Where are the women in the Romenesko discussion?

Journalism industry icon Jim Romenesko resigned last night, premature of his planned early retirement, following allegations by the Poynter Institute of “questionable attribution” in his posts. Romenesko, considered by some to be the godfather of the aggregator, has run a media news blog at Poynter for the past 12 years. Questions about his writing appear to have been raised by Erika Fry, an assistant editor at the Columbia Journalism Review.

Julie Moos, who is the director of Poynter Online, wrote the posts about the “incomplete” attribution and Romenesko’s resignation. She has also received a large amount of criticism in this situation. Read her original post here to see examples and make your own opinion on the issue.

While there is plenty to be looked at and discussed here, we were drawn in by a Twitter request from Anne Elizabeth Moore: “I’d also like to see a gender breakdown of Romenesko links, Romenesko defenders, and @juliemmoos twitter-detractors. @GenderReport?”

Here’s where it got interesting on our part. While a gender breakdown of all of those subjects would be challenging, time-consuming and perhaps a project we’ll set aside to do more on later, we did pull a few small samples of the conversation to look at.

These were the early posts about the issue that appeared through a Google news search and that were being passed around on Twitter prior to the announcement of Romenesko’s resignation (after that and as of this morning, you’ll find more than 100). Notice anything about the majority of the authors?

And then where are a few “stories” via Storify that collected what the authors suggest are key tweets on the issue. Notice anything here?

Moos herself retweeted (or MT-ed) nearly 100 tweets about the issue as of the end of the business day Thursday, including comments on all sides. These included by rough count 73 tweets from men, 14 from women and six from organizations or groups (some tweet authors, both male and female, were repeated). You’ll find similar results if you look at the comment sections of both of her posts on the issues. Just scroll down through the comments.

Media columnist Jack Shafer asked on Twitter whether all the press critics would be standing up for Romenesko and then proceeded to list 20 of them. By my count, none are female.

And in a wrap up of the discussion and response posted on Romenesko+ on Poynter today by Adam Hochberg, the trend continues. If we don’t include the key players (Moos, Romenesko and Fry) in our count, those who are named as expressing an opinion on the matter are eight men and no women.

While we haven’t completed Moore’s request fully, our quest to look at gender in this conversation did raise some questions.

Where are the women commenting on this issue? If you do a Twitter search for Romenesko, you’ll find some women tweeting about it (and obviously a few women scattered throughout in the above small samples), but in terms of the bulk of the early conversation, it is made to appear, based on all of the above, mostly male dominated.

And where are the women press critics? Is this still a very male dominated position? From Shafer’s collection, it appears so.

These are questions we don’t have answers for, but we’re interested in your thoughts. Let us know what you think in the comment section below.

UPDATE: This post received quite a bit of traffic Friday as the journalism world reacted to Romenesko’s resignation. Here are a few snapshots of responses to our post on Twitter:

Additionally, media writer Rachel Sklar asked Shafer how he defined press critic for his list that included only men. This was his response:

To which media writer Alicia Shepard said, “HELLO???,” noting that she probably tweeted more about Romenesko than she had tweeted in weeks. Also, in response to the exchange, Clara Jeffery, editor of Mother Jones, posted:

Sklar and others suggested a need to begin work on a lady journo list. We’re glad our post helped spark this discussion and we look forward to seeing the list emerge.


Concerns expressed over victim blaming in New York Times article on gang rape (Updated)

A New York Times article sparked controversy this week on how it reported a gang rape in Texas. The March 8 story, “Vicious Assault Shakes Texas Town” by James C. McKinley Jr.,  is about the reaction of a community to the gang rape of an 11-year-old girl in an abandoned trailer. Eighteen young men and boys have been charged in the case ranging in age from middle schoolers to a 27 year old.

The article stirred up concern with how the coverage encourages victim blaming without context. The reporter included a description, according to residents, that the girl “dressed older than her age, wearing makeup and fashions more appropriate to a woman in her 20s.” Of the fact that the girl had been seen visiting friends in the area of the incident for months, one resident asked, “Where was her mother? What was her mother thinking?”

While these comments appear to blame the 11-year-old, and her mother, for her own gang rape, other lines in the article portray sympathy for those involved, such as the following:

The case has rocked this East Texas community to its core and left many residents in the working-class neighborhood where the attack took place with unanswered questions. Among them is, if the allegations are proved, how could their young men have been drawn into such an act?

“It’s just destroyed our community,” said Sheila Harrison, 48, a hospital worker who says she knows several of the defendants. “These boys have to live with this the rest of their lives.”….

In light of this, the article drew a fury of comments, including a Change.org petition by Shelby Knox  demanding a published apology for coverage and an editorial from a victim’s rights expert on how victim blaming condones sexual assault. As of Saturday, the petition had more than 42,500 signatures and 2,500 comments.

A Mother Jones analysis titled “The New York Times’ Rape-Friendly Reporting” notes that McKinley can’t be faulted for reporting “uncomfortable” facts like that some residents have sympathy for the perpetrators and that victim blaming exists, but the problem lies in the fact that there is no other side reported.

At first, the New York Times’ only response was to publish a letter to the editor received about the article. A spokeswoman answered questions for The Cutline, saying that the paper stands by the piece and that the views expressed were those of residents that were found not the reporter.

The Times’ public editor, Arthur S. Brisbane, responded Friday, noting that the outrage was “understandable. The story dealt with a hideous crime but addressed concerns about the ruined lives of the perpetrators without acknowledging the obvious: concern for the victim.” He also observes that context and balance were lacking, writing that he finds it hard to believe that comments expressed in the article are the only opinions held in the community. He notes the Times is working on a follow-up story.

Other news sources have reported on the incident, including the Associated Press and the Houston Chronicle, without drawing the same ire of commentators. The difference? Context and providing voices on the other side of the issue.

When it comes to the journalistic value of this article, Poynter’s Latoya Peterson perhaps says it best: “The purpose of journalism is to illuminate issues, provide context and produce fair coverage about the incidents that occur in our world. The New York Times piece does not meet this standard.”

A happier note for women

On a more positive front, March 8 also marked the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day and spurred a plethora of coverage and features about women.

Here were some of our favorites:

With all the coverage and attention to women on March 8, we wish the media treated every day like International Women’s Day.

This is the Gender Report’s Week in Review, a weekly post that highlights some of the major stories related to gender issues this week. Some of these stories may have already appeared in our News Feed or in the week’s Gender Checks. We’ll at times include a longer analysis of stories as well as bring attention to stories that may have slipped through the cracks of the week’s news cycle.

UPDATE: The New York Times published a follow-up article on this incident March 28 with far more detail, including an exclusive interview with the girl’s father. It also provides more background on those who have been charged. In a piece for Poynter, Mallary Jean Tenore and Julie Moos argue that though the Times does provide more context it still repeats some of the same mistakes and raises some additional concerns, including with issues of race. As they note, “But alternating, incomplete accounts do not create balance.”