Charlotte Grimes: Good evening, everyone. I’m Charlotte Grimes and I’m the Knight Chair in Political Reporting here at the Newhouse School. And it’s my privilege to administer the Robin Toner Program in Political Reporting, which is what we’re all here tonight about.
And I’m delighted to welcome you to this tribute and this celebration to great journalism and to an outstanding journalist, Robin Toner, who is also an extraordinary alumna of the Newhouse School and the Maxwell School.
Before we go into the program tonight, I would like to recognize some special guests, so please bear with me if this is a little bit like the Oscars. They are Provost Eric Spina and Dean Lorraine Branham; Adam Clymer, who is one of Robin’s former colleagues at The New York Times and one of the finalist judges who helped to chose our winner; Robin’s husband, Peter Gosselin, and their children Nora and Jake Gosselin who will be playing an important part in this program in just a few minutes. And this year we’re also particularly delighted to have several members of Robin’s family here with us; her sister Gretchen Toner, her sister Jane McConnell and her husband Terry; her niece Bridget McCall and her husband Patrick McCall. I’m sorry to report that Chancellor Nancy Cantor couldn’t be with us now because she had to be at her own event to give out her own awards, but she has been a tremendously strong supporter of the Robin Toner Program and I’d like to be sure to give her special thanks for this. Among our other strong supporters are Robin’s classmate ,John Chapple, and the Newhouse family. We’re extremely grateful to all of them. Will you please help me thank them and welcome them for all of their support for this program?
This is our second year of awarding the Toner Prize for excellence in political reporting. We’ve only done this twice. And I’m going to ask now for Robin’s children Nora and Jake Gosselin to please join me here to award the Toner Prize and to celebrate these outstanding journalists.
First, I’m going to ask Nora if you would please tell everyone about the journalists who are being recognized for the honorable mention for the Toner Prize.
NORA GOSSELIN: My mom taught me a lot of things, things that stay with me today. She taught me how to study, how to treat others, how to dress – well she tried to. But most of all, she taught me how to be passionate about what I love. And she loved writing and reporting. She taught me how unique journalism is and how it bridges gaps, connecting Americans with big-wig politicians, getting to the gritty heart of the matter with a few words. And I believe she loved that most of all – that human connection with writing. Yes, in a large sense, that’s the foundation on which our country was built. But on a personal level, it’s also how family and friends work, how you meet new people, it’s what unites us here today.
My mom also taught me that this bond is fragile – that it can and may be broken. She would be proud of the work of ProPublica and Bloomberg News recognized here today. Olga Pierce, Jeff Larson and Lois Beckett used a combination of computer mapping and regular reporting to draw an alarming picture of how powerful forces are shaping the voting districts of states across the country. Jonathan Salant, who started at The Post-Standard here in Syracuse, John Crewdson, Charles Babcock, and Alison Fitzgerald of Bloomberg News tracked millions of dollars for political attack ads that helped the Republican party gain control of the House and nearly the Senate in the 2010 elections. These reporters protected the human connection in writing and the bond that holds us together. My mom would be, and I am, forever grateful.
JAKE GOSSELIN: Like my sister said, my mother taught us the joy of words and the connections they could form. She taught us something else as well – she taught us about justice. She, my father, and the many journalists we have met throughout our lives have showed us the joy of revealing injustices. Many people, myself included, do not believe that they have the right to decide what is right and wrong. But when we see something wrong, we know it in our guts. My mother showed us the pleasure she got from making her readers feel this way. Just as important to her as the connections formed by her writing was the gift that she was given to be able to write for a paper where her voice could make a difference about things she saw that were wrong around her. Our family could tell when she had written a piece she was proud of, about something she knew was wrong. She would come home glowing, pour herself a big glass of wine and recount to us how she had spent months interviewing and finding all the facts before she would write a piece that would make a difference.
This is exactly what Jane Mayer did in “State for Sale,” a piece that looks at the effects of Citizens United, a Supreme Court ruling on North Carolina and how it allowed one business man Art Pope gain huge amounts of political power and change the state’s legislature from Democratic to Republican for the first time in a century. This is the exact kind of journalism my mother would have loved. Therefore, I am proud to present the Toner Prize to Jane Mayer.
JANE MAYER: Jake, Nora, thank you so much. I am really honored to get this prize in the name of your mother, who I hope you know set the gold standard for political reporting. I met her a little bit and she was a delight, she was serious and she was so respected. And I feel a little more respected just to have a prize in her name. So thank you very much.
I also want to thank Peter Gosselin so much for deciding to give an award for serious political reporting. It’s a kind of reporting that’s a little bit imperiled as we all know right now and the Internet makes it hard sometimes to really dig deep and I just really think it’s wonderful that by rewarding this kind of work I really think you’ll encourage more of it. So thank you so much.
I was thinking that this year, 2012, is the first presidential election that you won’t see Robin’s byline in since 1976 as Adam Clymer pointed out and it is really missed out there, but I am really glad to be able to sort of have a piece of her name as I am sort of covering this race.
I wanted to thank the judges, for their fabulous wisdom. Especially Adam Clymer who is – we don’t need to go into all the details but he’s known among the press core as “Big Time” as he was dubbed by Vice President Cheney. And I’d like to thank Charlotte Grimes who I’ve mostly gotten to know by the Internet but she has just been a wonderful administrator of this and everything has run so smoothly. I want to thank Nancy Cantor and also the Newhouse School Dean Lorraine Branham for this.
Finally, I guess I ought to thank my editors too for giving me the leeway to write this kind of story. At The New Yorker, they give us resources, they give us time, they give us great fact-checkers and they even give us lawyers when we’re in trouble. So anyway – and they give us a lot of encouragement.
So thank you all very much.
CHARLOTTE GRIMES: We are really privileged to have this caliber of journalism to award our prize to. And this is inspiring to our students because this is the kind of journalism that makes democracy possible and keeps democracy going.
As you know, Robin Toner was the first woman to be national political correspondent for The New York Times. And this year, as part of our program, the Toner Symposium, we’re taking advantage of women’s history month. You might have noticed that there are a bunch of women up here.
Another pioneer was the late Kaye Mills, who wrote a book about women’s history in journalism call “A Place in the News.” So tonight we’re sort of remembering Kaye too, and taking a little bit of her title and calling our symposium “Keep” and our panelists represent different eras, different challenges and different opportunities in that struggle. And they’re going to talk about their experiences and their insights and particularly their opportunities in the digital age.
Our moderator is especially well equipped for this particular chore. She is Kristi Andersen, the Chapple Family Professor of Citizenship and Democracy in the department of political science in the Maxwell School at Syracuse University. Kristi has been a member of the Maxwell School family since some of us – well not me – but some of us were born, 1984. Her books include “After Suffrage: Women and Electoral Politics before the New Deal” and “The Creation of a Democratic Majority: 1928 to 1936.” Her research has produced articles on such topics as the gender gap, voting for male and female candidates, the effects of entering the workforce on women’s political participation and the prospects for getting more women in Congress. Kristi also practices what she teaches. She is a member of the town board in Cazenovia. She was elected first in 2005 and re-elected in 2009 and she is a local celebrity in her own right, as a panelist since 2002 on the local WCNY-TV’s very popular “Ivory Tower Half Hour.” So Kristi is going to be our moderator and Kristi I’ll turn the program over to you now. Thank you very much.
