Women Are Half of All Bloggers -- But Media Aren't Noticing

Old-school gender disparities in resource allocation, power and popularity long entrenched in traditional news media are replicating themselves online.
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Check out my latest article about media coverage (and marginalization) of women who blog, published today at the Women's Media Center and based on some of the issues I've been writing about over the past month in this space.

The following is an excerpt of the article -- visit the Women's Media Center to read the complete piece.

Women Are Half of All Bloggers--But Media Aren't Noticing

If you get your news from, well, the news media, you can be forgiven if you didn't know that nearly 800 women gathered in Chicago last weekend for the third annual convention of BlogHer, an online community of more than 13,000 blogging women diverse in age, ethnicity and political persuasion. According to a search of the Nexis news database, only three Chicago newspapers covered the conference, as if this national assemblage of women writers and videographers were simply a local story. Not one national network or cable news broadcast deigned to mention it.

Compare that to the glut of coverage bestowed on YearlyKos, a conference for left-leaning bloggers made popular by the blustering A-list boys of the "netroots." In the month leading up to Kos' gathering this coming weekend, also in Chicago, the conference's perceived political power has been discussed in print and broadcast outlets from regional newspapers such as the Chattanooga Times Free Pressand the Austin American Statesman to major dailies such as the Washington Post and the San Francisco Chronicle, and debated on MSNBC, ABC, Fox News, PBS and, for the satirically inclined, The Colbert Report on Comedy Central.

Despite Pew research reporting that women are actually 50 percent of all people who blog, corporate journalists and independent bloggers alike often prefer to fall back on the hand-wringing question, "Where are the women bloggers?" They'd know the answer if they took the time to seek us out as news sources, read our commentaries or cover events such as BlogHer.

If many believe that blogging is a primarily male sport, it is partially because old-school gender disparities in resource allocation, power and popularity long entrenched in traditional news media are replicating themselves online. In the blogosphere, young men -- mostly white and mostly economically comfortable -- link to, write about, promote and fund their buddies' blogs; and corporate media play star-makers, quoting, profiling and featuring the punditry of this New Boys Network. As is hardly surprising to those of us who monitor media representations of women, women who blog (especially those who write about feminist issues) are off the radar.

Yet, in massive numbers, women are using new media tools including blogs, podcasts, vlogs (video blogs), and other information communication technologies (ICTs) as a means of self-expression (craft bloggers), connection to community (mommy bloggers), political organizing (the "netroots"), and citizen journalism. They're also going online to monitor the media, as dozens of women do every day on WIMN's Voices, the group blog of Women In Media & News, the media analysis, education and advocacy organization I direct.

At BlogHer 2007, young anti-corporate activists and suburban grandmothers, GOP operatives and Democratic pollsters, DIY purse-makers and tenured academics learned new tech skills, built professional and social networks and, of course, partied together. By the end of the weekend, they chose Global Health as a focal point for collective organizing as part of the BlogHers Act initiative, designed to leverage the power of women's blogs to make a positive impact on one major issue each year.

As a speaker in a workshop about strategies to make politicians and the press address women voters' questions throughout Election '08, I offered the recent CNN/YouTube Democratic Presidential Debate as a case study of the possibilities -- and the pitfalls -- of using new media to alter standard corporate media scripts. The partnership, hyped as a revolutionary collaboration between traditional and citizen journalism, offered a unique opportunity for individual Americans to shape media dialog, but also exemplified the limitations of such engagement as corporate media remain the gatekeepers of public debate...

...the Internet will not "liberate us" from sexist, racist or otherwise commercially compromised media. After all, the top 10 most popular news websites include most of the same corporate outlets that have marginalized and misrepresented women for decades: NYTimes.com, CNN.com, FoxNews.com, and their competitors. This is why, as I told BlogHer conference participants, we still need to invest time, energy and resources into long-term strategies for improving mainstream media content, production and policy. There is no simple, "five minutes a day" way, no Improving Election Coverage for Dummies booklet, to transforming the media.

But as bloggers and as activists, we can use the Internet and ICTs as key components of a larger, multi-layered strategy for media justice. To preserve our democracy and to advance women's rights, our agenda must include...

This post originally appeared at WIMN's Voices: A Group Blog on Women and the Media , a project of Women In Media & News, the national women's media analysis, education and advocacy group. To bring Jennifer L. Pozner to speak to your campus or community group, or to send her blog tips, email info [at] wimnonline [dot] org. To subscribe to WIMN's free media alert list, see the Action Center at http://www.wimnonline.org/action/.

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