On March 25, The International Women’s Media Foundation revealed its two-year study, “Global Report on the Status of Women in the News Media” during its Leaders Conference in Washington, revealing that – not surprisingly – there is gender disparity in newsrooms worldwide. According to the final report (2011), “More than 150 researchers interviewed executives at more than 500 companies in 59 nations using a 12-page questionnaire” (p. 7). Although the report offers a regional breakdown of findings, the global results suggest that, overall; women are not in a position to make choices that impact the production of news. The findings of the study show that, “In this long-awaited extensive study, researchers found that 73% of the top management jobs are occupied by men compared to 27% occupied by women. Among the ranks of reporters, men hold nearly two-thirds of the jobs, compared to 35% held by women. However, among senior professionals, women are nearing parity with 41% of the newsgathering, editing and writing jobs” (p. 9).
Facing these numbers, the female media executives that met at the International Women Media Leader’s Conference in Washington were faced with developing a plan of action, and according to The Women’s Media Center blog, one of those strategies included quotas in order to level the playing field. Further, goals were developed based on the needs of specific regions. For example, for North America, delegates made a “pledge” to “Create a cross-platform executive-level coalition with an emphasis on salary transparency and negotiation.” Although the continued condition of the gender wage gap makes these findings appear predicable, the difference lies in the generation of nuanced findings rather than abstracted support for the disparity. In other words, the “Global Report” allows for the development of both globally- and regionally-specific strategies that can assist in the development of policy, social action and ultimately, change. And, drawing from the work of political economy of communication scholars such as Robert McChesney, John Nichols, and Ben Bagdikian, a policy of “leveling the playing field” in journalism affords an environment that is directed more toward democracy and inclusiveness and less toward the profit-motive and exclusivity. (more…)
2009 Reporters without Borders Press Freedom Ranking Map
By Rachael Liberman
In an effort to combine press freedom and human rights, President Obama signed new legislation, titled the Daniel Pearl Freedom of the Press Act, which would require, according to The New York Times: “ … the State Department to expand its scrutiny of news media restrictions and intimidation as part of its annual review of human rights in each country. Among other considerations, the department will be required to determine whether foreign governments participate in or condone violations of press freedom.” The Wall Street Journal quoted President Obama as stating (during the signing ceremony): “Oftentimes without this kind of attention, countries and governments feel that they can operate against the press with impunity. And we want to send a message that they can’t.” Further, UPI quoted Obama with the following: “All around the world there are enormously courageous journalists and bloggers who, at great risk to themselves, are trying to shine a light on the critical issues that the people of their country face; who are the front lines against tyranny and oppression.”
While this new legislation, named after a reporter for The Wall Street Journal who was killed by Pakistani terrorists in 2002, does successfully call attention to the human rights element within journalism, the “report” that the State Department would “begin” detailing is actually already in effect. Among many organizations that track press freedom around the world, the Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters without Borders are two that already rank countries according to press freedom and human rights violations. In fact, according to their website, CPJ “is a an independent, nonprofit organization founded in 1981. We promote press freedom worldwide by defending the rights of journalists to report the news without fear of reprisal.” It would appear that this new legislation would then include an alliance between the State Department and these successful organizations. Unfortunately, this doesn’t appear to be the case: The Wall Street Journal reports that although there was a provision in the Act to give grants to independent media (which may have included these nonprofit organizations), it was removed in the Senate. In the end, while this new legislation does bring national attention to the risks that journalists take while covering stories in conflict zones (or non-conflict zones), many questions are left: How will this “list” from the State Department force other countries to change? How will this information depart from the facts we already receive from CPJ and Reporters without Borders? What about the fact that most of these journalists are independent bloggers who are risking their lives due to organizational/structural/financial issues within the industry?
