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Posts Tagged ‘feminism’

Spotlight’s forgotten reporter

In Blog on February 27, 2016 at 4:45 pm

The two institutions that have most shaped my life – journalism and the Catholic Church – collide in the stunning film, Spotlight. It is the story of the investigative reporting team whose reporters uncovered the systematic cover-up of sexual abuse of children by priests in the archdiocese of Boston. The film is up for five Academy Awards, including best picture.

The Globe’s exposé was published in early 2002. But nine months before, in March 2001, the Boston Phoenix, the alternative weekly, published its story, “Cardinal sin,” which explored in depth allegations that Cardinal Bernard Law was complicit in the abuse cover-up. Kristen Lombardi wrote that first story, and continued her reporting, writing eight stories in all. The Globe’s reporting did not acknowledge her work.

Lombardi lacked the resources of The Globe and was largely working alone, although guided by her editors. But Lombardi, then a young and relatively green reporter, did her best. Her role was consigned to only a throw-away line in the film, when a reporter from The Globe describes the Phoenix as a weak and under-resourced rival that “nobody reads.”

Others have noted The Globe’s dismissal of Lombardi’s contribution. In 2012, media critic Jim Romenesko posted a letter from Susan Ryan-Vollmar on his popular website. Ryan-Vollmar, Lombardi’s editor at the Phoenix, chided The Globe for not acknowledging Lombardi’s ground-breaking work. Ryan-Vollmar praised The Globe’s “phenomenal” coverage, but wondered why the paper seemed determined to take “100 percent of the credit,” unwilling to concede even ten percent to the stories the Phoenix published.

Boston Magazine revisited the credit controversy last fall, when Spotlight premiered.

Despite not getting the credit she deserved, Lombardi went on to become an accomplished investigative reporter. She earned a Nieman journalism fellowship for study at Harvard University and several national journalism awards. She’s now a reporter for the Center for Public Integrity.

I interviewed Lombardi for my forthcoming book, Catholic Women Confront Their Church: Stories of Hurt and Hope. Like so many of the reporters in the film, Lombardi was born and raised Catholic. She went to Mass with her family, made her First Communion and was confirmed.

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Short shrift on Waxman retirement

In Blog on February 13, 2014 at 10:59 am

On January 30, Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., announced his retirement from the House after 40 years of service in that legislative chamber.  His record is studded with major achievements. He was both the supreme strategist and major force behind legislative efforts that resulted in cleaner air and water, Food and Drug Administration regulation of tobacco, more humane treatment of AIDS patients, and expanded access to heath care for low-income families.

Along with then Representative Ed Markey, D-Mass., now a Senator, Waxman led congressional efforts to address climate change in a comprehensive way, one of the few reform goals he hasn’t attained in his four-decade career.

Whether one agrees or disagrees with Waxman’s philosophy and record, it certainly is newsworthy in and of itself.  So why the focus on the man’s height? Read the rest of this entry »

When Did Contraception Become Controversial?

In Blog on January 5, 2014 at 1:01 pm

Tell me, when did the media decide that contraception was controversial?  When I did a search on Google News, I found that the words contraception and controversy occurred together more than 4,000 times, often in broadcast and print news accounts.

Contraception is not some bizarre practice that most Americans avoid.  Yet, ideologues and the Catholic hierarchy have managed to brainwash reporters, most of whom I’ll wager practiced birth control at some point in their lives, and persuaded them to treat the term gingerly.  Contraception used to be called family planning. That term better reflects the well-established concept that people have the right to determine how many children they can love, raise and financially support.

Most sexually experienced  Catholic women of child-bearing age – an estimated 98 percent — have practiced contraception at some point in their lives.  As a reporter colleague of mine once put it, “We’re Catholics, but we’re not idiots.”  The statistics are pretty clear that most Catholics don’t see anything wrong with contraception.  Only 15 percent find it morally wrong.  Even among Catholics who attend weekly mass, two-thirds don’t find contraception objectionable.  Count me among that group.  Heck, I even sing in the choir at my church.

And as a few media outlets have tried to point out, federal regulations long on the books already had made the availability of birth control pills a requirement for most employers that provide health insurance.  Many state laws had imposed similar requirements on Catholic institutions. Catholic institutions that fought these rules were often blocked by the courts.

But by and large  journalists have done a terrible job of making the point that contraceptive use is the norm in this country, and that federal regulations and state laws have been quietly requiring that it be a part of employer-provided health insurance for years.

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THE BLOG: Dear Aaron, about your “woman problem”…

In Blog on September 2, 2012 at 7:40 pm

Dear Aaron,

I have been entertained by The Newsroom these past weeks.  I could overlook the fact that The Newsroom did not, in fact, resemble any newsroom I had ever worked in.  But then again, my experience had been in print journalism, not broadcast.  So perhaps broadcast newsrooms have more paper hearts for Valentine’s Day than a typical day care center, and people in broadcast share their life secrets and dating history spontaneously and almost continuously.

I grew somewhat fond of the plot lines, and could tolerate the endless references to Don Quixote, when I would have preferred H.L. Mencken. I could even suspend disbelief and imagine a news environment entirely devoid of cynicism and black humor.

But what I can’t forgive is the mess you make of your women journalists.

I realize that young women bloggers were on to this sexism long before I was.  My daughter opened my eyes, and referred me to posts on The Hairpin like this one.

But now that I’ve been sensitized, I have gotten more and more angry.

Sexism in journalism has had a long and storied history. It still is not entirely dead, so how you portray women in the news matters.  We haven’t achieved that level of professional security where we can just laugh it off.

Early in my own career, I was turned down for a reporting job in a very small town in upstate New York because the editor said he “wanted to replace a man with a man.”  By then, there were laws in place that would have permitted me to sue that editor for sex discrimination.  But what would have that gotten me in the long run?  Damages, maybe, but also a reputation in the news business for being “difficult.”  So I didn’t sue.

When I interviewed women journalists for my book, Out of the News, I realized how prevalent the gender discrimination has been.  While some benefited by being mentored by women who were pioneers in the field, others still bore the brunt of unequal treatment with men into the 1980s, 1990s and even the 21st century.   Beverley Lumpkin is a good example of a talented reporter who faced sexism her entire career.  Although she’d done extensive investigative work for congressional oversight committees and ABC’s 20/20 newsmagazine, Lumpkin was stuck on stakeouts when she took a job with ABC’s Washington news bureau, waiting to shout a question to newsmakers as they emerged from their homes or offices.  It was nearly a year before she got substantive news assignments.  Her reportorial skill and expertise covering the Department of Justice never earned her an on-air reporting position on the prime-time network news shows, and after more than 20 years of service, when the bureau was cutting costs, she was one of the “older” women journalists who were let go.

Just last month, a survey revealed that about 75 percent of the print stories about the 2012 presidential campaign have been written by men, during an election when the voting bloc most dear to the candidates of both parties is the “women’s” vote.

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