Where Are The Women And Non-White Media Critics?
A hearty congratulations to City Paper alum Andrew Beaujon on accepting a gig at Poynter as the site's "new Romenesko." There, he'll be writing a media blog edited by Julie Moos that will replace the work of Jim Romenesko, who left Poynter last year and launched his own blog.
With all of the changes happening in journalism, it seems to be a good time to opine and report about the media. Plenty of blogs and bloggers do so brilliantly, but so do a few hearty souls in traditional outlets. A quick brainstorm session brought forth a list of high-profile names: Romenesko and Beaujon, yes. But also, The Daily Beast's Howard Kurtz, NYU's Jay Rosen, the Maynard Institute's Richard Prince, plus four more City Paper alumni: Reuter's Jack Shafer, the New York Times' David Carr, former New York Observer media beatster Tom Scocca (now at Deadspin) and the Post's Erik Wemple.
Aside from Prince, all of these people are white men. It's generally accepted that diversity (geographical, economic, gender and race) bring differing perspectives to the newsroom and can enhance coverage. That's why journalism has been fighting (and some could say, losing) a battle for greater diversity for decades.
Beaujon has a theory for why white men are so prevalent in the field: "Media criticism, which is a fly-in-the-soup job, is fundamentally an alt-weekly pursuit, and alt-weeklies' DNA is heavily white and male. In turn, I have a couple theories about that, but my working one is that it's because working at such places gives white males such as myself a chance to feel like an underdog for once in our lives."
I think he's onto something. Alt-weeklies—including the one you're reading right now—are super white. And this particular alt-weekly has at various points employed half of the critics listed. (Maybe the real problem is diversity at City Paper? Hmm.)
At any rate, reporting on longtime acquaintances, colleagues, and even friends, can be a pretty rough business no matter what your demographic background. A willingness to be frequently unpopular—something all journalists have to learn to deal with, though usually not within their cohort—is definitely part of the description.
But maybe more importantly, the ability to criticize probably comes a bit easier for folks who don't ever have the question, "Should I even be here?" hanging over their heads as they look around a room and don't see anyone who looks like them. To that end, it seems highly unlikely that media criticism will diversify until newsrooms do.