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Posts Tagged ‘sexism’

New York Times story on John Nash's deathI saw a bit of sexism on display by media and Twitter users in noting the deaths of John and Alicia Nash, the couple whose lives were portrayed in the movie “A Beautiful Mind.”

The Nashes died in an accident Saturday while riding in a taxi on the New Jersey Turnpike.

Two people died in the crash. Admittedly, one of them was a Nobel Prize winner whose mind was immortalized by Hollywood as “beautiful.” But the other passenger killed in the crash, was also a powerful character in the same movie, her portrayal by Jennifer Connelly winning an Oscar. But Alicia got no mention in the headline, tweet or lead of the New York Times:

As you can see from the screenshot above, Alicia Nash was in the photo the Times used and did get a mention in the second paragraph.

Clearly John Nash was the more famous half of the couple. He did have the “Beautiful Mind,” and his death was absolutely noteworthy. But isn’t an elderly couple dying together newsworthy in itself? Don’t lots of couples hope they will die together, rather than leaving one to mourn the other? Her death is an important part of this story.

And, oh, by the way, she was an outstanding and memorable character, too, in that movie. Wouldn’t her death, if she had died alone, have been worthy of a New York Times obituary (even with the gender imbalance of Times obits), headline and tweet? If she were the brilliant mathematician and Russell Crowe had won an Oscar for portraying her husband (he was nominated for an Oscar for “A Beautiful Mind”), I think we can be pretty sure they would have shared mentions in the headlines and tweets.

And if you want to defend leaving her out, don’t use Twitter’s character count or the tighter counts of headlines as an excuse. Alicia is six characters, wife is four. Add a comma or an ampersand to either of those words and you can add an important newsworthy person and element to your tweet or headline for less than 10 characters. I’d like to hear a defense if you have one, but not that one.

While I single out the Times because it’s the most prominent newspaper, it was not alone in its focus on a single death from the crash:

Note that the New York Post uses a photo of Russell Crowe, but not Alicia Nash.

These media tweets didn’t mention Alicia Nash, but the accompanying headlines did:

This media tweet didn’t mention Alicia, but the cutline with the photograph did:

To be fair, some media outlets and journalists did mention Alicia Nash in their tweets about the crash, rarely by name:

Update: Here’s a tweet, called to my attention in a comment, that gave Alicia her due:

I’ll be inviting response from New York Times editors and will add it if they send anything. If you wrote one of the tweets above and would like to respond, I invite your feedback in the comments or on Twitter (I’ll add your tweet to the post if you mention me).

But let’s close with a little recognition for Alicia Nash, who died with her husband, John, in a crash Saturday:

Update: Tom McKay tweeted at me that he mentioned Alicia Nash in his headline.

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Nieman Reports coverMy gender has been an undeniable advantage for most of my journalism career.

I think I deserved every job or promotion and I think I’ve performed well in each job. But I know that I got more breaks and opportunities than deserving female colleagues. And male colleagues with less achievement and potential also got more breaks.

Nieman Reports has published a strong and detailed examination of gender issues in journalism. I encourage you to read it for a more thorough look at the issues and obstacles than you’ll find here. This is just a personal perspective, prompted by the Nieman report: Gender has been a significant – sometimes huge – obstacle for female journalists throughout my journalism career. While it has improved over the long haul, it hasn’t been steady improvement and I wouldn’t argue with anyone who said women have lost ground lately.

I’ve worked with a lot of male journalists who rose to upper-level management positions, or even to the top, who weren’t as talented or as accomplished as females who left the business in frustration or never made it to the upper levels.

For this post, I’m not going to name names or news organizations. I don’t want to offend or argue with former male colleagues I think have based decisions in large or tiny part on gender, intentionally or without thinking. I don’t want to embarrass any women by discussing their career disappointments or other matters. And I certainly won’t violate the things female colleagues have told me in confidence.

But here are some observations about gender in the newsrooms where I’ve worked, either as a full-time journalist or visiting as a trainer or corporate editor: (more…)

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