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News Media Last Updated: Mar 23rd, 2009 - 23:29:31

Corporate media, the IFJ and women
By Ben Tanosborn
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Mar 24, 2009, 00:16

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On March 8, we came together to celebrate International Women�s Day, 92 years to the day after Russian women had marched to strike for �bread and peace� in a Russia that had seen 2 million of its soldiers dead (World War One) and with an ongoing famine enveloping parts of the nation. Four days later, the Czar had abdicated, and the provisional government that took over granted women the right to vote. All in all, this is probably one of the greatest, if not the greatest, feat for women throughout the world. A milestone moment that inspired, as well as instigated, more than nine decades of women�s struggle for equality, justice, peace and personal development in just about all corners of the planet.

To me, however, International Women�s day has a greater significance than just being a time to reflect on the international women�s movement and the progress made to date in its demands for the participation of women in both the political and the economic process. And that greater significance transcends the gender issue, and the status that women may have in some regions of the world where culture and religion play strong, consequential roles in creating gender inequalities, or extreme differentiation.

So far we�ve measured women�s progress solely in terms of how, as a group, women are closing the gap of equality or, rather, inequality versus men. In societies with a lesser gender differentiation, the so-called modern, enlightened nations, or groups of nations, that gap has usually been narrowed down to economic oppression and gender-associated salary distinctions or promotion barriers for women -- the ignominious �glass ceiling,� a critical focal point in feminism and women�s studies.

No, it was not a moment of divine revelation I underwent five years ago; nor was it brought about by a specific event in the Cowboy�s perverted, anti-democratic type of governing from the White House that brought me to see a light of hope. That light came on as I reached the conclusion that, if the world were to be saved, it would have to occur by having women in charge; or, at least holders of some form of veto power to keep men�s perennial attitudes -- or is it attributes? -- of hostility and dominance in check. Not just here in the United States but elsewhere in the world; not just in nations holding major military and economic power but in nations yet developing, aspiring to be served at the same table as the rest.

Fat chance for that to occur! Men may tolerate gradual change in the empowerment of women; but for now, or the near future, they are totally unwilling to abdicate ultimate power. Even in what we surmise to be women-friendly fields, such as journalism, gender inequality is rampant. And it is precisely this journalistic platform from where women could exert enormous influence; influence which could transform the political and social makeup of nations. But the corporate media keeps suffocating any possible reporting by top women journalists that may challenge the existing status quo. Many of us wonder, for example, the de facto silencing of Christiane Amanpour, CNN�s chief international correspondent, on many issues where she could have offered both clarity and credibility; issues too incandescent, however, for brainwashed American audiences.

It is the assessment of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) that women journalists are at a clear disadvantage when it comes to their professional status within the corporate media. According to the IFJ, using statistics compiled and made available in the last three years, only 29 percent of the news was being written by women journalists . . . well, only 23 percent, really, of what is considered �serious� news, their coverage and writing of the news more often than not being relegated to news dealing with family or social affairs, art, lifestyle and entertainment-related.

Perhaps the most critical statistic is being provided by the Canadian Daily Newspaper Association which offers a possible answer to the problem of entrenchment in the existing political status quo: only 8 percent of the chief editors, and 12 percent of all editors in Canada, are women. These are alarming figures for supposedly one of the more enlightened nations in gender-equality; a nation not far behind Russia and Sweden in the proportion of women working in the communication media. It is definitely a major challenge to have women occupying the top journalistic ranks. Save rare exceptions, such as the ding-a-ling Wall Street cheerleaders for CNBC, we -- men and women alike -- tend to place greater trust in women journalists than we do in men.

Would we in America have allowed the cover-up of the Fallujah, Haditha and other horrific crimes perpetrated by the US military in Iraq had there been women in charge of reporting such news? Or, for that matter, the actions of American soldiers two years ago when destroying the Baghdad offices of the Iraq Syndicate of Journalists . . . just because they would not endorse US policy and actions? I would like to think not.

Perhaps the IFJ next year, as it holds its triennial congress, can make it more than just a token issue to bring to the forum the need for a far greater leadership role by women in journalism. By so doing, we would be taking great strides, not just in narrowing the gender gap, but in serving humanity better through truth and, hopefully, a much greater chance at peace.

� 2009 Ben Tanosborn

Ben Tanosborn, columnist, poet and writer, resides in Vancouver, Washington (USA), where he is principal of a business consulting firm. Contact him at

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