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Media: November 2012

Open any newspaper or media website and you’re likely to see more hard news bylines belonging to men than women – and even fewer by minorities.
But it’s not part of a conspiracy, says Michele Weldon, seminar leader at The OpEd Project.

“The gender gap in most all cases is not deliberate. It is a matter of circumstance.” Weldon, author, assistant professor at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, and leader of the Public Voices Fellowship at Northwestern, continues,”The problem with the underrepresentation of women and minorities in many outlets is the problem of women and minorities not submitting at the same frequency that men do.”

The OpEd Project strives to increase the number of submissions written by women and minorities for publication in traditional and new media. The goal, however, is to have women shift focus from “pink topics” such as the Four Fs: food, family (relationships, children, sex), furniture (home), and fashion.

Instead, The OpEd Project scouts and trains non-journalists who are experts in their field to submit opinion essays on timely topics to add to the public conversation. “We have had enormous success on all levels; so it is a curriculum that is empowering and transformative,” says Weldon. “And it can shift the disparity of voices in the media landscape.”

The OpEd Project also encourages journalists to interview sources from all walks of life for their stories. “If we take the care to seek a diversity of official and unofficial sources – men, women, all races, abilities, and backgrounds – we would simply have deeper and better stories,” says Weldon. “At the Medill School where I have been teaching for 17 years, this is required. A student cannot turn in a story with all men quoted, for instance, or all 18-year-olds.

“It is important to have women and minorities more involved in the public conversation because whoever narrates the stories of the day, narrates history,” she continues. “To view the world through a narrow lens that is not representative of all voices is an injustice. Simply by involving more people in the democracy of fair journalism, we are able to learn more, understand more, and perhaps improve the world.”

The next “Write To Change The World” seminar in Chicago is Jan. 19, 2013; details at theopedproject.org.

DEBATE THIS: Ever wonder why the presidential debates only feature two candidates – and why the panelists ask such lame questions? It could have something to do with the Commission On Presidential Debates (CPD).

The commission was created by the Republican and Democratic Parties in 1987 in an effort to replace the non-partisan League of Women Voters, which had included third party candidate John B. Anderson in the 1980 presidential debate and did not allow major party candidates to select the debate panelists in 1984.

Critics point out that prominent Democratic and Republican leaders make up the commission’s senior staff and sit on its board, and a candidate must have garnered 15 percent of voter support in a major poll in order to participate in a CPD-sponsored debate – effectively excluding third-party candidates.

Need more proof? Third-party presidential candidates Pat Buchanan and Ralph Nader were actually barred from participating in and even attending the presidential debates in 2000. The pair filed a lawsuit in 2004 challenging the Federal Election Commission’s legitimization of the CPD. In September, Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson filed an anti-trust lawsuit alleging that the Democratic and Republican Parties are conspiring to keep third-party candidates out of the presidential debates. Learn more in George Farah‘s 2004 book, No Debate: How The Republican And Democratic Parties Secretly Control The Presidential Debates.

ODDS ‘N’ SODS: Too cheap to sign up for Steve Dahl‘s podcast? His no-cover Monday night football parties take place Nov. 19 and Dec. 3 at John Barleycorn in Schaumburg and feature other members of his Dahlcast posse (dahl.com) . . . WLS-FM’s (94.7) new lineup of salty old Chi-town talent is nice, but shame on Cumulus Media boss Jan Jeffries for not liberating octogenarian dean of rock radio Dick Biondi from late nights and bringing him back to evenings so he could revive his popular Friday Night Request Party. A token woman in the lineup would also be considered a good-will gesture – say, top girly rock jock Connie Szerszen . . . Speaking of revivals, WLS-AM (890) talker Roe Conn‘s live rockin’ journalist concert “Newsapalooza” returns Nov. 10 to the Park West. Tix are $75 and benefit Clearbrook, the state’s largest provider of services for children and adults with developmental disabilities. Guests include Richard Roeper, Val Warner and Ryan Chiaverini of “Windy City Live,” and a slew of local TV folks (roeconn.com) . . . As host of “Family Feud,” a syndicated radio show (weekdays 5 to 9 a.m. on WVAZ-FM (102.7) and an eponymous daytime TV talk show (weekdays at 2 p.m. on WMAQ-Channel 5), author/comedian/philanthropist Steve Harvey has to be the hardest-working broadcaster in Chicago. Learn how to get tickets to tapings of “The Steve Harvey Show” at NBC Tower at steveharveytv.com . . . Our favorite media read so far this year is Brendan Greeley‘s no-holds-barred essay, “My Year At Chicago’s FM News 101.1,” about his rollercoaster year at the schizophrenic Merlin Media-owned FM news station. He writes: “Billionaires must be impatient. We were told repeatedly that our ratings wouldn’t be any kind of issue until at least Year 3 of the FM News experiment. Looking back now, I think that was a lie. [Randy] Michaels must’ve been searching for answers to give the billionaires when inspiration struck. He got an idea in his head that he just couldn’t shake: voice-tracking. He envisioned a national news cooperative that would overtake the media world. New York’s FM News was instructed to work hand-in-hand with Chicago’s FM News. One anchor would handle all the national stories and others would do only local. We stopped going live sometime in early 2012. As anchor Jeff McKinney told me at the time: He was no longer a news anchor, he was a voice actor.” Read the rest at dahl.com/2012/09/year-chicagos-fm-news-101-1/.

– Cara Jepsen

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