Studying the Sociology of Journalists: The Journalistic Field and the News World
Press Freedom Index 2009 from Reporters Sans Frontieres (Reporters without Borders)
By Rachael Liberman
In a recent article from The Nation, heavyweight media scholars John Nichols and Robert McChesney remind readers that the current crisis in American journalism does not necessarily mean that the industry is fated to fail. Rather, Nichols and McChesney optimistically open the article with the news that the Federal Trade Commission is planning to hold (they are holding it right now) a hearing to “assess the radical downsizing and outright elimination of newspaper newsrooms and to consider public-policy measures that might arrest a precipitous collapse in reporting and editing of news.” Additionally, they note that the Federal Communications Commission “is also launching an extraordinary review of the state of journalism.” With these unprecedented actions slated to take place, it would appear that journalism is on the road to recovery. Receiving support from national organizations, after years of monetary losses and the decline of social impact, would work to restore journalism in both the private and public sphere. Unfortunately, Nichols and McChesney do not foresee the FTC or the FCC action as the answer to the journalism industry’s crisis. Rather, they see their approach, which uses the Internet as the catchall scapegoat, as counter-productive and derailing a larger issue. They write, “Now for the bad news: the way the challenges facing journalism are being discussed, indeed the way the crisis is being framed, will make it tough for even the most sincere policy-makers to offer a viable answer to it.” (more…)
Courtesy of Racked.com
By Rachael Liberman
When high-end retailer Barneys New York decided to remove their controversial window display on July 22nd, media outlets were literally handed a story that involved high fashion, violence against women, corporate marketing, and artistic integrity. Instead, many outlets, including the LA Times and the Chicago Tribune, abandoned a cultural critique and ran what the AP wire distributed. As a consequence, what could have been a discussion and inquiry into the social condition of gender and violence was abandoned. Was this lack of a greater context intentional? Were these news outlets understaffed and unable to devote more time to this story? While these questions, among others, reveal the complexity of the journalism industry, what still remains is the fact that this story has been buried, along with the potential for prompting public debate.
Of course, reader comments from news stories and blogs reveal that, although this issue did not become “mainstream,” there was undeniable interest in these displays of women being murdered – including “blood” splattered on the sparkling window and mannequins altered in positions of lapsed mortality. Many of the feminist blogs, including BUST and Feministing, included many reader responses that varied from postmodern acceptance to radical objection. (more…)
Remember all the reports immediately following the conclusion of the presidential campaign that an unnamed McCain-Palin campaign policy advisor leaked to the media that Sarah Palin didn’t know that Africa was actually a continent, and not a country? Remember all the interviews Palin did denying the reports, and calling the unnamed sources cowards and liars? Soon afterwards, reports swirled on cable news that the source of the leak had identified himself as Martin Eisenstadt, a member of The Harding Institute for Freedom and Democracy. However, what you most likely did not hear is that this neither of these entities really exists. They are the creation of a couple of filmmakers who regularly prank the media. This is their biggest hoax to date, as they managed to take in at least MSNBC, The New Republic, and The LA Times. It’s still not known who really did report that Sarah Palin had trouble with geography. But if reality is socially constructed as Berger and Luckman argue, it’s likely that merely claiming to have crucial or sought-after information will get you on the news, especially when more and more “facts” are needed to fill airtime in the 24-hour news cycle. News organizations were so eager to report that they knew the source of the leak that no one initially bothered to apply the revolutionary new vetting technique called “Google” on any of the parties that claimed credit before the news was reported. A quick glance at the Internet reveals that these guys have been putting out fake reports for some time now. It makes one wonder how many more pieces of “infaux-mation” are never found out.
Berger and Luckman: The Social Construction of Reality
With the United States’ presidential election season (finally) at an end, media researchers have begun the process of conducting what will likely be years’ worth of analyses on the various news outlets’ coverage of the historic campaign. A relatively new wrinkle in the landscape of television news has been the emergence of overtly left-leaning political commentators, specifically on cable channel MSNBC, ostensibly as a response to Fox’s overtly right-wing cable news personalities. The question many have asked is whether or not the cable channel’s perspective has crept into what is supposed to be “mainstream” news reporting on the network version of NBC. Because Fox does not have the equivalent of NBC’s long-running nightly national news broadcast, it has not been possible to make across-the-board comparisons. However, a new study by the non-partisan Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism has found that neither NBC Nightly News, nor its morning news program Today, have been altered by their cable partner’s left lean. The most interesting finding – NBC’s network news coverage was number one in positive coverage of the much-media-maligned Sarah Palin, even more so than Fox News Channel itself.
Bias in the News by Tien-Tsung Lee