Appearance over Abilities: The Regressive Psyche of the Newsroom

Since the birth of modern feminism in the 19th century, women have striven to obtain equal rights as men. Despite our immersion in what is called the third wave of feminism, women continue to be discriminated against in many fields of life.

Gender disparity can be seen prominently in the workforce, and in particular the media arena. A recent study in the US, which analysed the balance of gender in American public radio and television, revealed that women, despite constituting 51% of the population, are severely underrepresented in all newsroom roles – from hosting positions to leadership capacities.

These figures, although varying slightly depending on the country, are predominantly synonymous with the global media stage. Women are simply not as present in the industry compared to men. Why? A recent NiemanReports study suggested a few potential reasons: Women are too weak. Women are too brusque. Women are more family-orientated.

The dissemination of these stereotypical scripts has often created a negative stigma regarding women in the media workforce.

As a woman on the cusp of a journalistic career, I am undoubtedly concerned with how, especially, I will manage both a family and career in the years to come. Will I be fired if I choose to “opt out” and have children? Furthermore, will I be discriminated against if I continue to work for as long as possible during a pregnancy?

Facing discrimination for pursuing a natural process of life may be considered ludicrous, and is most definitely illegal in the workplace, but the truth is – it is happening. Only last month, Global B.C. weather reporter, Kristi Gordon, disclosed on air the vast amounts of hate mail she has been receiving regarding her appearance. Gordon is six months pregnant with her second child, and has received comments about her maternity wear such as:

“Nowhere on North American TV have we seen a weather reader so gross as you.”

This astonishing example perpetuates a larger problem of double standards inherent to the global media industry. Women in the media workforce face much more pressure than men when it comes to their appearance, a follow-up article on the story exposed. They are regularly attacked on the basis of their hairstyles and clothing choices.

“I’ve been told I’m bad at my job because of the way my hair looks,” Global Edmonton news anchor Quinn Ohler admitted.

In any workplace, no matter the arena, I believe ability should always be considered more highly than appearance. It is dispiriting that we live in a society that values hairstyles and brand choices over journalistic integrity and talent. Clearly, we have a long way to go to bridge the gender gap and place women on equal standing with men, especially in the newsroom and media industry.

Congratulations- You are now an Informed Citizen!

Engaging one’s brain after an 18 month vacation seems like yet another hill to climb in the vast landscape of university. This assignment provided me with both a solid grounding in my media studies as well as a comprehensive lesson in conquering the ‘how to’s’ of a successful media student. How to research, write, edit, blog and even tweet!

As with any task, it is amazing to see the full circle one takes on their journey to understanding. Previously intangible notions surrounding the media were given substance through the exploration of examples in lectures, tutorials and my own investigations. A journey from being ignorant to informed, you could say. A number of key concepts struck a chord with me. I was astounded by how the media has become a scapegoat for incongruous human actions such as the Colorado Cinema Massacre, the media effects model refusing to accept that human nature may be at fault. Furthermore, a heightened awareness of the concentration of media ownership in Australia and the lines of bias each organisation follows, as displayed for example in Outfoxed, has caused me to scrutinise the media I digest in terms of its hidden agendas. My morning dose of Sunrise is now ingested with a pinch of salt- what have the editors chosen to include and why?

Finding your own path

Finding your own path to success

Aside from research, I have thoroughly enjoyed the writing process and devising catchy hooks to appeal to a potentially global audience. Additionally, compacting an argument into 300 words encouraged concise thought.

Finally, a broader perspective on the weekly topics was gained through engaging with the posts of fellow peers. It was fascinating to see how each student uniquely interpreted the same issue. This individuality shows that there are many ways to approach this subject, and no one path is more correct than another.

There is no defined ‘how to’ list for media students. It is only by developing a unique style and forging your own path that you will find your own success in this subject.

Picture sourced from:  http://www.picturenation.co.uk/view/info/132588/sign-post-confused?s=confused&page=1