KRISTI ANDERSEN: So I’ll start by very briefly introducing the panelists. You have their bios I think in the program. We are extremely lucky to have with us women journalists who come from a variety of different generations, who as Charlotte said, have a variety of different kinds of experiences, different sorts of media, have worked for different kinds of media organizations, so I think this will be a very interesting discussion on them of keeping a place in the news.
Jane Mayer, who you’ve already heard from, was the first woman White House correspondent for the Wall Street Journal. She’s covered the Persian Gulf War, written about politics all the way from Clarence Thomas to the war on terror. She writes, obviously for The New Yorker, and has won numerous prices including tonight’s prize for “State for Sale,” a fascinating story about the man who now seems to control North Carolina politics.
Peggy Simpson, sitting next to Jane, now reports for the Women’s Media Center. But Peggy worked for many years for the Associated Press, was really a pioneer woman journalist. She covered, for example, the Kennedy assassination, the 1970s women’s movement, she’s held a Neiman Foundation [fellowship] at Harvard, opened a Washington bureau for Ms. magazine and has taught at Indiana University as well as a number of other places.
Next to her is Lynette Clemetson. Lynette has been an Asia correspondent for Newsweek and in fact was on the spot for Hong Kong’s return to Chinese rule. She’s been a correspondent for The New York Times, she helped found TheRoot.com. She’s currently director for NPR’s StateImpact, which focuses on how state policy affects people’s lives.
And finally we have a Newhouse graduate, Kristin Carlson, sitting on the end, who is a television journalist in Vermont. She was the first woman, the youngest television reporter in the state capital. She has won awards for reporting on the role of illegal immigrants in the agricultural industry in Vermont and on sexual harassment of women employees in state government.
So as you can see we have an illustrious panel and one which represents a lot of different interests, a lot of different expertise and as I said a lot of different generations. So I will sit down and see if I can work this big mic here.
Is this thing on?
I’d like the panelists to begin by sharing with us briefly their experiences as women in journalism, whether that was sort of a non-issue for them or for some of them, like Peggy, I think it did present challenges. And just give us some observations rooted in your own experiences. So Jane we’ll start with you.
JANE MAYER: Well, I would say that there were pros and cons by the time I entered journalism.
I, as you mentioned, became the Wall Street Journal’s White House correspondent in 1984, at which point I think I was given the job because they wanted to have a first woman in the White House. I was just a couple of years out of college and didn’t have that much experience covering politics. So I think that was the pro from my standpoint.
The con was, among other things, they didn’t think that women could cover arms control. Even though I was the White House correspondent, they thought that women couldn’t do throw-weight, as they called it. So when President Reagan went off to an arms control summit with Gorbachev, I was asked to stay home and asked to maybe think about doing a piece about Nancy Reagan’s favorite dress designers.
So there were some double standards. I remember when President Reagan first called on me. I had written a piece about how he liked to call on women in red and my bureau chief absolutely insisted I wear a red dress. So I put on a red dress and Reagan sort of pointed to me and said “There’s the little girl in red!” So you were still a little girl at that point. But you know it was an opening. And you could run with it and that’s kind of what I remember doing and having a lot of fun with it. So, I tried not to take offense. I just tried to take over the front page.
PEGGY SIMPSON: Well I didn’t know there was any limit to what you could do as a reporter. I just grew up listening to Pauline Frederick on NBC Nightly News and I was probably 10 years old and my parents were divorced and my mom and sister and I moved to San Antonio and she listened to a soap opera every evening and I listened to NBC Nightly News and Pauline Frederick was reporting for the United Nations and I figured that if she could do that I could do that.
And so when I began deciding to be a reporter after college, I had never met a real reporter until I became one. My professors I didn’t consider real reporters. They were good professors but I just sort of went about shaping what I wanted. I edited a weekly newspaper. I was stringer for the AP and for UPI and when I went to the AP I did anything and everything and I wanted to make sure that nobody did me any favors. I had an AP professor when I was in school who said “Heaven forbid if you are stupid enough to work for a wire service don’t work for the AP because if you’re a woman they’ll make you work as hard as the men.” And later, I came to think, well that’s fine with me. I don’t want to have anyone doing me any favors.
I found out that the AP did have its own mindset about what women could and could not do. And that included that you could not aspire to be a bureau chief or a foreign correspondent or things like that because those things were “what men did.” And my bureau chief in Texas told me after I covered the Kennedy assassination, and took him out and said you know I love being a reporter and I do want to go to Washington like I’ve been telling you all on the personnel surveys. But if I wanted to have a job like yours as a bureau chief what kinds of things should I be doing right now at the age of 24. And he said you know and he laughed and laughed and laughed and laughed. And I thought, I’m not sure what that’s about. But basically he said women can’t do this job because to do the job of a bureau chief you first have to sell the AP services. And to sell the AP services you have to get the editors of the paper drunk or the managers of the radio/TV stations drunk or else they won’t buy anything. And we couldn’t send a woman to do that because their wives wouldn’t like it.
And I thought I never realized I had to compete against the wives also.
But he said you know you’re a great reporter and I’ll send you to Washington. And he did.
Ten years later, when there was an AP lawsuit that somebody else filed at the United Nations wanting to be a foreign correspondent and I signed on in the second wave of that it was partly that former conversation that I went back and told. Because my bureau chief was actually very supportive of me individually. He recognized that I was energetic and worked overnights and everything else. He made speeches about me. But his attitudes reflected the AP’s attitudes about the limits on what women could do.
KRISTI ANDERSEN: We’re glad we’re beyond that, perhaps.
LYNETTE CLEMETSON: Well I think by the time I decided to go into journalism in the early ‘90s I was very aware that I was a beneficiary of the women in Peggy’s generation. And I didn’t have to face those sorts of misperceptions or limitations on what I could be. I will say that what I did face though was, in very well-meaning ways, people who tried to protect me from my interest in going to Asia. Because people would tell me, “you know, they’re prejudiced over there.” To which I would say, “Compared to where?”
And because I’m not a very good listener, I decided to pursue Mandarin anyway and follow my dream to become a foreign correspondent.
And by the time I got to Hong Kong, I was very lucky that the Hong Kong bureau chief of Newsweek was a woman, Dorinda Elliott. Her father Oz Elliott had been one of the Wallendas at Newsweek. So I had very strong role models.
When I came back to Washington to join the Newsweek Washington bureau, there was a female bureau chief, Ann McDaniel, who was and remains a mentor of mine. And I would remember hearing in the Washington bureau from people like Eleanor Clift, who paved the way for people like me to come into the bureau with high aspirations. And they would tell stories about the day when the woman who was then office manager would roll a drinks cart around the Washington bureau on closing night on Friday for all the boys. What really struck me was that it really wasn’t that long ago. And I was very struck that I could come into the bureau and aspire to any job I wanted to have at Newsweek. And was hired then to go to The New York Times by Jill Abrahamson. So I’ve really been very fortunate to have trailblazers all around me. And so now that I’ve moved over to the digital side in 2007. And in some ways, I feel that this is my path as a trailblazer, in digital, where I think women in management and on the news innovation end of things, I think we’re starting to move into that boys’ space of being the entrepreneurs, and starting ventures and seeking venture capital for start-ups and I think this is a new wave where women are making a difference.
