- The Washington Times - Friday, September 28, 2001

Two out of three graduates of the country's journalism schools are women, many of whom flee the profession before being promoted to its higher echelons. "Either women don't want the newspaper jobs or they're not hired in proportion to their numbers, but they're not staying," says Christy Bulkeley, a retired publisher for Gannett Co. and a contributor to an ongoing University of Maryland research project on female journalists.

"The situation is exhaustion, frustration and the need to pay more attention to their kids."

Women account for 41 percent of working journalists, despite making up 62.8 percent of the nation's 38,300 annual journalism graduates, according to surveys by the University of Georgia and the International Women's Media Federation in Washington.

What of the women who remain journalists? Surveys show they tend to be single and childless, unlike their male compatriots. One 1995 survey, commissioned by the Chicago chapter of the Association of Women Journalists, took a close look at the Washington press corps.

It found that nearly half of the women 45 percent had never married, compared with 22 percent of the men. Sixty-four percent of the women had never had a child, compared with 40 percent of the men.

In many cases, this means newsrooms are made up of married men and single women. Demographically, the single female voter is one of the most liberal entities in politics. Although little research has been conducted on how women's political views affect their news gathering, some anecdotal evidence shows that female journalists swing to the left.

"Women and minorities are considerably more likely to be Democrats than the population in general and even than journalists in general," said Indiana University journalism professor David Weaver. "One implication of [the trend of] increasing women and minorities in newsrooms, is you'll have greater percentages that identify with the Democratic Party and consider themselves more liberal in political ideology."

In a series of articles on media coverage of abortion, Los Angeles Times reporter David Shaw observed in 1990 that female reporters overwhelmingly favored abortion.

"The problem, pure and simple," one network news executive told him, "is that the media's loaded with women who are strongly pro-choice."

Mr. Shaw backed his assertions with a study by the Center for Media and Public Affairs that found female reporters quoted abortion proponents three times as often as they quoted abortion opponents.

Since then, at least two conservative organizations have started their own Washington area journalism institutes for like-minded collegians.

Even the most liberal journalist becomes more conservative after having children. However, motherhood often forces female journalists to choose between the chaotic nature of the news business and raising their children.

Some female journalists who had children felt their offspring hampered their careers. According to a report in the trade magazine Editor & Publisher, twice as many women as men 41 percent versus 22 percent believed being a parent hurt their career "a fair amount" or "a great deal."

Maurine Beasley, a University of Maryland professor whose Women in Media class always has a waiting list, says married women with children often feel forced out of journalism. The exceptions, such as ABC's Connie Chung and Ann Compton or CNN's Judy Woodruff, have exceptionally well-paying jobs.

"If you stay in journalism with the kinds of hours required of you, unless you have a lot of money to pay for round-the-clock child care, you have a difficult row to hoe," she says.

"Most journalism jobs don't pay that. So, young women go into the field, but they find it not 'family friendly' so they tend to leave the field.

"This subject needs a great deal more attention. The field of journalism needs all the talent it can get. When it loses creative, experienced people because they cannot deal with child care issues along with their job, the field suffers.

"You need mothers represented in journalism as well as fathers. The absence of family voices in news projects does a disservice to the broader community."

The American Journalism Review echoed those sentiments in a September 2000 article, opining that the nation's newsrooms "need to be more than a group of workhorses in their early 20s who have never grappled with a Diaper Genie or struggled through buying a house."

It's crucial to bring into American media "the different life experiences of the 45-year-old married mom with two kids or the 32-year-old dad of a toddler."

However, the occupation itself does not foster such experiences. In an earlier issue, AJR profiled the three women who headed the Sarasota (Fla.) Herald Tribune, noting that those editors got where they were at the price of "ruined or strained marriages, living apart from loved ones and delaying motherhood."

Women in television tend to "disappear around the time they are 40," Mrs. Bulkeley says. "They can't get out of the local markets and they won't put up with all the appearance [demands] women put up with in television. There was a big flap the other day when Katie Couric changed her hair and makeup."

Sue Kopen Katcef, an anchor at WBAL 1090-AM, who left the field when she adopted a son two years ago, said motherhood and media were a tough mix.

"I don't know too many married women my age in newsrooms," the 46-year-old says. "After you spend 24, 25 years of your career juggling [those demands] and then there's a child, it's asking a lot."

She now teaches at the University of Maryland where 65 percent of the university's freshman journalism majors are women and shares child care duties with her husband, a prosecutor in Anne Arundel County.

"If I didn't have my husband to support me, I don't know," she says. "I have nothing but admiration for single moms."

Diana Huffman, a former magazine editor and legislative director for Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., Delaware Democrat, says newsrooms were more family-friendly than Capitol Hill.

"These were people with no children or those who had had kids just didn't get it," said Ms. Huffman, the mother of an 11-year-old and a part-time instructor at the University of Maryland. "I think this town is not family-friendly at all. Washington is built on power, which means face time. People are reluctant to go home, because they might miss a meeting with the senator. Meetings are either ridiculously early in the morning or 7 at night."

Now on her second marriage, she estimates that single female journalists do not make enough money to take on child rearing while working part time. "A lot of women I know," she says, "would do what I do if they could afford it."

Journalism "is still my first love," she says, "but if a story breaks, it breaks. You don't have a lot of control over your hours. If I have to cancel class because my kid is sick, then I cancel class."

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