Racism. Gender bias. Sexism. Discrimination. These words dominate
stories and headlines in yesterdays and todays news,
and they also dominate newsroom politics, said a group top women
journalists at Emory last week.
Catherine Manegold, Cox Professor of Journalism, moderated the
panel discussion, Struggling for a Voice: Women Journalists
in the South, in Woodruff Librarys Jones Room on Tuesday,
March 19, at 7 p.m. Panelists included M. Alexis Scott, publisher
and editor of the Atlanta Daily World, a 74-year-old black
newspaper; Melissa Fay Greene, author of the award-winning nonfiction
works Praying for Sheetrock and The Temple Bombing;
and Cynthia Tucker, editorial page editor of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
and syndicated columnist.
Beginning their careers in the early 1970s, all four women shared
stories of how they were among a small number of women reporting
in a white-male-dominated industrysomething that is still
prevalent in todays news industry.
At The New York Times today, every major desk but
onethe national deskis run by men, said Manegold,
a former reporter with the Times who won a Pulitzer as part
of the team that covered the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Two
years ago, anyone meeting with the executive editor, the managing
editor, the national editor, the metro editor, the cultures editor
and the foreign editorall the editors with the power to hire,
fire, shape the newswould have met only with men.
Citing statistics from industry studies, Manegold said women reporters
make up 43 percent of all international journalists, which seems
impressive at first glance. However, she said, 79 percent of these
women crowd the bottom of the industry, holding part-time
jobs with no benefits and a lack of promotions.
While the numbers look bleak, this is an improvement from when
Scott began her career as an education reporter at the AJC.
Her goal was to cover City Hall, which she eventually did. Scott
rose through the ranks at the paper, staying 22 years in various
reporting and executive positions with the paper and at Cox Enterprises.
In 1997, she became publisher and chief executive officer of the
Daily World, a paper founded by her grandfather, W.A. Scott
Reared in a journalism household, Scott said she even encountered
sexism from her own family. When she asked her uncle (who ran the
paper for more than 60 years) why he never taught his daughter the
ropes of running the business, he looked at her and said, Aint
no woman running this paper.
When Tucker first began reporting at the AJCfresh
out of Auburn University in 1976there was a small group of
about five women reporting outside of the features section, one
being Scott. Tucker said she was telling younger reporters at the
paper the other day about how she admired an early co-worker who
covered the mayoral beat for the paper.
I admired her because she was a womana young woman!
said Tucker, adding that was a sight unseen in the early 1970s.
The reporters she told the story to were unfazed because they were
used to seeing women reporters in such roles, she said.
However, women still have a long way to go in finding equity in
the newsroom, she added. As a member of the Association of Newspaper
Editors (ASNE), Tucker said she is one of fewer than 100 females
who belong to this group of 800. At a recent ASNE conference, she
invited a reporter to join her at a presentation. With the prospect
of a large ballroom of unfamiliar faces, the reporter asked Tucker
how she would find her.
No problem, Ill stand up, Tucker
told the reporter. Sure enough, she had no problems finding
me in this huge ballroom. That describes something about the profession
still for women and for African Americans.
Greenes experience in news reporting is slightly different
from her fellow panelists, but she still faced the same obstacles
as Tucker and Scott. While working in Savannah for Georgia Legal
Aid in the early 1970s, she heard stories of an archaic political
machine running nearby McIntosh County. Civil rights were unknown
to the countys impoverished blacks, as documented in Praying
for Sheetrock. Being a Jewish, white female from the North presented
its problems when writing the book, Greene said, but being something
else wouldnt have allowed her to write it differently.
One of the most alluring things about journalism and nonfiction
reporting is the opportunity to shed your skin and enter other worlds,
she said. First you enter [the interview process] as the person
you aremale or female, gay or straight, white or black or
brown, Christian, Muslim or Jewish. If you do your job right, you
aspire to lose the definition of yourself, free your mind to make
contact with and enter and learn the world of another person.
A related exhibition of selections from Special Collections will
be on display in Woodruff Library through May 31.