Press Release: Media Guide for Gender-Neutral Coverage of Politics

Press release, in its entirety:

WMC Releases Media Guide for Gender Neutral Coverage of Women Candidates and Politicians

March 26, 2012

Contact: Rachel Larris at rachel@womensmediacenter.com

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Today the Women’s Media Center releases a new Media Guide for its Name It. Change It. Project, which works to identify, prevent and end sexist media coverage of women candidates and politicians. The Women’s Media Center’s Media Guide to Gender Neutral Coverage of Women Candidates + Politicians (click to download) shows members of the media how to avoid injecting sexism into their own coverage and how to spot sexism in other’s.

Julie Burton, President of the Women’s Media Center, says “This guide was created to show journalists and other media professionals how the use of even subtly sexist language affects woman candidates’ success in the political arena.”

The Name It. Change It. project, a joint partnership between the Women’s Media Center and She Should Run, addresses sexism in the media directed at women candidates, politicians and high-profile individuals.

“With the release of this guide, the Women’s Media Center hopes to make the use of all sexist language both recognizable and unacceptable in politics,” Burton says.

Gloria Steinem, Co-Founder of the Women’s Media Center, says, “Studies show that like bullying, the trivializing sexism used against women candidates makes voters not want to associate with them. The problem is that sexism itself is viewed as trivial. This guide makes its seriousness clear, and helps reporters be fair by using parallel language for both female and male candidates.”

The Women’s Media Center’s Media Guide to Gender Neutral Coverage of Women Candidates + Politicians features groundbreaking research by Celinda Lake on the affect of media sexism on women candidates, as well a glossary of terms from Rosalie Maggio’s Unspinning the Spin: The Women’s Media Center’s Guide to Fair + Accurate Language, which provides definitions, background information, and suggested alternative uses for many loaded and politically incorrect terms.

Robin Morgan, co-Founder of the Women’s Media Center says, “Media sexism is used against women candidates and elected officials of all political viewpoints; it isn’t limited to one political party, and the Name It. Change It. project fights that sexism wherever we find it. We hope that members of the media sign our pledge to treat all subjects with respect, regardless of gender, and to create an overall media culture in which sexism has no place.”

“This shouldn’t be a radical notion,” Morgan says. “Giving women unequal treatment in media coverage is plain bad journalism–and its bad for democracy. Hopefully with this guide and the continuing work of the Name It. Change It. project, more members of the media will understand why this is important to them.”

The Women’s Media Center’s Media Guide to Gender Neutral Coverage of Women Candidates + Politicians is available for free download onWomensMediaCenter.com and at NameItChangeIt.org.

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Media Coverage of Sexual Violence in Brazil

Journalistic Coverage of Sexual Violence Against Children in Brazil

Excerpt:

IMPACT

  • News coverage on stories involving sexual abuse/exploitation of children was found to evolve 200% in 10 years (from 2,004 news stories in the year 2000 to 6,024 in the year 2009).
  • In 2009, 18% of stories in the Tim Lopes Journalistic Contest included references to legislation, as compared to other news sources sharing information on sexual violence in general (9.7%) or children’s rights in general (5.7%). [See Slide 20 for more data]. Also, there was found to be an impact of this contest on the journalistic culture – e.g., winning journalists “gain a much deeper understanding of the problem and commit to it even if [they] change outlets/jobs” and they “become focal points within their newsrooms.”
  • The Tim Lopes contest has also been found to have impacted public policies/the state system. For example, there was an improvement of ECA (Brazilian Bill of Children’s Rights) through Amendment 485 regarding child pornography on the internet.
  • Although sexual exploitation is difficult to measure, due to the specific nature of the problem (e.g., it is an illegal activity, and many victims prefer to remain silent) and based on the “agenda setting” approach, ANDI believes that the level of public awareness on sexual violence against children in Brazilian society has grown in recent years due to more qualified media coverage.
  • ANDI cites accomplishments such as the following: public awareness about the National Day to Combat Sexual Violence, May 18, has grown annually; President Lula made the issue a priority regarding his social policies; a congressional investigation panel on the issue was established; and there was a significant growth in the number of calls to the national hotline (4,494 in 2003, compared to 29,756 in 2009).

It Takes a Village…to Traffic Girls

Please consider signing the petition:

Where Pimps Peddle Their Goods

Backpage accounts for about 70 percent of prostitution advertising among five Web sites that carry such ads in the United States, earning more than $22 million annually from prostitution ads, according to AIM Group, a media research and consulting company. It is now the premier Web site for human trafficking in the United States,according to the National Association of Attorneys General. And it’s not a fly-by-night operation. Backpage is owned by Village Voice Media, which also owns the estimable Village Voice newspaper.

Attorneys general from 48 states have written a joint letterto Village Voice Media, pleading with it to get out of the flesh trade. An online petition at Change.org has gathered 94,000 signatures asking Village Voice Media to stop taking prostitution advertising. Instead, the company has used The Village Voice to mock its critics. Alissa thought about using her real name for this article but decided not to for fear that Village Voice would retaliate.

Joseph Grenny: The Media as an Accomplice in School Shootings

I’m reposting this from the Crucial Skills Web site (scroll half way down). It’s written by Joseph Grenny.

Monday I watched in horror with most of America as the story of the Chardon High School shooting unfolded. But my horror was twofold. The first misery came as I heard the names and numbers of victims and thought about the pain they and their families will endure for the rest of their lives. The second dose came as I held my breath—hoping and praying the media wouldn’t amplify the violence.

But they did.

They did exactly what they needed to do to influence the next perpetrator to lock and load.

