Archive for the ‘The Big Shots’ Category

Women in Journalism (and Bob Dylan quotes)

November 13, 2009

That’s the name of my Mom’s last PowerPoint presentation for her JMC110 class (minus the Dylan parentheses). That’s the last hour-and-a-half-long lecture she gave to 125 squirming Freshmen.

I sat in on it because I didn’t know who Ida B. Wells was, and it got me thinking.

That PowerPoint was chok-full of MegaWomen, and students cited their favorites — Christiane Amanpour, Diane Sawyer, Katie Couric, Barbara Walters. And that classroom was absolutely full of young women. (I won’t mention the fact that some of the young men in the class cited Erin Andrews as their favorite woman journalist “because she’s hot” — oops, I mentioned it).

I am in a graduate program in journalism right now that has 19 young women in it, and one guy. One. You know what I have to say about that? The times, they are a-changin’ my friends.

Let’s take a quick look at the newspaperman past: (I’m going to dress up like this for Halloween one year)


Now, a look at the newsman — past (and present):


There’s no way of knowing if this is just us Cronkite…ah…ites who are witnessing first-hand the changing of guards of the journalism profession. And it’s purely anecdotal from my point of view, but things seem to be shifting. All colleges around the US are 60-40 women on average and the trend doesn’t seem to be changing anytime soon. (Anyone know what the classes look like at other j-schools around the country?)

There are two questions that come to mind with this: 1) When did journalism become a woman’s field? and 2) Will we still have to spend most of our lives on morning television before we finally getting the job we’ve always deserved?

And I can make two guesses in answer to those questions: 1) Probably about now, and 2) There likely won’t be morning television jobs to giggle through for the next 20 years.

OK, I thought of three questions: Does this, perhaps, have something to do with the concurrent (and complete) demise of the news industry as we know it? There’s a theory I learned in my Freshman year Sociology class that blew my mind at the time. It said that necessary, subservient, under-appreciated, jobs — teaching, nursing, office management — have become women’s jobs in order to maintain the patriarchal social structure. Or, the social structure forced women into subservient jobs…etc. (Chicken or egg?)

I can’t help but think it at least timely (at best ironic) that more and more women are becoming journalists at a time when all that’s left of the journalism strongholds are a lot of (male) executive editors who watched from their corner offices as innovation was laughed away and the Internet blew up their business model.

And then there are the ones who stood up to the publishers and those who are working now to help the next generation innovate — many of whom are now my professors.

No, in the future, the face of journalism will look probably look more like this:


Oh, and this (the one guy):


Well, I agree with Dylan in this case: Don’t think twice, it’s all right.

(Thanks to Lisa in Phoenix and Grant’s facebook for the photos)


Len Downie Week

September 18, 2009

Downie speaking to a packed room at the Cronkite School Monday.

It’s been Len Downie Week (as I’ve been calling it) at the Cronkite School — especially for the grad students. And it’s gotten me thinking.

Len Downie is the former executive editor of the Washington Post and he is a serious big shot in the journalism (and political) worlds. He edited Woodward and Bernstein during Watergate; he guessed the name of Deep Throat on the Third try; he oversaw the coverage of every Presidential election of the last 17 years; he was in charge when Dana Priest broke the story on Walter Reed. There’s more.

This week, we got to hear from Len Downie on Monday morning in Tim McGuire’s class on the future of media, we had lunch with him (and the entire Cronkite faculty) later that day, we covered his speech that night in the First Amendment Forum, we got to ask him one-on-one questions in our skills class on Wednesday morning and we heard from him one last time — about Watergate! — on Wednesday night when he introduced a showing of “All the President’s Men.” Whew.

What was amazing about this week was not just the record of this editor, or all of the President’s he’s talked to or the ground-breaking pieces he’s overseen — it’s also the difference between everything he represents about journalism and everything we, the grad students, have ever experienced of it.

This is a man who famously stopped registering to vote (and stopped having political views, he said) the day he became editor of the Post. He literally didn’t vote for 17 years. We all had trouble removing our political views from facebook. (That reminds me, I need to do that.)

The generation gap is not just because of age, I don’t think. I think it’s also about the way we think about journalism. If we all write for ourselves (like I’m doing now), who’s going to keep us honest, unbiased journalists?

Funny I should ask that of you, because I actually asked that of Mr. Downie Wednesday. His answer was absolutely amazing — though it made perfect sense and shocked no one in the room. He said that the public simply wouldn’t buy it if we were trying to pass off our opinions as fact; he said that credibility will still matter — even in a world where information flows freely (literally) and there are no rules.

Amazing. Optimism after a career in Washington. Optimism in the face of what most people think is the great decline of journalism.

One thing they must be forgetting, those Debbie Downers, is that there’s a difference between newspapers (which are certainly declining quickly) and journalism.

I’m going to go remove my political views from facebook now.