KRISTIN CARLSON: Well I graduated from Newhouse in ‘99, and started working soon after that, was hired full time at the station where I work in 2000 and it had never entered into my mind that it mattered whether I was a woman or a man.
I was raised very much with the belief that I could do anything and be anything I believed. When I started at the station, I became interested in politics very soon after and was pursuing to become the Montpelier bureau chief covering the state capital. And I got that when I was 24 years old, and I didn’t make note of it but my news director said, “You know you’re the first woman who’s got this job and you know you’re about 15 years younger than anyone who’s held this job?”
And when I was covering the statehouse I did feel Vermont is a more rural state and a lot of the makeup in the legislature – even though we have the second most number of women who serve in the state legislature – it is in some ways still an old boys club.
And I remember there was an older male colleague who was underneath me who I was sort of in charge of in this bureau. And I would see that some legislators, some lawmakers would treat him differently than they would treat me. And at the time, it pissed me off. But then I realized that it was an asset because they saw me: I was young, I had blonde hair, curly hair, and they would underestimate me time and time again. And that turned out to be a real asset. And at this point they know my reputation and I’ve proven myself as a solid journalist who will catch you if you tell me something that’s not right. And at the time, in a way, being underestimated helped sometimes to get someone to tell me something, tell me something that they might not tell someone else.
But as far as management and co-workers, I’ve never felt held back by being a woman. And I think it really is a testament – I was at a workshop earlier, and Peggy was a trailblazer and I’m on the trail. And I’m very appreciative.
KRISTI ANDERSEN: I think points out how quickly everything has changed. I think it’s really interesting to see some of the challenges that you’ve faced Peggy and to some extent the things that were said to you (Jane) and Lynette’s comment that you realized how short a time it had been since those drinks had been passed around to the boys, but now you were in a situation where you had female bosses, mentors and so forth. And that brings up something that I wanted to talk about. There’s a recent article, that I think Charlotte sent around to us, about NPR and the extent to which women comprise a significant portion of the on-air people on NPR and the producers and managers as well. And in the article at least this is attributed to some extent to what they, people there refer to as the founding mothers, that is Susan Stanberg, Cokie Roberts, Linda Wertheimer and Nina Totenberg. And these women were able to be supporters and mentors of other younger women, and at least in part that may account for the situation of NPR right now in terms of women’s role and position. And I’m wondering now, Lynette you mentioned particularly that women – the person who was the head of the Newsweek bureau in Hong Kong – but other people, too, had acted as mentors to you. And I’m wondering whether the others of you have had this experience or not and what your thoughts are about the necessity of other women as mentors. And something that I think political scientists research, sort of the notion of critical mass. It’s sort of the notion that if you have a critical mass of women in a certain organization, and people have done research on the impact on legislatures of a critical mass, say 33 percent of women, whether that changes things in the organization, whether having a certain number of women – rather than just a few tokens – makes things different. I think we can be a little more informal and people can sort of jump in here and there, too.
JANE MAYER: I have to say I think on the NPR front, one of the things – and they do have amazing women who are doing just fantastic work over there – but I have to wonder maybe if part of the reason they have so many women is that you don’t see them; you only hear them. I know that sounds cynical, but I think the hardest thing still for women in journalism, particularly for TV women, to get old when they’re on the air. There’s an eye candy aspect of it that’s hard to keep passing that luster when you’re in your 60s.
KRISTI ANDERSEN: So, we’re not looking at Nina Totenberg.
JANE MAYER: And when you’re listening, you hear how smart she is. You don’t have to see her that much.
PEGGY SIMPSON: I think that’s part of the phenomenal contribution of NPR and amount of money they got in an endowment and the way they were able to deepen and expand their coverage. And to new reporters as well. But I think those – I used to cover congressional things with Linda – mean with Nina, and she wasn’t a big shot or a feeling of a founding mother. She was someone who was slogging there in the hallways of Congress. And I think she just happened to put in her time and get in there and use their smarts to stay there. I think that NPR is just incredibly wealthy because of that. But I think there’s a lot of other people who have come along.
KRISTI ANDERSEN: Kristin, I’m interested in your response to Peggy’s point but also to Jane’s point about the difference between radio, print newscasters and television newscasters, since that’s what you are.
KRISTIN CARLSON: Yeah, well when I came to Newhouse I picked TV because I liked moving pictures and I think they’re powerful and I think they can say things that other mediums maybe can’t. And I think that every medium has a place. But to the kind of appearance matters and people have to look at you. I was saying to someone earlier that if I have a piece of hair like this, or if I have spinach in my teeth, no one hears what I say because they’re too busy saying “Look, honey, you have something in your teeth.” So you know, appearance matters. One of the reasons that I work at the station that I work and that I’ve stayed at the station that I started my career at, is because as long as you’re professional, they don’t care about your appearance. And it’s a real anomaly in the TV world. You maybe have seen the station and can attest to that.
JANE MAYER: WCAX
KRISTIN CARLSON: WCAX. They more care about your writing. I’ve been there again since 1999 and I’ve never had anyone comment once about my appearance at all. Whereas I’ve had friends who’ve worked at other markets where they show up at a new market and they’ve been told, can you cut your hair? Could you dye your hair? We really think this is a good color or that’s a good color. And I really couldn’t deal with that crap. Which is why I’ve stayed at the station where I am. And I think at a certain point, when you reach a certain level, maybe you don’t have to deal with that, but I think in a lot of smaller markets you do. Fortunately I haven’t dealt with that, but I do think it’s a reality. At my station, we have women who are in their mid 50s and are still reporting and they’re amazing and it’s not an issue, which is why I like the station where I work. But you see it on the national level and you see all the main anchors who are women have had so much face surgery that it’s alarming when you see them in person.
KRISTI ANDERSEN: Have the men had face surgery?
KRISTIN CARLSON: I don’t know.
JANE MAYER: I know one or two.
KRISTIN CARLSON: Have they?
JANE MAYER: On national networks who have. But I don’t think as much as the women do. This is one good thing about the magazine world. They don’t see us.
KRISTI ANDERSEN: Particularly at The New Yorker. In some of the other magazines, they put the photo of the authors in there. In The New Yorker we never see your photo.
JANE MAYER: It’s great.
LYNETTE CLEMETSON: I think that what Jane says about radio being a protected medium in some ways is true, when you compare radio to television, but it doesn’t let newspapers off the hook. I think that we’re at an interesting time in the business with the metabolism of reporting jobs changing so much. And while see that you know, I think we represent generations of ascent, where there we fewer and fewer barriers for us, but now I think we’re at an interesting point where I think I’m starting to see a pipeline problem, both with women going into politics and some of the more rigorous beats, and with journalists of color as well.
I think that with political reporting, I think the metabolism created by the web – and I’m somebody who has managed websites and has some of these reporters working for me now – the good old days where you have all day to write a story are gone. In my own career I thought that surely I would go back to Asia at some point and be a bureau chief. And now I’m at a point where I have small kids and I haven’t written at all. But I do know that the reality of those jobs are far different. And if you are a New York Times correspondent in Asia now, you are filing for the newspaper, you are filing for the IHT and you are filing for the web multiple times a day. You’re covering all the same countries that you would be covering on the old beats and you’re expected to file all day long from everything.
