Monday, April 5, 2010

Scavenging for Intriguing Media in a Chauvinist Society

A few years ago, I attended an event at The Paley Center for Media where a panel of prominent women in the field (including Gloria Steinem) discussed the challenges of working in a male-dominated profession. One of the women recounted how at her news station in the 1970s, the office she worked in didn’t even have a women’s bathroom! So to indicate that she was inside, a woman was expected to place her high heels outside the stall. This is so terribly sexist and degrading. A man would never be expected to leave his belt hanging on a bathroom doorknob as a way of notifying an entire office that he is inside. This type of treatment is just one way of singling out “the other”—to let everyone know that an intruder is inside, with alien parts, and possibly even unsightly weapons called TAMPAX.

Unfortunately, the situation of what The Women’s Media Center calls “The Invisible Majority,” has not improved much, even decades later. “The truly disturbing numbers are the percentages of women working for the 94 percent of companies owned and run by men: women comprise only 10 percent of general managers, only 15 percent of programmers, and only 15 percent of the on-air talent” (

What does it take for a woman to get a prominent position in the news industry? Katie Couric is probably better known for her legs and her $15 million/year salary at NBC ( than for any of the stories she has reported on in the past year. It’s a similar situation with Diane Sawyer. I personally think Sawyer is a superb journalist, yet almost every article I’ve ever read about her mentions her ageless beauty or the fact that she is a former beauty queen (

I don’t hate these women because they are beautiful; I’m just wondering why it is relevant in the context of discussing their work as news anchors. I think it boils down to a number of things, including the fact that viewers expect to see good-looking people reporting the news, as well as that fact that physically attractive people sometimes are more likely to excel than those who are less attractive because they get preferential treatment (

Needless to say, I was excited when I came upon The Scavenger, a publication accessible at which is described as “an online portal of features, commentary and news that you’re unlikely to find in mainstream media. It's a mix of original articles, aggregated content (republished blog posts) and author extracts” ( The Scavenger separates its articles into categories (accessible in the sidebar) including: Music, Social Justice, Media & Technology, Feminism & Pop Culture and GLB(SGD)Q, which stands for: Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, (Sex and/or Gender Diverse), Queer.
I found it refreshing that on The Scavenger’s staff page, 5 out of 6 employees listed are women.

The site was launched in December 2009 and was created by journalist Katrina Fox, who has worked as an editor, sub-editor and writer for publications based in Sydney and London.

“Articles on The Scavenger are written by a mixture of professional journalists, bloggers, authors and talented emerging writers.” (

“The difference is that mainstream media content is often dictated by corporate concerns. Stories don’t make it into publications because they ‘may upset an advertiser’. Other ‘stories’ are blatant advertorial puff. You won’t find that on The Scavenger. Nor will you find the latest celebrity gossip or lifestyle fluff.” (

What struck me about The Scavenger is its collection of thought-provoking articles on sex, queer issues and feminist issues. You aren’t going to find articles like “Stop outsourcing your orgasms to technology”, “How Ethiopia is Reinventing the Condom” and “Feminist men: friends or foes?” in mainstream media. Not only are such topics taboo in the eyes of traditionalists, but those who may want to write about such topics may become derailed because they aren’t allowed the opportunity due to publications that don’t welcome the discussion of such issues.

While the future of journalism as we know it is unknown, online publications do have the advantage of interacting with their readers. The Scavenger encourages reader comments and interaction on their site and provides easily clickable icons so you can link their articles on social media sites such as Facebook, Delicious and Twitter.

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