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Feminist News


August-26-96

Special Report from Democratic National Convention

Association For Women Journalists Releases Survey:
"Washington Reporters' Experiences And Perceptions:
Does Gender Matter?"

By FMF Special Correspondent Francine Haber, Colorado Woman News

On August 26, the opening of the Democratic National Convention, the Chicago chapter of the Association for Women Journalists released the results of its survey on differences between male and female reporters in Washington DC. The project "Washington Journalists' Experiences & Perceptions: Does Gender Matter?" was conducted by the Northwestern University Survey Laboratory.

Male and female journalists in Washington were found to work for the same kinds of news organizations, cover the same beats, feel the same about their supervisors, and write the same kinds of stories. Their profiles are similar in age, race, education. They are highly satisfied with their work and consider themselves well paid.

But women reporters are more likely to see gender as a powerful force affecting their careers. More women than men agreed that men reporters:

Are more likely to be recognized at press conferences, more likely to get information from government officials and lobbyists, and more likely to get leaks from sources.

Get easier assignments and are less qualified, when holding positions of authority, than their female counterparts.

Are less likely to be harassed by sources and are more likely to be sought for advice on coverage or for speaking engagements.

Have a different reporting style from that of women reporters.



On issues of gender and family, the survey shows that women have made different choices for their personal lives. Nearly half (45%) of the women reporters said they had never married, compared with less than one- quarter (22%) of the men. Nearly three-fourths of men reporters (72%) said they are now married, compared with 48% of women. Nearly two-thirds of women said they had no children. And, when reporters with children were asked how much a child hampered a reporter's career, women were almost twice as likely as men to say that a child hurt their career at least "a fair amount." Different standards apply, depending on the reporter's gender. "Men who leave work early on some afternoon or skip a day and use the honest excuse of a child's performance or a sick child or a ball game get the Alan Alda award for being a good parent," one male reporter said. "They're seen as a '90s dad, living the rhetoric. Women who do the same things are sometimes thought to be not as dedicated to the job."

Women reporters of the same age and experience as their male counterparts tend to be paid less on the job. For women, the midpoint for salary fell between $40,000 and $60,000. For men, the midpoint fell in the $60,000 to $80,000 range. "Although it appears women journalists in Washington have made some great strides, the gains have also come with a trade-off in their personal lives," said Susy Schultz, president of the Association for Women Journalists' Chicago chapter.

Following the release of the study, leading women journalists took part in a panel to discuss how their personal experiences reflected its findings. Molly Ivins, author and syndicated columnist; Star Jones, senior correspondent for Inside Edition; Carole Simpson, senior correspondent ABC News; Nina Totenberg, legal affairs correspondent for National Public Radio; Nancy J. Woodhull, executive director of the Media Studies Center; Eleanor Clift, contributing editor at Newsweek; Ellen Hume, commentator for CNN and PBS; and Susy Schultz of the Chicago Sun-Times were joined by Congresswomen Enid Greene of Utah and Barbara Kennelly of Connecticut. More women of diverse economic backgrounds should be brought into journalism, the panel agreed.

The Association for Women Journalists is dedicated to supporting women in journalism and promoting respectful treatment of women by the news media.

For more information contact the AWJ at (312) 321-2146.

Media Resources: Feminist Majority