And I think it’s – there’s a problem with burnout rates. I think people are burning out faster. I think it’s a problem for men and women, but I have been paying attention to it because I wonder what the pipeline will look like for women going into the political jobs because political jobs are the most competitive.
If you are at a newspaper and you’re filing all day long. And you’re at a newspaper and you’re competing with Politico and all of the other online forces that really have a very high metabolism, I think that people get to the point where you see people trying to weigh whether or not it’s worth it to stay in. And I think it’s something that we should all be paying attention to. And I think that when we all see people with talent that we are mentoring them and making a way for them. And when the metabolism gets too high, helping people to know where they can take breaks in their career and finding ways for those of us who are in editorial roles to create opportunities for people when they can ramp down and catch their breath – and then ramp up and move to a new beat.
I think that it really takes some effort and you have to be conscious about it now as an editor and very intentional. And if we’re going to be serious about keeping women in these jobs, it’s going to be something we have to be very attentive to.
KRISTI ANDERSEN: So you actually kind of talk about one of the questions I was interested in answering. You have a good name for it: metabolism, calling it a higher metabolism. How I would have put it was in the 24/7 news cycle where you have to be tweeting and blogging from everywhere. That does put demands on you as a reporter. I see this just as a reader, or listener or consumer of media that people I follow or I’m interested in are all the time – in the middle of the night – are telling me things, which is terrific from my point of view. But maybe not from their point of view. It’s telling me that those sorts of demands, career demands on somebody, are particularly problematic for women, particularly for women who may have more household responsibilities, childcare responsibilities, than their male compatriots. Statistically, maybe not for everyone. But your solutions, are they realistic? Can you really solve those problems by just kind of telling people when to take a break? Or is it something that’s just going to keep ramping up and ramping up and accelerating and it’s going to just cause more and more burnout and as you say a narrower pipeline because women are going to opt out of those jobs that have that constant …
PEGGY SIMPSON: That’s a stereotype I think. It’s something that all women in some ways have had to fight. You know that “You’re not going to be there in the long term, therefore why should we hire you?” Or, “You’re not going to be there for the long term, because you’re not going to be able to take the pressure.” Or, “We’ll hire you but we won’t put you in a job that has legs, or we won’t put you in a job that you can get a promotion, even though you sort of say you want to do that. Because we know that probably you really won’t be able to do that because especially if you have kids, you’re going to be the one dealing with them, not your husband.”
And there are never those expectations about burnout or about overload that are made of men. And I think that one of the realities of the last 20 or 30 years is that we don’t really know about what kind of stuff that makes a national political reporter, or a national economic reporter or a White House reporter – the kinds of intangibles that go into that. We don’t know what number of those have wives that are 100 percent supportive of them. But we do know that most of the women in those don’t have 100 percent supporters of them. They’re more likely to be single women than not. And the women who are not single are really considered to be – not outliers – but very spectacular, not ordinary reporters, not ordinary women.
That’s in society. Not just journalism.
If you look at leadership, or the people who are in leadership. In terms of mentors, I don’t think I had any. You know, Pauline Frederick, was my mentor in absentia. And I actually met her once and that was in Mexico City at the international women’s year conference in Mexico City in 1975. And there she was sitting right in front of me and I introduced myself and I said, “You know I listened to you from the 6th grade on,” and she looked at me like “what?” It was that important.
Yeah, you know I couldn’t tell her how important it was. It was fabulously important. But I didn’t have in my professors, or I was the youngest woman by 20 years when I transferred into the Washington bureau.
I think in the last 20 years that one of the organizations that some of us founded, which was Journalism And Women Symposium. And we became mentors to ourselves. The lawsuits had already been solved. The lawsuits had already been resolved. There weren’t any glass ceilings, “technically” but of course they were still there in reality and in people’s minds. But this was an organization that was formed specifically for mentoring and for finding – mentoring each other – and for finding ways around those glass ceilings. Still does it. Right now it’s doing it especially on multiplatform, technology issues. Because there’s so many younger women who are doing all of these quadruple things at once in five minutes. And they are mentoring the rest of us. And they are doing this in workshops and they are doing this online with this very active Google group’s listserv. And it’s amazing that there are people who have found out how to do this easily and it’s not eating them alive. And they’re helping. I still don’t know if I can do those four things at once, I’m sure you can.
But I think it’s a challenge for those of us who came in with just print for instance. I mean I did AP radio for 10 years when it was invented. And I did that overseas as well, but that’s not the whole cow. It’s not the whole hog with Twitter and Facebook and the 5,000 things you’re supposed to do.
JANE MAYER: I was just out on the presidential campaign trail and I was heartened to see how many young women were out there carrying the load. But what I noticed was both men and women out there – most people are not married. It’s a singles business now. And I think it’s an issue for both men and women to try to get humane working hours so that they can manage to have something else in their lives besides that.
But I think that if you look back over time, that people who have covered presidential campaigns have given up their lives a lot to do it, and it’s a lot of fun. But it’s hard for both men and women to have any kind of family or at least see a family if you have one.
KRISTI ANDERSEN: Right. And that’s what we’ve always read about presidential campaigns from the boys on the bus to the girls in the van. But I think this is …
JANE MAYER: It’s harder now.
KRISTI ANDERSEN: It is harder now because the demand is on you time-wise for being constantly plugged in and for as Peggy says the doing four different things. The tweeting and blogging and everything else. And those demands are on men and on women and I agree with Peggy that no one should assume that a particular man or a particular woman should have certain obligations. Nonetheless, we do know statistically, that women will tend to have more of the childcare responsibilities. And not only that, but women express themselves – and women in various occupations – as being more concerned about balancing family and your responsibilities.
So I think that this change in the nature of journalism will be perhaps a particular challenge to women and to the women who are coming into this industry as it’s now morphing.
JANE MAYER: You know, one thing I wanted to say was it’s not as far as I’m concerned, the importance isn’t just a matter of numbers, in terms of making sure there’s kind of equality and those things are important. But I really think that it’s important in terms of having women’s perspective on the issues that are out there. Especially when you look at this year and when you look at the issues of contraception, and Sandra Fluke and whatever else. There have been so many issues where if it was just an all-male press core you’d be missing important points of view, I think. So I hope it matters for the quality of the journalism to have that diversity of the viewpoints.
KRISTI ANDERSEN: I’d like to get some other perspectives on precisely that point. We’ve been talking as if we’re only talking about it’s important to have women in numbers and to have women who want to take advantage of these opportunities able to take advantage and not have the glass ceiling, not have the barriers. But I think Jane raises an important point that it’s important to the quality of journalism in a democracy to have viewpoints of a lot of different people and have particularly women’s viewpoints, particularly viewpoints from a diversity of ethic and racial groups, a diversity of backgrounds. What’s your thinking about how you as women represent women, women’s issues in your reporting?
