Women who shape the media come to ULV

Posted March 23, 2007
Lauren Pollard

A panel of women, made up of journalists in print and broadcast, spoke of personal experiences concerning the advancements women have made in the media, the portrayal of women in the media, and the future of women’s roles in the field. Kimberly Spector, a panel member who writes about adolescent health listened as Judy Asman, a freelance writer who specializes in corporate and feature writing, shared how her love for journalism is evident in her everyday life.

A panel of five female journalists and media professionals discussed recent changes in newsrooms and the status of women in the media Wednesday.

As part of the University’s third annual Engendering Diversity and Community Conference, roughly 35 students, faculty and staff gathered in Hoover 128 to hear the talk “Women Shaping the Media.”

The panelists also discussed the changes in technology that affect the way the news is reported and delivered.

“It gave me a clear insight on how things have changed,” freshman Emilia Rivera said.

One way newsrooms are changing to meet the needs of the growing number of women in the journalism field, is by making the job more family friendly.

Barbara Tarshes, news editor for The Press-Enterprise newspaper in Riverside, said when she started in newsrooms more than 20 years ago, women could not leave work to tend to a sick child or go to their child’s event. If they had to work, they had to work.

“Now newsrooms realize that if they don’t make their newsrooms more family friendly, there will be a high turn-over rate,” said assistant professor of English Cathy Irwin, who attended the event.

Associate professor of journalism Elizabeth Zwerling, who moderated the panel, said that since the 1970s communications and journalism schools have had a majority of female students.

Since then, the number of women in these careers has increased. C.L. Lopez, staff writer for the Redlands Daily Facts, said her newsroom is majority female.

The roles of women in newsrooms have also changed.

Years ago, “women could not work nights,” Tarshes said. “You couldn’t be a police reporter because you could not work nights.”

Today, however, while women make up 50 percent of newsroom staffs, men still hold the majority of management jobs.

Judy Asman,a freelance writer, said that men also hold a majority of photojournalism and broadcast production jobs. Asman added that women working on sports beats are often criticized for going that route to meet men.“Oh, she just wants to get in the locker room.”

These perceptions are slowly changing, the panelists agreed. They also talked about media coverage of women and women’s issues:the death of Anna Nicole Smith, for example.

Some the coverage had to do with the scandals surrounding her death, but much of it had to do with the fact that a young sex symbol had died, Asman said.

“When she was obese, no one cared about her,” Asman said. “And I sometimes wonder how much pressure they feel if they don’t get that attention.”

The media continues to portray women as sex symbols because that is what the people want. They want to see an image of what they think is sexy.

“People are thirsting for that type of story,” said Kimberly Spector, a panel member who writes about adolescent health.

There are women in the media who are not giving in to the stereotype of what a woman should look like.

All of the panelists agreed that they have a respect for actress like Jaime Lee Curtis and Sandra Bullock who do not try to fit the image of a sexy, beautiful woman and are just themselves.

“There are a lot of sources right now dealing with this age issue,” Spector said.
The age and beauty issue has transcended into the TV newsroom.

Speaking of the scrutin Katie Couric has endured since taking over asCBS Evening News Anchor, Tarshes quoted recent news that said Couric should go back to her strengths: “legs, short skirts, and hair.”

Asman asked whether Couric, as Dan Rather’s successor, will be doing this when she reaches his age?

A career in journalism is a demanding and sometimes unstable one.
There are radio stations buying each other out and new developments in how the news is reported, requiring new skills.

“You do want to keep your bags packed,” Asman said.

At one time people thought newspapers would be outdated and Web sites would take over, but å are still reading the paper.

Sher porter can be reached at sporter4@ulv.edu

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