Woman Journalists: Last In, First Out

Author and journalist Sheila Gibbons has some regrettably foreseeable news (Womens eNews, 3/30/09) on how female reporters who “worked hard to establish themselves in what had long been a male-dominated field” are faring in a time of massive media cutbacks and layoffs:

By the end of 2009, a quarter of all the newsroom jobs that existed in 2001 will be gone, says the Project for Excellence in Journalism.

This outgoing tide is taking away the reporting, editing and producing jobs of seasoned journalists, many of them women.

I’m thinking of investigative reporting ace Roberta Baskin of WJLA-TV in Washington, who in January picked up a prestigious duPont-Columbia University Award for her work at the station and lost her job the next day.

Another casualty: Glenda Holste, former associate editor of the editorial page at the St. Paul Pioneer Press, who left the paper when her values and those of her corporate bosses “no longer matched,” as she put it, and staffing levels began to shrink.

Margie Freivogel, for 34 years a reporter and editor at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, took a buyout in 2006 when the paper was sold.

They, and many like them, lost or left jobs for which they were superbly qualified. What a loss for them, for their viewers and readers, and for younger people to whom they could have been marvelous mentors.

“It sometimes takes so long for women to get to those spots, it is worrisome,” says Dawn Garcia…president of the Journalism and Women Symposium.

Holste’s and Freivogel’s silver-lining optimism–“the new platforms make the traditional media gatekeeper less relevant than it’s ever been,” since “the Internet may be friendlier to women” than traditional media–takes on added importance in light of the other veteran reporter’s history:

In 1996, Baskin managed to break the story on Nike’s Vietnam sweatshops on CBS‘s 48 Hours, which received enormous attention. The program was updated for re-airing in 1997 but was pulled after CBS and Nike inked a deal for coverage of the upcoming Winter Olympics that put CBS‘s correspondents in clothing displaying the Nike “swoosh,” Baskin says.