CAMP 2013: Feminism and journalism 50 years after the Feminine Mystique

Peggy Simpson recently came upon this photo of herself in the press corps at the Dallas jail after the John F. Kennedy assassination.
Peggy Simpson recently came upon this photo of herself in the press corps at the Dallas jail after the John F. Kennedy assassination.

By 2013 Fellow Caitlin Huey-Burns

On Sunday morning, four JAWS members talked with the membership in a spirited discussion led by Katherine Lanpher.

Peggy SimpsonI never had a menial job, a woman’s job. I edited a weekly paper. Became an AP/UPI stringer. A year and a half later, I went to the AP. I asked my editor about getting into management one day. He said, you’re a terrific reporter, you’re going to be a great Washington reporter. But women in management: not possible. Because to get a job like mine, selling AP service, to get them to say yes to buy, you have to drink them under the table. We know how to do that, but we couldn’t send the women out to do that. The wives would protest. These were intangible barriers, and part of what became my deposition in class action lawsuit. It reflected the views of the AP.

Lynn Povich: We were the first women in the media to sue. Women were only hired as fact checkers. Functions were segregated by gender. In 1969 we didn’t know it was illegal.

Newsweek wanted to do a cover story on women’s movement, but they had no women to write it. They got a freelancer. After the story came out, 46 of us announced our lawsuit.

Most of the women on the frontlines of these lawsuits did not benefit from the lawsuits. Betsy Wade said, “we knew we were doing a brave thing, but for the next generation.”

Dori MaynardMy father was an early feminist. He raised me not to cook, clean or type. I think we’re at a point where we can really talk about how we work across race and gender that includes everybody. While there is a gender issues, there are race issues too. Looking forward, having a feminist movement that is inclusive of everybody.

Jennifer Mattson: When I started in ‘96 at CNN international, it never occurred to me that I couldn’t do that. I benefited from the women who came before me. TV in some ways is a great equalizer. An open plan, interacting, a different hierarchy. I put my head down and worked my way up quickly. There were plenty of women in the newsroom. I wasn’t aware of this issue of management. I was seeing a lot of women in the newsroom. I knew the opportunity was there as long as I worked my ass off.

Women in the news: 24 percent of news subjects are female. Op-Ed: 80 percent of bylines are white men, according to the Global Media Monitoring Project.

Why is it still so bad? We’ve had lawsuits!

Povich: They’re run as old boys clubs. The kind of discrimination is subtle. If men are only talking to other men, their networks are small. Trying to break through this old boys thing. In Merryl Lynch, one of the remedies was men have to share their contacts.

Mattson: As a producer, it was making sure it was a woman on the booking list.

Simpson: It’s about grooming people.

Video courtesy of Susan Hogan