LYNETTE CLEMETSON: I don’t know that I think about it actively. I think again, I think about the mentoring part very actively and it’s something I’m very intentional about. In terms of my sensibility around stories, both as a reporter and editor, I think it’s because I’m sort of determined to bring my full self to work all of the time and feel free to do that. And so if – having had reporters around me who did that – when I raise an issue, it’s my particular window into a story and it’s informed by my experiences which may be from my perspective of being a woman.
I remember Newsweek was doing a big – one of the old-style news magazines used to do one every issue and they were taking on race – and asked me to do a story on mixed marriages. And of course what the editor wanted was a story on black-white marriages, which I found boring. And I was into at the time looking at the census and I did a story on a Taiwanese-American marrying a Japanese-Canadian. And I took a look at how these inter-ethnic marriages were changing the face of mixed marriages in the United States. And how pan-Asian marriage and pan-Latino marriage was changing the way we saw each other as a society. And again I felt that that was informed by my full self. And feeling like I was in a place in a newsroom where I could say to an editor, “I think your idea about that story is very boring and I feel like I’ve read that 50 times. Can I try something different here? By the way it’s not just an idea. The census shows me I have numbers to back this up. Why don’t we do something more interesting?”
So I don’t know what part of myself was informing that story choice, but I know it’s something about me feeling free to be a thinker at work. And I’m sure that there are times when I have informed story choice or story angles because of something I brought to the table as a woman. But it’s never felt forced to me. I just think it’s something that’s become a natural process.
KRISTIN CARLSON: I would just echo that. It seems natural. I am who I am. I’ve never – in the news room where I work, there are a lot of female reporters. There’s actually more female reporters than male reporters, on the both the new and the experienced side. So I think many perspectives are represented. So I’ve never come at something and said well we have to make sure we get this female voice. I think that we all have different perspectives and I think the more rich and diverse your newsroom is, in all sorts of ways, makes it better.
I know that in some ways being who I am helps me get stories. You know, one story I did that had to do with – you referenced it – rampant sexual harassment at the state transportation agency, I did, and there was this woman who – the reason I learned about it was because I knew the lawyer who had worked on the case and he said, “There’s a settlement that’s been out but the transportation officials have buried it. They don’t want to deal with it. They don’t want to address it and I think you should do something on it. Here’s my client’s name and number. I don’t think she’s going to want to talk about it but why don’t you just try?” So I said, “I’m going to try.”
And so I spoke with this woman for a long time, and eventually she decided to talk to me about it, and talk about the experience she had – which was backed up by this report, which I was able to obtain a copy of, and use this report. And I do think the fact that I was a woman made her more comfortable in talking to me. So a lot of the times when I approach reporting, to me I see being who I am, being a woman, as an asset.
LYNETTE CLEMETSON: And I don’t think it’s to say that we feel like we bring those ideas naturally is not to suggest that there are not problems. I mean any time you turn on the Sunday shows, it is very clear that whoever is booking shows still has a very limited rolodex of go-tos, for who we access on Sunday mornings for major viewpoints on the world. And I think that even at NPR, I’m sure that there are challenges because there are times when I turn on the radio and I think, “I love EJ Dion and I love David Brooks but I would really like to hear somebody else.” And so there’s – and I don’t – I would say that’s just about the sort of habit-forming nature of sources.
KRISTI ANDERSEN: The networks that are already in place that are hard to change.
LYNETTE CLEMETSON: The networks and the people – they’re hard to form and when they codify, you know they are people who you have established relationships with. You know when you call them they are going to say yes because they have a history of saying yes and being available.
Robin used to joke at the NYT all the time about Chuck Schumer. “Really did he answer the phone?” Of course he answered the phone – he’s Chuck Schumer. So you know there are people who you know who are easy to go to, so you go to them. And it actually takes energy to develop a deeper rolodex, and to form the relationships with people to come on your shows, to get them to be in your stories, and you have to – it takes work. I think that it’s easy to turn on the radio or turn on the TV or open up the NYT everyday and realize that there’s still work to be done in that area.
KRISTI ANDERSEN: And that’s a good argument for more women at various levels – both the people who are calling and the people who you call. Because presumably, if you had, if whoever’s setting up those Sunday shows was a woman –
JANE MAYER: There are women who are setting them up.
KRISTI ANDERSEN: Then what’s their problem?
JANE MAYER: Well, there’s a clubbiness particularly about covering politics, I think. And while I’ve seen more and more women in journalism, where I still don’t see a lot of women is kind of in the back rooms of politics where a lot of the money is made – the pollsters, the consultants, the advisers to the candidates – that’s still pretty male-bastioned. There’s Mandy Grunwald, who’s a female pollster. That’s make it easier – I mean it’s a little harder for women to kind of, you know, meet them at the next booth over in the bathroom and talk to them. There’s not that kind of clubbiness.
Though I have to say I had fun recently doing a morning exercise walk with Nancy Pelosi that felt like being the kind boys get when they bump up into each other at the gym. The two of us were doing our morning exercise walk and I was trying to make her tell me something that she shouldn’t. And I didn’t succeed very well but I had a lot of fun. It felt good to be a political reporter with important female politicians to interview.
KRISTI ANDERSEN: Yeah, that sounds exciting. What did she not tell you?
JANE MAYER: I was trying to just get a few inside stories about her relationship with Obama. She is very disciplined and pretty much will not spill the dirt even though I think there’s been a lot of friction there over time. She did confess though that the exercise routine was actually a rare thing in her life. And that she had also had an exercise bike in her apartment which she was caught on by her daughter. She was eating chocolate ice cream at the same time she was on her exercycle. And her daughter said, “Mother, that’s not the point.” At which point she realized she just might as well give up on the exercise bike and now she uses it to hang her hand bags on. So, I can relate to that.
LYNETTE CLEMETSON: That’s a nice story.
KRISTI ANDERSEN: I wanted to ask a little bit about the notion that there are specific – and some of you have alluded to this already – Jane and Peggy in particular – when you talked about your early experiences where you were told either implicitly or explicitly that women didn’t do certain things. Women weren’t interested in certain things or couldn’t cover certain things. You know, in politics, certainly, when women were first elected to office, there was a real notion, and I think it still exists to some extent, that women are interested in certain issues. That when women get to legislatures, will be interested in education and social welfare issues – and either aren’t interested in or possibly aren’t going to be competent at – you know, women really have to work to demonstrate their competence at foreign policy or at military-related issues, which is something that you kind of said as well.
I wonder if there are those implicit assumptions about women coming into journalism that they will be interested in women’s issues of sorts, or if they’ll be less interested in stereotypically masculine or male issues or other sorts of things.
PEGGY SIMPSON: I don’t see how you divide those up any more.
KRISTI ANDERSEN: I don’t think I divide them up, but I think —
PEGGY SIMPSON: Well, there’s not a women’s beat, I don’t think, anymore. And there’s not really women’s issues that are divided into a beat as women’s issues. You see the contraception issue flaring up out of – at the political spectrum this time. But it’s not necessarily predictable in terms of who wants to talk about it, or who wants to cover it, or who wants to pursue it in terms of an issue. I think that I don’t know what I would consider a male beat today, except possibly the military. But there are a lot of women who are overseas and on front lines issues as we know.
