources

Part IV — other resources

I apologize for the length and unwieldy nature of the pages, I converted them directly from the assigned format directly to html. All information is carefully sourced–all commentary not cited is my own. Please feel free to site this page in a project you’re working on, but if you are looking for state facts I would suggest going directly to the sources I have listed.