Saturday, June 22, 2013

No Room in Women's Magazines for Serious Journalism?

Journalist Jessica Grose, writing in The New Republic, notes how infrequently women's magazines receive plaudits from the American Society of Magazine Editors' National Magazine Awards.  Why, she wonders?  Lack of meaty content?  Snobbish dismissal of the magazines themselves?  A separate and not equal notion of journalism for female audiences?

The late, great Ruth Whitney, editor of Glamour from 1967-1998, made a point of publishing brain food between the beauty tips.  Under her leadership, Glamour won four National Magazine Awards. (It has continued to excel, named magazine of the year in 2010.)  It's fair to say, though, that some of the journalistic heft in women's magazines began to fade as they became more tied to niches in which they delivered specific reader demographics to advertisers, and their "general-interest" material became, well, less general.  Fiction has all but disappeared.

Elle editor in chief Robbie Myers weighed in on the debate, taking on directly the comment to Grose by ASME head Sid Holt, who said "serious journalism" is not the mission of women's magazines.  Myers described Elle's longtime publishing of in-depth pieces, citing an important one on politics and culture (a profile of then-Senator Barack Obama written by a writer who accompanied him to Kenya) and issues such as the rise in selective reduction in pregnancies of twins.  Not exactly journalism lite.

Grose discusses the resistance of some female writers to write for women's magazines, concerned about being ghettoized and less marketable to titles with large male audiences.  Not a helpful attitude, perhaps, but one can't blame writers for seeking what they believe is the best environment for showcasing their work.

So let's see what the editors of women's magazines do in response to this conversation.  More brain food would certainly be welcome.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Facebook Responds to Petition Regarding Mastectomy Photos

This just in from

Facebook has published a written policy allowing mastectomy photos after holding a meeting with breast cancer advocates including Scorchy Barrington, a NY-based woman struggling with Stage IV breast cancer who started a petition with 20,000 signatures, and photographer David Jay, founder of the SCAR Project.
Barrington’s petition called on Facebook to publish a policy allowing mastectomy photos like it previously did for photos of breastfeeding mothers. Within a few days, the petition gained thousands of signatures, prompting
Facebook’s VP of global public policy to proactively organize a conference call with Barrington and Jay.

Facebook just notified Barrington that it has published the following policy on post-mastectomy photos:

Does Facebook allow post-mastectomy photos?

Yes. We agree that undergoing a mastectomy is a life-changing experience, and that it's important to share photos to raise awareness of breast cancer and support the men and women who are facing diagnosis, undergoing treatment, or living with the scars of cancer. The vast majority of these kinds of photos are compliant
with our policies.
However, photos with fully exposed breasts, particularly if they're unaffected by surgery, do violate Facebook's Terms. These policies are based on the same standards which apply to television and print media, and that govern sites with a significant number of young people. The policy can be found here:

Barrington learned about the policy directly from Facebook representatives and provided this response: “For some time now, Facebook’s policy regarding mastectomy photos was loosely defined, and offered no real assistance to Facebook users posting images and little guidance to Facebook staff tasked with responding to images that were reported. As a result, numerous photos were removed from The SCAR Project page,
and David Jay, an internationally known photographer and founder of the project, was banned from posting for 30 days. Anne Marie Giannino-Otis at Stupid Dumb Breast Cancer was also asked to remove post-mastectomy photographs from her Facebook page.

"But after thousands of people signed my petition, Facebook’s policy team told me they are committed to clearing up any internal or external confusion regarding images of mastectomy and have clarified their policy. From now on, these powerful visual testaments to the real impact of breast cancer and the
resilience of breast cancer survivors will be welcomed on Facebook, as they should be.

"For me, a woman with Stage IV breast cancer, this is a victory I share with the 20,000 people who have signed my petition and the countless men and women who have this disease and who are newly diagnosed each year.  We want the world to know that breast cancer is not a pink ribbon – it is traumatic, it is life-changing, and it urgently needs a cure.”

David Jay of the SCAR Project also responded to the new policy: "I am very pleased that the Facebook team has reconsidered their current policy regarding images depicting the scars of breast cancer. We will be closely
monitoring the implementation of these policies. For those that gain an immeasurable amount of support and hope through the images of The SCAR Project, this is an immense victory."

Facebook released the following statement to press: “We have long allowed mastectomy photos to be shared on Facebook, as well as educational and scientific photos of the human body and photos of women breastfeeding. We only review or remove photos after they have been reported to us by people who see the images in their News Feeds or otherwise discover them. On occasion, we may remove a photo showing mastectomy scarring either by mistake, as our teams review millions of pieces of content daily, or because a photo has violated our terms for other reasons. As a reminder, our terms stipulate that we generally do not allow nudity, with some exceptions as laid out above and here, consistent with other platforms that have many young users.”

This is only the latest in a string of Facebook-related content victories sparked by petitions. In February, Facebook removed a series of pages that joked about rape and pedophilia following a Brazilian petition on In Australia, a petition led Facebook to remove a derogatory “Aboriginal Memes” page. And last year, Facebook removed several anti-gay pages following a petition.
There are currently more than 750 open petitions directed at Facebook.

Live signature totals from Scorchy Barrington’s petition:

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Male, Pale, and Unperturbed About It All

For the last word on the future of print media, here's a no-girls-in-our-treehouse take on it all from Port, courtesy of Jim Romenesko's blog.  What is so distressing is that the people putting together these "as seen from here" features don't seem to notice that their viewpoint is huffily exclusive, ignoring an astonishing number of women, who make up more than one-third of journalists working in print.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Sunday Morning TV: Same Time, Same Place, Same Guests

In this New York Times article, Jennifer Steinhauer doesn't directly address why so few women appear on the Sunday morning public affairs television programs.  But her analysis of who does appear, and the egregious repetition of guests, explains at least in part why so few women are invited to be on the shows.  One example:  Senator John McCain has appeared on at least one or more of the shows on 60 Sundays since 2010.  On "Face the Nation" alone, McCain has appeared more often than any other person, Steinhauer reports.  It's a classic example of the insiderish, Washington echo chamber that keeps discussion going in a circle because of the lack of diversity of the conversation's participants.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Journalist Phyllis Richman Corrects the Record -- With Harvard

"Married women find it difficult to carry out worthwhile careers in planning, and hence tend to have some feeling of waste about the time and effort spent in professional education."  That's a fragment of a letter Harvard Professor William Doebele, Jr., wrote to acclaimed journalist, editor, author and restaurant critic Phyllis Richman as she was applying to colleges, Harvard, among them, in 1961.

How very much he underestimated what the young women of that era and what they set out to achieve.  Richman did not ultimately make a career in urban planning, but she distinguished herself in journalism, which she was drawn to as she began raising her family and looking for fulfilling -- and lucrative -- professional work.  Richman eventually became adept at disguising herself as she dined at restaurants throughout greater Washington, DC, testing their offerings and writing up her findings for The Washington Post. A Richman review could make a restaurateur's day or send him or her home with a migraine, or worse.

Richman has now answered Doebele, not unkindly, but firmly, in an essay that is worth sharing widely.  Here it is.