Somebody – I can’t remember what job, junction I was at – but there was somebody who was a CBS guru and he said, “For heaven’s sakes, don’t even think about going to – or taking this job that I was considering that would be covering the defense department. “You would never get anybody to talk to you. Women don’t do that. Women can’t do that. It’s not that you might not be smart enough to understand tanks or throw-weights but don’t do that. No one at the Pentagon will talk to you.” I didn’t take the job. I never found out but I don’t think that would have been true. I think you can find your sources and talk your way through.
I think there’s certain hostile people who will never think that women are equal in fighting strength. Or that should be next to men who are fighting. Because I think that there are some people who still do believe that if you put women and men together, that’s too much of a temptation. There’s nothing going to be – rampant sex on the ground in Afghanistan. I really think – that was such a huge issues 25 years ago. And I think the reality has been entirely the opposite. And there are very few people today that would make that argument today or that would believe that today. It’s not that there aren’t sex scandals but they’re not always the same way that they thought they would be 20-30 years ago.
KRISTI ANDERSEN: So you probably have the best perspective on this, Peggy. And you’re basically arguing that those stereotypes that shape what women are assigned to or women are assumed to be interested in are pretty much gone by the way side. That in journalism, it’s not the case, typically, that women are assumed to have particular specializations, interests, or not to be able to specialize or be interested in or report on other things.
PEGGY SIMPSON: I probably shouldn’t be answering the question because I’m not in the position of hiring people and making those – doing those vetting kinds of interviews. But that’s my thinking on it.
KRISTIN CARLSON: In our news room, it sort of varies. We use a beat system and, you know, the political reporter is a woman. The education reporter is a man. The crime/court beat is a woman. So I think, I don’t see that stereotype on the local level, but I’m not sure on the national level.
LYNETTE CLEMETSON: I would say that I think my experience bears this out in traditional media. I think there have been some studies when you look at the digital world showing who’s getting venture funds for start-ups. Who’s getting money to build new things is overwhelmingly white – young, white and male. And so I think that would be an area where – I don’t know whether it’s a perception problem or whether it’s a kind of first to the gate problem.
PEGGY SIMPSON: Whether women are applying – that’s seven other issues.
LYNETTE CLEMETSON: Right, It’s whether it’s people entering the process to create start-ups in their dorm rooms. I don’t know but certainly the numbers would suggest that in the digital arena there’s now some imbalance.
JANE MAYER: Well, I was going to say, I think it’s – one place it’s still somewhat difficult or being worked out in when the women are the bosses. I think there’s still a tendency to call women bosses bossy. Whereas you don’t hear that so often about men. And you see the question of how tough to be and how tough not to be is still an issue for women who are in command.
I have to say since I’ve never been in command or wanted to be in command. I’ve avoided that entirely because it’s much better from my standpoint to be out there being a reporter. But I do think, from what I see out there, it’s a subject that gets a lot of attention and people talk about behind the scenes a lot.
PEGGY SIMPSON: I also think that 30 years ago anyone out there running as a woman in politics. I think it was several of my Texas colleagues, Sissy Farenthold, but also I didn’t cover Ann Richards.
But you couldn’t do anything without anyone asking you about your hair. And Hillary got some of that, too. Who gives a damn about men’s hair. It is just not an issue.
KRISTI ANDERSEN: Rod Blagojevich?
PEGGY SIMPSON: That’s a real … well, John Edwards because he abused it with $300 haircuts. But I don’t think anybody worried when his hair was mussed up, until afterwards when they wondered who’d mussed it up, possibly. But I just don’t – I think there’s still standards that people, women who are on camera or in politics are held to – gotta be a certain weight, gotta be a certain glamour, gotta be a certain this, gotta be a certain that. And I just don’t think they care that much in terms of men.
KRISTI ANDERSEN: This gets us a little bit to the subject of women in politics, and I just want to ask one final question and then maybe throw it open to some audience questions. There was an article that Karen Tumulty wrote in The Washington Post yesterday about 20 years on from the year of the woman in 1922, which saw then a big surge in women running for the House and Senate and state legislatures. And she pointed out that that’s really leveled off and unlike the projections at the time, which saw this you know – it’ll keep increasing until there’s parity – 50/50 maybe – we only have 17 percent of the Congress women, and roughly 24-25 percent of the state legislatures. And she offered a number of reasons citing some political science research. For example, being less willing to tolerate some of the aspects of modern campaigns – the invasion of privacy and the negativeness of campaigns and so forth. And also that women don’t get asked to run as often as men do, so it’s a recruitment problem.
I wonder what your take is on the question of why there aren’t more women in politics. Particularly if we went back 20 years, perhaps we would have been more optimistic about where we would be in 2012 in terms of just the numbers of women being in elected office.
PEGGY SIMPSON: Well, I think you have a lot of that goes into the psyche of who runs and what goes into making a candidate. One of the things that the Center on Women in American Politics is dissecting is the discrimination as it affects attitudes about women, attitudes about women exercising power. And then they have put that back in the laps of women who are running or are going to run or are already there, saying you gotta deal with this. And they are dealing with it. But I think there is still a sense by a number of people that they wait to be asked. And you know, a lot of people don’t. If you have a fire in the belly to run for office, you don’t necessarily wait to be asked. You don’t get anywhere by waiting to be asked. I don’t think a lot of men wait to be asked. I think they put together a team and put together a bunch of supporters and they may think they’re God’s gift to the world but they go out there and do it.
But I think that if women are still holding back for any number of reasons, they’re not going to be asked necessarily. I think also that it – when you have a disproportionate number of women who are running who are Democrats, then there’s a Democratic landslide against. A Republican taking a beating – just huge defeats – as in 2010, I mean you lose, you lose ground. You lose your seat and you’re not going to necessarily recuperate from that. There are a lot of women running this year. The last time I checked there were 29 states that had filing deadlines that hadn’t passed and there’s still gonna be more candidates. Whether they win or not, it’s not just the number of candidates. It’s whether they’re going to win or not. And they have two of the three components are the same as 1992 – the year that [Kristi] was talking about. It’s a presidential election. It’s the election after – first election right after redistricting so there are huge numbers of open seats. What 1992 also had, however, was a Clarence Thomas nomination and the Anita Hill testimony against him – which roiled the waters big time. And that came early in the political cycle and a lot of people said that’s ridiculous. I’m going to run.
Whether or not this whole furor over contraception right now – I think one of people’s ideas is what happens next about that – whether that rises to the level of something that’s going to have staying power of something that’s going to have staying power when you get to November. I don’t think anybody knows.
JANE MAYER: Peggy, you know it reminds me of a story that Pelosi did tell. An apropos of how women can’t wait and they have to take it if they want to get power. Because people who get power – they don’t just willingly hand it over. It’s a prize.
PEGGY SIMPSON: Nobody gives up power.
JANE MAYER: And that’s what – she was recounting an evening when she went out to dinner with a bunch of male colleagues – she and a bunch of women did. And these colleagues were her friends and the subject turned to childbirth. And the men held forth one by one about each of their babies. And boy that was hard – I could hardly get the camera in. And one by one they talked about it like they were experts. And Nancy Pelosi was thinking “I’ve had four babies in five years myself, and not one of these men has even turned to me to ask what it was like.” And she said that moment it dawned on her – they’re not going to ask my opinion. I’m going to have to just butt in if I want to get anything. At that point she realized, you’re going to have to, like, take it.
