Saturday, February 26, 2011

What We Have Here Is A Failure to Communicate

Or so says a new report that the reason women appear so seldom as authors of letters to the editor of newspapers and other periodicals, or as essayists on their opinion pages, is because they seldom take the initiative to put their thoughts in writing and submit them for publication.  Read about it at

Can't argue with the patterns described here -- that men are quicker to run to the computer and address issues they care about.  But one also needs to consider the selection process.  Editors aren't sitting on their hands, waiting for emails to arrive, or the Postal Service to show up with contributions.  They also solicit opinion from readers.  The challenge is to become known to editors as smart and insightful and a crack writer who can produce quickly.

As the saying goes, politics is personal -- so start locally.  Though newspapers have less space than ever, they are more interested in reader input than ever (they don't have to pay for it!), so there actually are more opportunities for opinions to be published.  There are also more online community news organizations and local blogs that welcome reader input. 

Some inspiration for publishing our opinions comes from British writer Doris Lessing, who said, "Think wrongly, if you please, but think for yourself."  And write about it.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Women and the Risky Business of Reporting the News

The beating and sexual assault of CBS News Correspondent Lara Logan in Cairo generated thousands of comments, ranging from sympathetic to the truly awful "she-asked-for-it" variety.  Comments in the latter category said women shouldn't be handling journalistic assignments in international flashpoints; that her good looks were a temptation; that her western clothing was an affront to a culture where many (though by no means all) women cover themselves; and on and on.  The fact that Logan has years of experience reporting from extremely dangerous environments seemed to be lost on those who posted comments like these.

The discussion did have an upside:  bringing attention to the fact that assaults on journalists, male and female, actually happen and the profession needs to respond intelligently to these events.  No one has precise numbers about physical and sexual assaults, especially for women, who often don't report attacks for fear of losing out on important assignments if their editors feel they are going to be in more danger than a male colleague.  Kim Barker, writing in The New York Times, discusses her own experience and makes a powerful argument for the importance of keeping female journalists out in the field everywhere.  Read it here: