Sunday, July 05, 2009

CounterSpin: Let the men talk

Back in October of 2006, FAIR issued a study of PBS' NewsHour and their conclusions included that the program"interviewed four times as many male sources as women." As listeners of FAIR's weekly radio program CounterSpin, we didn't just cluck our tongues, we researched and wrote "Are You On CounterSpin's Guest List?" (October 8, 2006).

We surveyed the same period for CounterSpin that FAIR did for The NewsHour and we found 36 males were booked and only 13 women. That was shameful and that was nearly three years ago.

How FAIR is CounterSpin today? For the first six months of this year (through the June 26th episode), CounterSpin featured 15 women as guests compared to 34 men. Over twice as many men are booked on the show. In addition, during this time one show (June 19th) devoted the full broadcast to just one guest: a man (D.D. Guttenplan) discussing another man (I.F. Stone).

At FAIR, they thank those who supported their latest beg for money cycle and encourage people: "If you haven't yet, it's not to late to support FAIR." Yes, that should be "it's not too late . . ." Too. But, hey, a Carole King hit ("It's Too Late"), a woman, why would they pay attention? They'd rather bask in their ignorance.

FAIR describes itself thusly, "FAIR, the national media watch group, has been offering well-documented criticism of media bias and censorship since 1986. We work to invigorate the First Amendment by advocating for greater diversity in the press and by scrutinizing media practices that marginalize public interest, minority and dissenting viewpoints. As an anti-censorship organization, we expose neglected news stories and defend working journalists when they are muzzled. As a progressive group, FAIR believes that structural reform is ultimately needed to break up the dominant media conglomerates, establish independent public broadcasting and promote strong non-profit sources of information."

Greater diversity doesn't include calling out sexism.

In fact, they'd prefer to ignore it.

As they demonstrated in 2008 when they let the entire political primary and general election run drift by with CounterSpin only noting sexism one time. May 28, 2008, we pointed out their 'critique' from the May 25th broadcast, in full: "CNN viewers were treated to one pundit explanation that people might call Hillary Clinton a bitch because well isn't that just what some women are." The first time in 2008 that they 'covered' or 'confronted' sexism and the last time in 2008.

In 2009, they ignored the Letterman controversy and we pointed that out in an aside (". . . That's why CounterSpin let the whole primary season pass by without calling out the sexism*, right? Because how dare Hillary force us to speak out against sexism, how dare she.") which led to a boo-hoo from CounterSpin insisting that they had called out sexism in 2008, they had too. To calm our 'friends' a note was added to the TV commentary.

Not only did they boo-hoo in an e-mail, the next Friday (show is taped on a Thursday), Janine Jackson was snarling: "One of the reasons some people think media sexism is largely a thing of the past is that they only look for certain kinds like demeaning treatment of women politicians." (Noted here.) Ooooh, that's telling us, Janine! After all, we just cover sexism every week. We cover it in terms of private individuals, in terms of the message the media sends to viewers, in terms of the entertainment and news business. But Janine was focusing on a bad newspaper article about a sci-fi convention.

It was only the third example of sexism CounterSpin had found in two years. The second? The February 13, 2009 broadcast called out the sexism aimed at Katie Couric by FAIR foe Howard Kurtz. We could reply to Janine, "One of the reasons some people think media sexism is largely a thing of the past is that they only look for certain kinds like demeaning treatment of women journalists."

In two years time, CounterSpin's made room for three items on sexism. Listeners of the program would be forgiven for assuming sexism barely exists in this country. They'd be forgiven for assuming there are less women in this country than men as well because, week after week, the guests CounterSpin books sends the message that there are either over twice as many men as women or that men are just more worth hearing from.

Either way, that doesn't sound very "FAIR" to us.
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