A BBC host is fixing male-dominated on-air commentary, plus the New York Times’ mentions in the Mueller Report and layoffs in Pennsylvania

May 16, 2019
Category: Newsletters

Equal opportunity commentary

For years — actually, forever — news organizations have typically turned to men when looking for commentators on a news story. Ros Atkins, host of the BBC news show “Outside Source,” decided to change that three years ago.

His change is called “50:50.” That means having as many women on air as men. Poynter’s Al Tompkins wrote about it back in December and it’s still gaining traction. Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan also wrote about Atkins’ idea and how it is spreading — to other shows on the BBC as well as at least 20 other media companies such as MSNBC, Fortune magazine, Australia’s ABC and the Financial Times.

Trying something like this is nothing new, but it seems to be working this time because journalists are making the effort instead of merely following suggestions from the human resources department.

Women are more represented on American TV news shows that regularly use panels, such as NBC’s “Meet the Press,” and shows on cable networks such as CNN, Fox News and, as mentioned above, MSNBC. It’s not only right, it’s smart business. As Shari Graydon wrote for Poynter, featuring more women could increase your audience engagement.

Sometimes news outlets interview newsmakers of the day and have no choice about the sex of that guest, whether that newsmaker is Sen. Lindsey Graham or Rep. Nancy Pelosi. But TV stations can control guests who comment and offer analysis on the news.

While the “50:50” idea is a good start, the problem is far from solved. Sullivan points out that the Women’s Media Center found that women write only 15 percent of guest op-ed pieces about international issues at the four most widely circulated American newspapers: The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and the Los Angeles Times.

In its 2019 report, the Women’s Media Center wrote, “Despite some gains, men still dominate in every part of news, entertainment and digital media.”

Journalists in the Mueller report

Chairman Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., holds up a copy of the Mueller Report during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, May 1, 2019, where Attorney General William Barr testifies on the Mueller Report. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Washington Post media critic Erik Wemple continued his work on media lessons learned from the Mueller report.

Which reporter had their work most cited in the report? The New York Times’ Maggie Haberman, with 24, followed by her Times colleague Michael S. Schmidt, with 22. The Times’ Matt Apuzzo was referenced 10 times.

The Times, no surprise, was listed in the footnotes more than any other news organization, with 53 mentions, followed by The Washington Post (49), C-SPAN (36), CNN (21) and NBC/CNBC/MSNBC (21).

There’s much more meat to Wemple’s latest post — it’s a fascinating read and not just for those in the media business.

Trouble in Reading

Pittsburgh Pirates owner Robert Nutting during a spring training baseball workout Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2016, in Bradenton, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

Massive layoffs could be coming to the Reading Eagle in Pennsylvania.

According the Philly.com, the bankrupt family-owned paper filed notice of “potentially deep staff cuts” with the state’s Department of Labor and Industry. The notice said 209 employees could be laid off. That’s nearly the company’s entire staff. The Reading Eagle updated that number Wednesday with part-timers, bringing the total to 221 employees. The potential dates for the layoffs are June 6 through 10.

The paper is currently up for sale. Robert Nutting, owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team, toured the Eagle’s facilities last week, fueling rumors that he could buy the company. Digital First Media — which owns the Denver Post, Detroit News and San Jose Mercury News, among many other papers — also is rumored to be interested. The deadline for bids was Wednesday with a minimum price of $5 million. If there is more than one bid, an auction will be held Friday.

More bad news

Dan Schulman, CEO of PayPal, speaks during a Rutgers University graduation ceremony in Piscataway Township, N.J., Sunday, May 13, 2018. Family and friends watched as over 18,000 graduates received their degrees on Mother's Day. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

The independent student newspaper at Rutgers University also is in trouble after losing all of its funding from student fees. NJ.com’s Adam Clark reports that not enough students voted to continue supporting an $11.25-per-semester fee in a recent campus referendum. That fee was the primary source of revenue for the 150-year-old The Daily Targum.

In a statement on its website, The Daily Targum wrote:

“We do not know what the future holds, but the Targum Publishing Company’s Board of Trustees and staff will be working to address this funding crisis.”

Sandy Giacobbe, the paper’s business manager, told NJ.com, “It’s kind of up in the air right now. The Targum is in unchartered territory.”

Up close and personal

Immigration is a popular media topic these days, but you might not read a more poignant and personal story than Darcy Courteau’s latest piece in The Atlantic.

Mireya’s Third Crossing” tells the sobering story of the uncertainty and danger that many immigrants face as they come to the United States. The story is told through the eyes of Luz Mirella “Mireya” Zamora, a Mexican woman who has lived undocumented in the U.S. for 25 years. Courteau and Mireya have known each other for years and think of each other as sisters.

Mireya’s journey to the U.S. was difficult. The first time, she was raped. The second time, she nearly drowned. And even now, life is full of anxiety.

Courteau writes: “She was tired of hiding, tired of being at the mercy of others’ schedules when she needed a lift to a housekeeping job. A cop catching her speeding could turn her over to (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement). To ride in a car with Mireya was to spot every police cruiser hiding behind trees and learn the unpatrolled back roads.”

Harris says no to Fox News, too

In this May 6, 2019, photo, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., speaks during a town hall for the American Federation of Teachers in Detroit. Harris is introducing legislation to ease the burden on public defenders through a $250 million grant program. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

New York Magazine and HuffPost contributor Yashar Ali broke the news Wednesday that Democratic presidential hopeful Kamala Harris will not appear on Fox News for a town hall. Harris’ decision comes one day after Elizabeth Warren said she would not appear on Fox News because she labeled it a “hate-for-profit racket that gives a megaphone to racists and conspiracists.”

MSNBC’s Donny Deutsch disagreed with Warren’s decision, saying on his network, “If you want to convert, you’ve got to go into enemy territory.”

For the record

FILE (AP) --WITH THE SPIRIT OF ST. LOUIS-- Charles A. Lindbergh is shown in this 1927 file photo with his plane, the Spirit of St. Louis, with which he made the first solo crossing of the atlantic from west to east, the same year. Lindbergh died Aug. 26, 1974, in a small hawaiin community of cancer of the lymphatic system. (AP-Photo/-1927-)

The Library of Congress has collected Associated Press news dispatches from the Washington Bureau from 1915 to 1930 and put them online. Aside from being a great resource for students, it’s simply cool for history buffs.

The fascinating time period includes coverage of World War I, the passage of women’s voting rights, Charles Lindbergh’s trans-Atlantic flight, the stock market crash and the Roaring ’20s. It also offers a good look at the writing style of the time. For example, here’s the AP dispatch from Lindbergh’s flight:

“The thought of this young air man, winging his way alone through the darkness of the night, over deserted ocean waters, and depending for his life on his own skill and courage, aroused the interest and touched the imagination of the capital as few things have done in the past.”

Hot type

The New York Times’ Alex Marshall writes that one of Britain’s most popular daytime TV programs was canceled following the death of a guest who failed a lie-detector test trying to prove he was faithful to his wife.

Writing for the Columbia Journalism Review, Lyz Lenz looks at the complicated story of former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson.

Want the latest of what’s going on in the sports media world? The New York Post’s Andrew Marchand is always a good place to start. This week’s column looks at what might be the exit for legendary announcer Marv Albert.

Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at tjones@poynter.org.

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