1. They named the shooter.
2. They described his characteristics.
3. They detailed the crime.
4. They numbered the victims.
5. They ranked him against other “successful” attackers.

School shootings are a contagion. And the media are consistent accomplices in most every one of them.

There’s really no useful debate on the point. The consensus of social scientists since David Phillips’ groundbreaking work in 1974 is that highly publicized stories of deviant and dangerous behavior influence copycat incidents. Phillips’ and scores of subsequent studies showed, for example, that suicide rates spike in the week after an inappropriately publicized celebrity suicide. Contrast this trend with no increase in suicides in the week following a media strike that unintentionally suppresses such coverage.

The same is true of school massacres. On Groundhog Day, February 2, 1996 a 14-year-old boy walked into his Moses Lake, Washington, Junior High School algebra class and started shooting. He killed his teacher, two classmates, and severely wounded another student. The media obsessed over the color of his clothes, his insidious planning, and the inventory of his arsenal. In addition, they practically offered a how-to guide for concealing and deploying weapons in a coat. But what got the most attention was the fact that after shooting his teacher, he delivered a line from the Stephen King novel Rage with charismatic panache. Suddenly, the invisible adolescent was a cultural icon. Within a week, another shooting occurred that clearly echoed that of February 2. Then another on February 19. Another on March 11. And yet another on March 13. More than one of the apparent copycats also cited King’s novel as a creative resource in their crimes.

Of course, when the Rage pattern became clear, the media scurried to get King’s reaction. King could have defended his right to free speech and used the “guns don’t kill, people do” argument—claiming the problem was the perpetrators’ mental health not his book.

But he didn’t. He apologized for writing the book. In an interview he said, “I took a look at Rage and said to myself, if this book is acting as any sort of accelerant, if it’s having any effect on any of these kids at all, I don’t want anything to do with it.” Then he insightfully added, “Even talking about it makes me nervous.” King understands that attention is influence. He asked his publishers to pull Rage from publication and let it fall out of print shortly thereafter.

The challenge our society faces is balancing the need to not cause additional mayhem through known influence methods with the right of free speech. As is the case with all complicated issues, there are multiple values to consider here.

It’s time to ask if we should find a way to stifle such reports, limit the anguish, and disallow one form of speech, for the greater good.

One thing is for certain—those who write about, talk about, televise, and otherwise report on school shootings need to take their lead from Mr. King by examining their own motives and methods—given that when news outlets include certain details of a crime in their reports that act as a virtual workshop for would-be acolytes, they are likely to incite similar actions.

Surely, media specialists feel the tension between their own values and staying in business. And yet, they must realize that their goals to get more air time, sell more ad space, and earn more attention don’t justify the potential to create new pain and sorrow.

The obvious first step is to talk openly about all sides of the issue—including the latest research. Media outlets need to examine their own tactics, impact, and motives. It would be wonderful if the entire industry started regulating certain aspects of what is reported. This could only be accomplished through collaboration between competitive entities and so far, we haven’t seen any progress in this direction.

Perhaps it’s time for legislators to start their own dialogue. Perhaps we now have enough scientific evidence to suggest that it’s time to take action before more lives are lost. It’s time we matched responsibility with influence.

 

 

A Teachable Moment? At what cost?

My letter to the editor of the New York Times did not get published – here it is:

Dear Mr. Feyer,
The headline “A Teachable Moment” (Feb. 20) connotes the idea of imparting knowledge and, I’d add, in an ethical fashion. Mr. Jones did no such thing.
Domestic violence is not mutual, as Jones implies. According to credible sources, like CDC, males perpetuate intimate partner violence 85% of the time. Police reports, shelter statistics, and court records provide further proof. And while boys can also be sexually abused, more often it is by older men – not women. Moreover, women are more likely to be murdered and stalked than are men, not vice versa.
Accurate information allows us to focus our resources, including financial ones. Remarkably, Jones refers to this as being “profitable” to organizations that help victims ‘projected as homosexual or female.’ What kind of teacher does this?
We can sympathize with male victims, but not at the cost of misleading society or disparaging organizations that assist victims.
Here is what I responded to:

To the Editor:

Charles M. Blow aims to provide readers with a “teachable moment” regarding the suspension of the CNN commentator Roland Martin after a gay rights organization complained that his Super Bowl tweets advocated violence against gays (“Real Men and Pink Suits,” column, Feb. 11).

Noticeably absent from Mr. Blow’s and others’ commentary was any criticism of the numerous graphic acts of violence — slaps, head butts, kicks, punches — depicted against heterosexual males during the Super Bowl commercials in the interest of humor.

Many commentators, politicians and advocacy groups tend to cast victimization with a homosexual or feminine identity under the guise of advancing equality and social justice. While profitable and politically expedient, such projections not only marginalize the significant number of heterosexual male victims of violence, neglect and abuse, but also recast them as victimizers.

Domestic violence is just as likely to affect men as women; one in five males in the United States has been sexually abused; males account for nearly half of all missing persons; the number of male and female child prostitutes is essentially equal in major cities; and more than half of confiscated pornography depicts boys, not girls. In short, no group has a monopoly on suffering.

We should condemn all public endorsements or mockeries of violence. Our rebuke should not turn on whether the victim is heterosexual or homosexual, male or female, or a member of a group to which we belong, but whether there was an offense made against a person’s human dignity. Unless we, as a nation, hold ourselves to such a standard, we will only substitute one brand of social injustice and bias for another, and compromise our moral authority.

SAMUEL V. JONES Chicago, Feb. 14, 2012

The writer is an associate professor of law at the John Marshall Law School.