June 23rd, 2008



The New York Times examines its own coverage of Hillary Clinton for sexism.

Given that a media outlet is examining itself for bias, I think the article takes a relatively fair look at the question. Maureen Dowd bears the brunt of the criticism, which, given Maureen Dowd, I have to say isn't too surprising -- she is listed as one of the worst offenders in NOW's Media Hall of Shame, along with some other choice candidates. This of course raises the question of whether people focus on Dowd because she's a woman, but I suspect it's probably the other way around: the NYT lets her get away with using gendered language in an unacceptable way because she is a woman.

Over the course of the campaign, I received complaints that Times coverage of Clinton included too much emphasis on her appearance, too many stereotypical words that appeared to put her down and dismiss a woman’s potential for leadership and too many snide references to her as cold or unlikable. When I pressed for details, the subject often boiled down to Dowd.

A man might have been able to get away with writing columns like that in a lot of places, but I wonder if it would have raised more eyebrows in editorial than it apparently did. And I don't really expect to see them reign her in now -- as the article points out, Dowd is paid to share opinions, which gives her more leeway than a straight news reporter. Still, it's good to see some self-examination from someone in the media, even if it's a little bit late. Especially when you consider the article that prompted it, which contains a lot more denial than it does reflection.

Nicholas Lemann, dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University, said: "I have not had a lot of regretful conversations with high-ranking media types and political reporters about how unfair their coverage of the Hillary Clinton campaign was."

Among journalists, he added, the coverage "does not register as a mistake that must not be allowed to happen again."

So then, how do we make it register? NOW is talking about a cable network boycott, which would be a start, but I don't watch the cable news networks anyway. Something to ponder.

(Link to first story courtesy Shakesville.)