Here are a few tips from the Associated Press Managing Editors guidelines from 1969, on men working with women, and vice versa:
For men: “Provide the reason, the authority, and the security to direct a woman in the use of her constant emotional drive.”
And for women: “Subordinate your personality to make a man feel like a boss.”
Kimberly Voss and Lance Speere included those tips in their March report for Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, “Taking Chances and Making Changes: The Career Paths and Pitfalls of Pioneering Women in Newspaper Management.” Voss is an associate professor and journalism area coordinator at the Nicholson School of Communication at the University of Central Florida. Speere, her husband, is also a journalism instructor at UCF.
Their report looks at women who were firsts in the industry, including Carol Sutton, who became managing editor at The (Louisville, Kentucky,) Courier-Journal in 1974, and Gloria Biggs, who became Gannett’s first woman publisher the same year. Voss had written about the women before, and during her research, came across archived copies of guidelines from APME and ASNE. She knew what the experiences were of the three women in the report, but Voss wanted to know how the industry viewed women at the time. What she found, essentially, was men talking to each other.
“Their arrogance was almost taken for granted,” Voss said in a phone interview with Poynter.
The “10 Commandments” for dealing with women appear to have first been shared in 1959. Voss also found it in a 1966 issue of The Bulletin. APME’s guidelines with those commandments looks to have been published in 1969. Voss found an article in response to the APME’s guidelines in the spring of 1971 in Columbia Journalism Review.
The book is produced on good quality paper, has attractive drawings, is well laid out and no doubt answers a number of questions about which managing editors are frequently troubled. It is, however, perhaps unintentionally, the most blatantly sexist document to appear in our office for some time.
The authors pointed out a few more of the tips, with their own thoughts:
The most obnoxious work is on page 68, FOR MEN: TEN COMMANDMENTS FOR WORKING WITH WOMEN:
#2: “Avoid impatience with a woman. She needs to have confidence in you.” Why on earth should a woman need to have confidence in a man: confidence in herself is, as it is for men, quite sufficient.
RULE #3; “What ego is to a man, security is to a woman, make her feel safe and needed and she’ll make you feel 10 feet tall.” In other words, women, unlike men, do not need responsibility and fulfillment; they only need security. And, of course, the fact that the male writer wants women to make him feel 10 feet tall speaks for itself.
RULE #9: “Praise a woman on every possible occasion, her appreciation is fourfold that of a man. So is her sensitivity, she requires one-fourth the criticism.” Delicate creatures women are.
Throughout the 1960s, women in newsrooms had to fight for their spots, often covering “women’s issues.” But readers pushed back, too, Voss said, writing in that the coverage was often cheesy or demeaning. Women who were the first to step into a leadership role were viewed as freaks. Sutton, for instance, eventually lost her managing editor position after two years for being too nice, according to Voss’ report.
Voss thought of Sutton after learning that The New York Times’ Jill Abramson had been fired and her management style criticized as, basically, not nice enough.
“It’s almost like women can’t win,” Voss said.
One of the boys
Women were first admitted into the Society of Professional Journalists in 1969, and Poynter’s Jill Geisler was the first woman to be president of the SPJ chapter at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. (In 2008, Voss and Speere wrote for Wisconsin Magazine of History that women weren’t allowed to join the Milwaukee Press Club until 1971.)
During her senior year in college, 1971 and 1972, Geisler was approached by the general manager at the TV station where she worked part-time about being part of the noon-hour show, “The Farm Hour.” She mapped out plans to expand coverage of both news and cultural events for the show and presented it to him.
“He said, ‘I think I’ve made a mistake. You don’t want this job. You want to be one of the boys,’” Geisler remembers. “And I said, ‘No, sir, I want to be one of the reporters.’”
When she first started in journalism, women were underrepresented, they didn’t have top leadership roles and “women often didn’t have the ‘serious’ assignments,” she said.
Some things have changed. Some haven’t.
On May 16, Monica Anderson reported for Pew that women make 17% less than men doing the same work. In 2012, women made up of 36% of newsrooms, Anderson reported, and women filled 35% of supervisory positions.
“It’s not just about pay and promotion,” Geisler said. “Those two things are very important,” but women then and now feel that their ideas don’t get traction.
“That affects women whether they’re in management or they’re in the front lines of reporting.”
Not the first woman, the first white woman
Linda Lockhart started her first job as a journalist in 1974 with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Lockhart (who is a former colleague of mine at the St. Louis Beacon) didn’t start in “women’s sections”; she started with suburban coverage, as many young reporters did, and then night general assignment.
By 1974, she said in a phone interview with Poynter, the newsroom at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch had both women and people of color, and it wanted them.
“For me, it was a baptism by fire,” said Lockhart, outreach specialist at St. Louis Public Radio. “Let’s throw Lockhart at this and see how she handles it.”
She got more pushback outside the newsroom, including from cops she covered when she was the first woman to cover that beat. Early in her career, she said, being both black and a woman impacted her equally.
“They were very sexist. They were very racist, and they did not hide it,” she said.
The cops were suggestive and teased her, they tested her with grim images and details.
“I always knew that I was in a special time at a special place,” she said, “and I had to prove myself.”
Lost in the mainstream debate about women in the newsroom is realities facing women of color in the newsroom. Indiana University’s report, “The American Journalist in the Digital Age,” finds that the number of minorities has decreased slightly in newsrooms in the past 10 years. But, the report says, women of color make up a greater percent of journalists of color, 50 percent, compared with white women at 36.3 percent.
Still, women of color always come in last, Lockhart said.
“We’re hearing all this about how the man replacing Jill Abramson is an African American,” she said, “but he’s an African American male. Whenever people say, the first women to do something, I think, the first white woman.”