And I don’t know if women are reluctant to do that. I like to think that they are perfectly capable of getting into the mix, but I will say that when I was at the Wall Street Journal many years ago, the women in my group used to have a chant which was “Nice is a vice. Nice is a vice.” And we’d all been taught to be really nice and really polite and we realized that every now and then you have to be not so nice if you really want to like do something.
LYNETTE CLEMETSON: I also think that one of the things that might be interesting about the current controversy around contraception is that it reminds women that there are things that can get done. Because I think one of the deterrents right now for anybody who might want to get into politics is that whether or not you can actually get anything done. And the quagmire in Congress right now – sometimes I wonder who would want to get into that. Who would want to do that? And so when you have people like Olympia Snow saying this isn’t what I got into it for. Enough already. If this is going to be what’s it’s like, you can have it.
And I think we might be at a moment where some of these issues remind people that there are things where their voices can make a difference and there are rooms that they can be in where no, nobody’s going to ask you actually what a transvaginal ultrasound might be like, but you might be able to assert your opinion. And there are rooms where you might have something to say and it might open things up.
KRISTIN CARLSON: It’s interesting that in Vermont, where it’s a very progressive liberal state, and yet you know you look at the numbers and I remember I did something on this. In the 50s, we had the first female lieutenant governor. That was very ground-breaking at the time. In the 80s we had a female governor, Gov. Madeleine Kunin. She wasn’t the first female governor but it was very groundbreaking and I recently circled around and talked to her – Gov. Kunin – and what, we look now – we haven’t had a female governor since the 80s. Our Congressman and two Senators are men. We’ve never sent a woman to Washington. And she was sort of shocked that the state hadn’t made more progress. And she’s looked and I said well, why do you think this is? And she touched on that point that a lot of women wait to be asked to run. Whereas, she said, men look in the mirror and say “Yeah! I’ll be President. I could do that.” And for some reason, women feel like they have to be asked. And for such a liberal, progressive state, it is astonishing that there aren’t more women in power. We only have one statewide elected official – and she was appointed. She’s the treasurer. In the legislature, we have great numbers of women in the legislature, but again, compared to what – we’re not at the 50/50 mark by any means.
But the question of why is really interesting and I’ve tried to flesh out with different women through interviews and stories and it’s a question that I still don’t have an answer to.
KRISTI ANDERSEN: Let me give you one statistic. And I can’t remember the actual numbers but Karn Tumulty’s article referenced a report by two political scientists, Jennifer Lawless who’s at Brown and Richard Fox. And they’ve done a very interesting study – a really interesting study – on why there aren’t more women in politics. And what they did was to sample a lot of people from whom political officials come – groups from which political officials come. So local lawyers, activists, educators, et cetera, who are plausible political candidates. So here’s one thing from this: They ask people – these men and women – whether they believed they were qualified to run for statewide or some kind of elected office. And more men than women said yes. But even if they just looked at people who said they were unqualified – they said no, I’m not qualified to run for office, men or women, but then said have you ever thought about running for office, even if you don’t think you are qualified? Well, 55 percent of those men who said they were unqualified thought about running for office. Only 35 percent of the women had. Now, you could argue that the women were just much more realistic somehow. But nonetheless, I thought that was really striking. That somehow men grow up with – or more men are more likely to grow up with the notion that this is something they could do or should think about doing or somebody might ask them to do it, more than women do.
KRISTIN CARLSON: I worry it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy because when you go into the statehouse of Montpelier, there are all the portraits of the governors – you remember this. Jane actually covered the state very briefly. You go in there and there’s portraits of men everywhere. And then there’s a portrait of Gov. Kunin. And that’s it. And school groups – the statehouse is one of our most visited tourist destinations. It’s where all the school groups go, where all the kids go, and you think well, who do they have to look up to? Whereas men walk into the statehouse and it’s like “yup, yup, yup.” And then you have 16-year-old girls walk in and they go “huh?” and that has to – I wonder if it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.
LYNETTE CLEMETSON: Well, there’s a difference there. I think that that’s true, and then there’s a generation that’s behind us that looks at those pictures and goes “What is wrong with that picture?” I have a seven year old daughter and I don’t know if any of you – there’s a book that came out in 2007 called “Grace for President” and it’s a children’s book. It’s a great children’s book. But it’s about a class election and a little girl in history class and all the presidents are on the wall and Grace raises her hand and asks “Why aren’t there any girls?” And the teacher explains why so Grace decides she’s going to run and she’s going to be president. And she’s running against a boy from another class who has a slogan “He’s the man for the job” and he’s putting it all around the school and the book talks about the electoral system and it’s just a fabulous book.
And my daughter walks around thinking she is going to be president. On two fronts. I mean she looks and sees Barack Obama and she has never known anyone other than him as president. And she has “Grace for President” and she knows the person who ran against Barack Obama was a woman and why wouldn’t she think she could be president?
Peter knows that she thought she was going to be President since she was two. But she probably will be, but I think that there’s a … I’m sort of conscious of that but also conscious that at the same time you make those steps forward, you can also lose ground. And so to keep that sense in her alive and keep the things that she sees that create possibility for her, very visible for her. But I think there are definitely people who would look at that wall and think “what were those people thinking?”
KRISTI ANDERSEN: Well, on that very wise and optimistic note, in thinking about Lynette’s daughter, I would like to see if people from the audience have questions and I can’t see a thing, so somebody else – way, way up in the top – yes – try to speak so that we can all hear you.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Hi, thank you for coming. I know we talked a lot about female journalists’ role in political reporting, but I was wondering what you guys have to say about women’s role in conflict journalism, especially with Marie Culvin’s death in Syria – and this is something that I’m very interested in getting into and whether you think women are underrepresented in the field. Thanks.
JANE MAYER: Well, it’s been a while since I’ve been in a war zone. But when I was last in one it was largely male, but I think that was by habit, not because anybody was barring anything. I really think that the barriers are pretty down. I think that the only place that might be complicated would be covering parts of the world that are really sexist – the Arab world – it’s complicated then.
LYNETTE CLEMETSON: And even there, I think, one of the things – I’m going back tomorrow to a reception for NPR’s Lourdes Garcia-Navarro who’s getting the Murrow Award this year for her coverage of the Arab Spring. So I think that there – the challenges to the extent that they exist may be more challenges of retrenchment in foreign positions by news organizations who can’t afford to keep as many people in foreign bureaus as they used to. But I think that I haven’t seen a great reluctance to have women in conflict journalism positions.
KRISTI ANDERSEN: Good, so go for it.
LYNETTE CLEMETSON: Definitely.
KRISTI ANDERSEN: Other questions, in the back?
ADAM CLYMER: You made a good point about changing expectations and Madeleine Albright tells a story recently about a granddaughter of hers who asked “Why was it such a big deal that gram got to be secretary of state? Aren’t women always secretary of state?”
KRISTI ANDERSEN: Yeah, absolutely.
AILEEN GALLAGHER: I want to touch on something that Lynette kind of mentioned about the rise in the entrepreneurial space that it’s predominantly white males who are running that show for now. And is there any – and I’m looking at this from a very cynical viewpoint, as my journalistic training tells me to – however, is there a sense that men have kind of moved on from journalism, somewhat? That journalism has lost a little bit of its power and that’s what leaves room for women to take leadership roles? Same thing in higher education?
