Keeping news reporting relevant

Categories Social issues

I was slightly irked by a line in a local newspaper this week. The lead article was about two women who are supporting a charity, and it rated as news because they are both successful media stars.  However, the second paragraph placed them firmly in their traditional roles by describing them as “mothers”, an interesting side issue, but not at all relevant to the topic.

I grizzled, thus:

It was nice of you to point out that Jeanette Thomas and Trudi Nelson are “mothers”, even though that fact is totally irrelevant to the story about these two talented media people running up Skytower for charity.  I look forward to your paper being completely consistent so that when you next write about Len Brown (if you really must) that you include his marital status and number of children.

and actually got a reply within minutes:

Thanks Steve. Which area are you from?

which also didn’t seem to be too relevant, so I continued the conversation:

I’m from Northcote but I come up to Red Beach a couple of times a week to be the after-school grandpa.  I like reading the local rag.

It’s only women who have their achievements trivialised by the reference to their “proper role” as housewives and mothers.  I’ve been interested in the hierarchy of our descriptions of ourselves for a long time, and I usually introduce myself as a traveller and a boatie who has to work to support my hobbies, but if I were still interested in a career I would be right put off if I were described as web teaching father in my professional life.  We never see “John Key, father of two, who happens to hold down an important job as well” so don’t do it to women please.
and the next day had this back from the good Geoff Dobson of the Rodney Times
Prompted some discussion here and most agree with you.
Hopefully we will see a small change in their policy regarding relevance when describing people.

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