Examining gender bias in the newsroom

Nan Robertson, a reporter for the New York Times once wrote in 1995, “Journalism was overwhelmingly male, overwhelmingly macho, overwhelmingly drinkers, smokers, fuckers, all of those things. Women lost by it, blacks lost by it, gays lost by it, everybody lost by it, because it did not reflect the diversity of this country.”

Robertson was referring to no other country but the United States. In a country composed of many different races, religions, genders, and sexual orientations, how is it possible that majority of the workforce in media are white, able-bodied, cisgendered1, heterosexual men2?

20 years after Robertson, the media landscape is gradually changing – with more women reporters on the field than before. And rightfully so, as BBC’s Hilary Andersson writes, “To keep women out of [journalism] is to deny representatives of half the world the chance to comment on, reflect upon and analyse the most extraordinary events of our times.”

Halfway round the world, it seems that women journalists in the Philippines are given the same treatment as their male counterparts. Historically speaking, some of the founders of the contemporary dailies are women, and some of the pillars of Philippine media are also women.

One of the nation’s leading dailies, the Philippine Daily Inquirer, was co-founded by women, namely Eugenia Apostol and Betty Go-Belmonte, and its current President and Editor-in-Chief are also women, namely Alexandra Rufino Prieto-Romualdez, and Leticia Jimenez-Magsanoc, respectively.

Seeing that women are an integral part of the Inquirer’s history, then it must follow that reporters are given equal opportunities, regardless of gender. I examined the Inquirer’s frontpage from Thursday, Mar. 22 up to Monday, Mar. 23, to see if my hypothesis is correct.

Within those days, a total of 40 reporters contributed and/or wrote for the Inquirer. 58% of those reporters were female, 35% were male, and 7% were stories from wire agencies. All the banner stories within those days were reported by females, with only one male reporter contributing to only one banner story.

The story assignments were also diverse, and reporters were not boxed into certain stories because of their gender. Both men and women reported mostly on politics, since the Mamasapano debacle is not yet simmering down.

However, it is noticeable that more women report soft news. The Sunday issue of the Inquirer had more soft news stories, and this was the day wherein the women to men ratio was six-to-one.

While it seems like there is some sort of equality between male and female reporters, a subtle air of sexism still exists in the field of journalism. The rarity of male soft news reporters in a field dominated by males is questionable.

Why is it that men rarely report on soft news? Is it because it is not macho enough? If that is the case, then that is still sexism, and it is the kind of sexism which is even more unsettling because it is harder to fight – because it is not as blatant as male dominance in the frontpages of dailies.

Notes:

1Cisgendered – People who identify with the sex that they are born with; opposite of transgender (i.e. born male, sees and accepts self as male)
2This is a trend which is apparent ot only in media, but also most of the Western world. Also dubbed as “masculine entitlement,” “straight, white male privilege,” and “white privilege.”

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