Female vs Male Journalists
By: Hannah Smith
With the subject of journalism becoming a prominent component of film in the past year with the release of Nightcrawler, it’s important to analyze how journalists are portrayed based on gender. We see prominent male actors in the roles of investigative reporters taking all the risks necessary to create an important piece of news. Then we think about female journalists, like Carrie Bradshaw, who are shown as the complete opposite. While she is a writer, Bradshaw is often shown casually typing on a laptop from the comfort of her home and never actually reporting a story in the same way as the men do. Television and film have created the idea that men are the true journalists. For women, it’s merely a hobby.
Ironically, in films of the 1930’s female journalists were shown as competitive and versatile. In an article for The Week, Neda Semnani writes
Over the next couple decades, the female reporter was depicted as an agile journalist who shifts easily between “sob sister” stories—ones that captured the emotional angle of a hard-news piece—to a hard-boiled, news hawk investigator. These latter types of female characters happily went toe-to-toe with their male colleagues and wittily, sometimes viciously, butted heads with the male editors.” Up until the ‘60s, actresses played the roles of powerful journalists dedicated to their craft. The female journalists were able to devote themselves solely to their career because they were usually depicted as unmarried and without children, not flouncing around New York City in hopes of finding “Mr. Right.”
They defied the stereotype of the stay-at-home mom that was most prominent during this decade. Yet, in 2014, the idea of a powerful female journalist who actually writes life-altering news stories is just crazy.
Rather than investigating, which is the basis of a journalism career, the media portrays female journalists today as sleeping with a source in exchange for confidential information. This is especially true in the Netflix original series House of Cards. A woman who begins the show as an inquisitive, intelligent reporter sacrifices her journalistic integrity to get answers out of someone by sleeping with them. Is this really the only way to acquire the information necessary for a story? I’m sure that’s the strategy behind major journalists Barbara Walters and Christiane Amanpour’s success. Female journalists are capable of conducting interviews, attending press conferences and finding information in the same way male journalists do. All journalists have the same job of seeking out information and reporting. Gender does not make anyone more or less capable of performing their career to the best of their abilities.
According to the 2014 Status of Women in the U.S. Media Report, women make up only 36.1% of journalists. Most of this small percentage report on lifestyle, culture, and health rather than hot-button issues and politics. As much as 68% of world politics is covered by men. As far as broadcast journalism goes, men anchored 60% of news broadcasts and 66% of reports from the field on evening news shows on ABC, CBS, NBC, and PBS. With these statistics, it’s no surprise men and women are portrayed as two vastly different types of journalists. The Huffington Post, whose president and editor-in-chief is a woman, had more women contributors than CNN, The Daily Beast, and Fox News. This begs the question: If a woman is in charge, will there be a better balance of men and women?
In an article for Nieman Reports, Anna Griffin writes
Men are in charge, and are more likely to promote other men. Women see fewer women rising to top jobs and grow more likely to leave journalism. Thus, fewer women are around to apply for those promotions. Men become even more likely to promote other men to both the most important posts in the business and the jobs that serve as steps toward them.
Other factors that come into play are the double standards of a female versus a male editor and the long hours that prove problematic when the consideration of raising a family. With women making up most of the lifestyle sections of publications, they’re usually already pushed aside so the men can take on the real journalism. Ultimately, the country needs more women leaders across all careers. Women in positions of power make it possible for other women to succeed and create a more balanced workplace. When that happens, maybe the film and television industry will portray more dignified female journalists