LYNETTE CLEMETSON: Wow, that is cynical.
JANE MAYER: I have heard that said about why Katie Couric is finally the first female network anchorwoman – it’s because the ratings have finally dropped low enough to make the world safe for women. But I don’t know. I was just out in Stanford last week and there are number of incredibly smart, young women who are getting into Silicon Valley, so I don’t know. But again, it’s clubby. And a lot of these things work by networks so you never really know.
KRISTI ANDERSEN: Lynette, what do you think about that since you sort of raised that?
LYNETTE CLEMETSON: Yeah, I don’t think – I wouldn’t say that journalism has opened up because men have moved on from it. There’s still sort of – at the big institutions certainly, there’s a clubbiness to who runs things, but there’s more room because people have been doing really interesting things – in journalism too. Of the three journalism fellowships, the Knight Fellowship has changed completely. It’s very driven to be this kind of incubator fellowship. And the numbers of women applying for that and getting the fellowship and getting it and going into it knowing they’re going to move into news innovation are rising. I think that when it comes to the funding angle, it’s access to the people who are angel investors and venture capitalists so the people with that kind of access and we can be talking about diversity of any sort here – are narrower and you have to start creating space and start knocking down doors – knocking on doors or knocking down doors, whichever one it takes.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: First I wanted to say thank you for bringing up the founding mothers of NPR because they are the reason I’m journalism student. I love Nina Totenberg. She was like my first hero ever. But I wanted to ask – this isn’t specifically with women in the media – but sometimes I feel like in journalism we’re shooting ourselves in the foot because we keep feeling like we need to produce more and have more information on a 24-hour news cycle and I was wondering if there was a way for instead of us working harder and longer hours for us to work smarter and more efficiently and maybe create content that’s deeper instead.
JANE MAYER: Come to The New Yorker. I’d like to think there’s still space for deeper journalism that takes longer. I actually think there’s more need for it because what happens on the Internet is the public gets little tiny fragments of information but it’s fractured. And I found this when I was writing about the War on Terror and the Bush Administration’s interrogation program. People would get – they’d see a picture of something like Abu-Ghraib, but they wouldn’t really understand where did this fit into and was this as the administration was saying, a few rotten apples doing the wrong thing or was there a policy there. It turned out there was a policy. But it took a lot to piece all of those pieces of the puzzle together. And I think the public’s getting a lot of pieces right now so I think there’s a real need for that kind of journalism.
PEGGY SIMPSON: I actually think that’s what NPR’s doing. I think that compared to cable news or even network news, it’s different there, but the depth of reporting, the time that’s spent on specific subjects and the amount of time fleshing it out in ways that really weren’t there even 10 years ago. It’s really not so much explainers but it’s really tackling topics that aren’t at the top of the news, at the top of anybody’s AP news digest. They’ve really looked at issues that are going to be formative in the next six months or in the next nine months or that have been formative in the last six months and nobody gave them credence.
And I think – I think that’s just very different and very valuable journalism.
LYNETTE CLEMETSON: I don’t think – I think we are passed the point in the web where everything is bite-sized simply because it’s on the web. I mean you have places like ProPublica who have been if not necessarily from a business model yet, at least from an editorial model, very successful in creating long-form journalism and partnerships and I think the more successful digital strategies are strategies that recognize that you produce bite-sized bits of information to build your audience and you do that while you’re also creating the longer form journalism that will keep them coming back for more.
And often times what you find is – and this is certainly true when you look at The New York Times – is that when you look at the most emailed lists, you’ve got the columnists who are always the most emailed and then the longer stories. And so I never bought into and when we were starting The Root the idea that web content could only be 600 words or less. And I think that you get into trouble when you – when you’re not producing those shorter pieces because you need to meet people where they are on a device that they are arriving on and you have to be cognizant of the fact that when you are reading on your phone, a 10,000 word story is pretty gnarly on your phone. And you’ve got to create some shorter content, but that you can do longer form pieces delivered in a way and on a in a rhythm that allows people to come to you.
At The Root, which was not traditional reporting. It was a commentary site which was meant to increase the level of voices around politics in a political year. When we were very deep into the part in the 2008 election where feminism and race were really just head to head and people couldn’t decide what to say or what to think, Alice Walker sent me a story. And it was about 1600 words and I read it and if I were at The New York Times, it would have gotten a pretty heavy edit because it read like Alice Walker, you know? But it read like Alice Walker. And it was an open letter and it was the web, and I put the letter up. I didn’t touch a word. And it was titled “An Open Letter to My Sisters Who Are Brave” and it was just a gift from Alice Walker and you couldn’t have put that in a newspaper. You would have had to have done something to it. So actually being able to put that online created this space and this conversation and this community about it that I think when used wisely and consciously, the digital space gives you freedom that you don’t have when you are confined to inches and columns and pages.
KRISTI ANDERSEN: I’m not sure where this conversation started but I like where it ended. We can take one more question or we can all go out and have dessert, is that right Charlotte? OK we have … OK.
CHARLOTTE GRIMES: You beat me to the punch with a great thank you for our panelists and our moderator. We have had a marvelous discussion and I hope we continue it out. Before we move out, I’ve asked Peter Gosselin to just say a few brief things, so Peter if you would come up, and after you get through I’ll bring things to a close so I’ll just hang right here. Thank you.
PETER GOSSELIN: Loss teaches lessons. I can say to a certainty that Nora, Jake and I were have just as soon not learned them for many decades to come, but we’ve learned them and one of them is not to take anything for granted. And so we’re immensely grateful to our wonderful honoree Jane Mayer, to our symposium members Peg Simpson and Lynette Clemetson, and Kristin Carlson, and to you Kristi Andersen for moderating. And to supporters like Adam Clymer and Larry Kramer, to Dean Cantor – Chancellor Cantor, who joined us and Dean Eric Spina, for coming out and making this program, moving it ever more.
One of the other lessons is that it turns out that good doesn’t just win. Truth and justice don’t just out. Those things happen because good people do good things, make good things happen. There’s a good thing happening with the Toner Program. Lorraine Branham, your dean, has been a huge force for that good and so has a dynamic duo – I noticed only half of which is here: Charlotte Grimes and Audrey Burian. I can’t tell you with what grace and what grit Charlotte has just kept nudging this thing forward. And it’s really a tribute to her that this is the third symposium and the second time the Toner Award has been given out. And while I’m just as certain that Jake and I didn’t want to learn the lessons of loss, I’m as certain that Robin would be utterly mortified to have her name all over this thing, she would have loved to see your performance.
I’m grateful to all of you. Thank you for coming.
CHARLOTTE GRIMES: Thank you. I asked Peter not to make me cry. He clearly didn’t listen. And I really appreciate all of your coming to this and all of your support and Nora, not to leave you out too. Another woman here. And thank you very much Peter, Jake and Nora and to everyone who’s been a part of this. We have some coffee and some dessert in the lobby so if you would please join us for some more conversation before we call it a night and raise a toast to Robin and to damn good journalism!
Thank you very much.