Monday, March 28, 2005

Women in Media Pt. 2

I'm writing a short article on Robert Boynton, the director of the graduate magazine journalism program at my school and author of The New New Journalism: Conversations with America's Best Nonfiction Writers on Their Craft. I've read some of the book, and it's very handy for someone who's still trying to feel her way around journalism. Instead of discussing journalism's literary qualities, Boynton asks questions about the nuts-and-bolts of journalism: How do these journalists get their ideas? Do they tape record interviews? Where do they conduct interviews? When do they do their research? What are their writing routines? etc.

The book is reviewed in the Columbia Journalism Review. At the end of her article, reviewer Julia M. Klein asks, "Which brings us to one final, important matter: Why is it that just three of the nineteen writers in this book -- [Adrian Nicole] LeBlanc, Susan Orlean, and Jane Kramer -- are women? ... Is the culprit rank sexism? Male editors hiring their male buddies? Or else the magazine’s preference for subjects such as war and politics that draw more male writers? Do women writers, facing rejection, discourage more easily? (I’ve heard that thesis proposed.) Or, as devoted mothers and daughters and wives, are they simply unavailable to devote the months and years of zealous, almost superhuman effort required by immersion journalism? There is surely no single, and no easy, answer. But it would have been nice if Boynton, in this otherwise probing book, had thought to raise the question." You can read the entire article here.

I'd forgotten to mention something that some of my female classmates said about LeBlanc, whom I wrote about in an earlier post after she came to speak to my class. Basically, they thought it was pretty incredible that LeBlanc did what she did, spent 10 or so years with this family so she could write about them for her book. My classmates thought that would not have been possible if LeBlanc had been married (I believe LeBlanc said she had a boyfriend though) or children.

I guess with any art or passion, journalism can take over one's life. With immersion reporting, one can't work a 9 to 5 shift and then go home at the end of the day. The reporting is constant: the journalist has to experience life as his or her interviewee experiences it. (I couldn't help but think of the movie Almost Famous while LeBlanc was talking about how she'd spend inordinate amounts of time with her subjects.)

Anyway, I don't think women have reached the point where it's socially acceptable for them to pursue their craft while the children are at home with just their father. There's still this expectation that a woman's love for her children must trump everything else. I'm sure some women would rather be with their children than do anything else. But I suspect there are other women who, while they love their children, would rather be out doing their own thing and pursuing their own interests.

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