Signs of progress

Thanks to Stony Brook journalism Prof. Barbara Selvin* for pointing out something remarkable on the front page of today’s New York Times: The four top stories were written by women, and there are two photos of female leaders. Michelle Obama (whose birthday is today) is pictured in the lead image; Katie Couric and Marissa Mayer are in a smaller pic on the bottom left.

We’re a long way from gender parity in bylines or sources, but this front page is reason for hope. It also hints at something else: Female leadership in newsrooms matters when it comes to treating women as full-fledged civic players, not pretty things tucked away in the style section or, perhaps worse, manhaters out for world domination.  It’s been more than two years since Jill Abramson became the first woman to lead the Times newsroom and, she told public editor Margaret Sullivan, newsroom diversity in terms of race and gender is one of her focuses. Diversity in staffing often translates into coverage that’s more fair to all segments of the community.

Sure, there’s a long way to go, but this front page is worth a few moments of pause — the same sort of pause I take each Election Day to remember that, when my grandmothers were born, women were not yet allowed to vote.

*Selvin and I are both members of the Journalism and Women Symposium. She shared her observations on the group’s fantastic members’ listserv.

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