Should news sites have separate (but equal?) spheres for women's content?

Three days after The Washington Post's new “She the People” blog launched, it had generated enough traffic to climb to the No. 1 spot among the site's blogs.

The blog, which provides women with a forum for writing on politics, news and culture, is aimed at getting women to become more politically engaged. But some say that the idea seems dated and that the blog unfairly "ghettoizes" content for women.

Blogger Jessica Valenti wondered why the Post created a separate blog for women. “I’m all for WaPo featuring more women covering politics,” she wrote, “but why oh why can’t they just -- I don’t know -- feature more women covering politics on the main site or pages?” Reader Steph Herold asked, "Why do women need a separate blog to write about politics?"

The criticism renews attention to an ongoing debate about whether news organizations should separate out content for women and minorities.

When I asked her about the criticism, longtime political reporter Melinda Henneberger, who runs "She the People," said: “If being in a ghetto means I have the incredible privilege of bringing a bunch of incredibly talented women to one of the world's best newspapers to write about everything for an audience that includes everyone, then call it that if you want to, but never have I felt less cramped."

The goal of the blog, she said, isn't to ghettoize content but to highlight relevant and interesting content for women.

“The numbers suggest that fewer women than men like to read political coverage, especially of the sort that tends to be all horse-race all the time,” Henneberger said via email. “I don't look at politics that way; what interests me most, and always has, is who these people who run for office are. I also don't think 'politics' is just what happens in a committee hearing on the Hill; there are politics at play in every aspect of our lives, and a lot of life is politics, so that's how we look at ‘She the People.’ ”

In a live chat this week, Henneberger shared more of her thoughts with Reuters’ Jack Shafer, who has a different take on whether news sites should separate out content for women. During the chat, Henneberger and Shafer also responded to participants' questions about the blog and the criticism it's received.

You can replay the chat here:

  • Mallary Jean Tenore

    As managing editor of The Poynter Institute’s website, Poynter.org, I report on the media news industry, edit the site’s How To section, and moderate the site's live chats. I also help handle the site's social media efforts, and teach social media sessions on the side.

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