Saturday, April 10, 2010

Antiquated American News System

The lack of significant female participation/representation in the executive and managerial positions of the news industry is disturbing. With such minimal representation in the creation of news media it is understandable how much of the content is perceived as being targeted towards men. In “Women as Audience” Byerly and Ross talk about how the genre of t.v soap operas are seen as mainly for women, as well as how news media has maintained a predominantly male audience. This gendered audience is due in part to the fact that, “it is often taken almost as read that women are not interested in news and that, as a genre, it is very much the domain of men.” While this view of women participation in news media being stringent is caused by several factors, there is no conclusive data that shows women are less interested in the political process and politics that affect everyone.

The U.S news industry has historically been a male dominated entity. Despite the substantial role of women in several previous media industries, such as early film production, radio broadcast, and print journalism, many of them were still stuck at lower level positions. Despite decades of women empowerment and increased social equality, this dichotomy in gender participation remains the norm in contemporary news media in the U.S. While there are several influential women news anchors, such as Barbara Walters, Katie Couric, and Diane Sawyer, even these women have not been identifiable for all women. Such broadcast personalities are pioneers without a doubt, but in many aspects they motivate women to be in front of the camera reporting the news directly. This does nothing to reverse the strong homogeny of the various news stations and outlets throughout the country.

Problems preventing women from entering high level news positions are plentiful. Diversity in U.S newsrooms, in terms of racial composition, is a lagging that discourages widespread women participation in any aspect. It is no secret that most of the on air personalities that have been assigned to national broadcasts are mainly Caucasian in origin. The view that women are inept of less talented than men in terms of technological know how, very much influences their lack of incorporation into the higher levels of the system. As the article by the President of the Women’s Media Center in NYC cites, in a 1977 Commission on Civil Rights report, called Window Dressing Set, it was found “women and minorities at the time were mere props in our media, playing no significant part on the air or in management. “ While there has continued to be limited influence in news media by women in American media, the Middle Eastern news station Al-Jazeera is making strides in Muslim cultures that promote vast cultural and social integration.

Located in the Arab Emirate of Qatar in the Mid-East, Al-Jazeera premiered in 1996 as a publicly owned, but privately funded organization. It is a unique enterprise because it is a Hybrid System of news ownership, which allowed Al Jazeera to introduce a level of freedom of speech on TV that was previously unheard of in many of these countries. While radicalized and antagonized by Western politicians, media, and government, for its sensational content and airing of graphic war related footage, Al-Jazeera is revered by many in those countries which it does broadcast to. For people of Qatar in particular this was their first news station, which provided legitimate and unbiased local and internationally relevant news material. Due to the fact that in 1995 censorship of the domestic press in Qatar was formally lifted. As a TBS online journal article cites, “It is claimed that 70% of Arabs with satellite TV rely on Al-Jazeera for news, documentaries and politically related programs (interview with al-Jazeera's general manager, 1999). The interpretation for this point could be that while Al-Jazeera’s popularity reflects the thirst of Arabs for impartial information from which they are deprived through their regimes media, and also reflects the eagerness of Arabs to eradicate traditional forms of censored media output, an eagerness which is tremendously civilized and highly human.“ While the society in this part of the region is vastly different from American culture, there are a large amount of women who also strive to find work in the realm of news broadcast media and production. When one looks at Al-Jazeera news you see almost just as many women anchors, newsroom personnel, or editors as American news industry. Al-Jazeera has even been as influential in many societies, as to influence larger voter turnout in men as well as women, and has also helped Qatari women surpass their male counter-parts in percentage of men compared to women online. More than 53 percent of women in the country have learned to work online and browse the internet, with less than 46 percent of men being capable of doing so. It is astonishing just how recently Al-Jazeera has been around yet how much it has transformed society for the better for all people, regardless of gender.

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