Women in leading MSM roles


By Barry Tucker                    18 September, 2014

I know of many women in leading roles in the MSM, so I find it strange that a researcher claims this is not the case.

In an article for TheConversation.com, Why men still run newsrooms, defying the influx of women, academic Louise North says relatively few women reach key decision-making roles. This begs the question: How many seek such roles?

Of four North names as examples, I would suggest only one, ABC News Director Kate Torney, has a decision-making role; the others no doubt participate in suggesting the day’s leading news items.

North quotes another source as putting the percentage of women journalists in Australian news media at just over one third. We are not told how many of them have an executive or decision-making role in a newsroom.

The research seems to be fixated on executive roles on newspapers, discounting the influence of bureau chiefs, news editors, chiefs-of-staff, senior sub-editors, researchers, librarians and, in other contexts, picture editors, studio directors, camera operators, radio interviewers, TV presenters and senior political correspondents. All of these people have an influence on deciding the flavour and focus of the daily news and its presentation.

I would not be surprised if the influx of women across the very broad spectrum of news media (including all Press, radio, TV, news agencies, women’s, special interest and other trade magazines and internet sites — even academia itself) is much greater than the 33% North mentions.

The news room of the daily newspaper has always been a very blokey place. It is hardly surprising that all or most of the senior executives have not been replaced by people from the 33% pool of women. However, from my own experience, the position is different in other news and related media.

So there’s a relatively small pool of women to provide the next executive. No doubt some don’t want the role and some are not suitable. How many are left? There are some notable examples of women journalists with a very high profile who have moved into a higher executive role and made a hash of it. A good reporter, journalist or editor of either gender is not necessarily a good executive. The role requires further specific studies, such as some psychology or human relations management.

It may be that women prefer another kind of leading and more exciting role, reporting from the bureau’s studio, the recently ended door stopper or a relatively safe place near the front line — complete with flak jacket and helmet.

Louise NorthDr Louise North has written extensively on gender and newsroom culture and has taught in the disciplines of Sociology, Gender Studies, Journalism and Media Studies. Her work has appeared in international and national scholarly journals. Her first book, The Gendered Newsroom, (2009, Hampton Press) received international recognition from some of the world’s most respected scholars in the fields of journalism and feminist media studies.

Louise has worked as a print journalist for 23 years and in 2013 co-founded the hyperlocal online magazine Bluestone Magazine.

Bio from TheConversation.com