The Washington Post kicked off 2017 with a painfully embarrassing blunder. In their coverage of the Women’s March on Washington scheduled on January 21, the old media print stalwart erroneously used the male symbol instead of the female symbol on their cover. This mistake was swiftly identified and derided by women all over the country. How could they make such an obvious mistake? Where was the editorial staff? How does a mistake like this get past the numerous staff members involved in creating the cover? Easy. They’re mostly men.
While the Washington Post is the whipping boy of the moment, this foible could have literally happened with any publication. Although women make up 51% of the population, they are underrepresented in literally every single category of media, painfully so in leadership.Even the guests on the Sunday morning news shows are 70% male. Seemingly, even punditry opinions are apparently a man’s thing. The fact that the story was about women gathering to protest the sexually inappropriate and misogynistic behavior of President Elect Donald Trump is a particularly biting irony. We just can’t seem to get stories about women right.
It’s not news that the print journalism industry is male-dominated. The editorial staff even more so. What’s new is this recent very public example of the impact this lopsided management structure has on what, why and how stories are covered. While we could easily sweep this under the rug as a casualty of fast news, overworked editors and sloppy execution, it seems to me that if we look a little deeper we could pull a million examples of articles and news stories produced absent the valuable input of women and their perspectives. If they let women join and even, dare we say, occasionally lead the discourse, it will be fuller, richer and more impactful. The whole story is always better than an incomplete fragment.
The Huffington Post boasts bylines that are 53% female and they are managing to stay afloat. It IS possible to include all voices.
Let women write. Let women edit. Invite true diversity into the newsroom. The story will be better. At a minimum, the cover will be right.