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Sexual Harassment in U.S. Newsrooms

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Sexual Harassment in U.S. Newsrooms

Article excerpt

A NEWS SOURCE requested that a female reporter for a Northeastern newspaper meet him at his house for the interview she had requested.

"He propositioned me, tried to force himself on me. I got out of it by talking fast," she recalled.

In another incident, a woman staffer recounted a news meeting at which the male managing editor asked another female staffer wearing a mini-skirt to turn around so the group could appreciate her outfit and suggested she should wear mini-skirts more often.

A young reporter for a Southeastern paper related that her newsroom supervisor called her at home and asked to meet him at a lounge "to discuss something."

"When I got there, he was drunk and said, 'You want it, and you know you do,'" she recollected. The reporter said she went out the fire escape to elude him, although fearful of losing her job.

"But I think he was so drunk he didn't even remember doing it," she stated.

The three occurrences were described in a paper, "Sexual Harassment in U.S. Newsrooms," presented at the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication conference in Atlanta by three University of Florida faculty members.

The study involved interviews with 105 female newspaper staff members from 72 small dailies (under 25,000 circulation) around the country.

The authors, professors Kim Walsh-Childers, Jean Chance and Kristin Herzog of the the college of journalism and communication at Florida, said their preliminary report is the first of a three-part project that will include medium and large-size dailies and male as well as female staffers.

In the current study, sexual harassment was defined as any "physical or verbal contacts that make a workplace inhospitable for women because of their gender."

Thirty-nine percent of the respondents were reporters, with the rest divided between copy editors, city editors, assistant city editors, news editors, managing editors, assistant managing editors, photographers and graphic artists. They ranged in age from 22 to 62.

Almost two-thirds of the women said they had experienced nonphysical harassment in the workplace and 14% said they had been sexually harassed physically.

The harassment, according to the survey, ranged form the "merely irritating -- being called "honey," "sweetie" or "that little girl" -- to the downright dangerous.

A police reporter from a mid-At-lantic state, for example, told of an instance in which she went to a district attorney's office and found him playing X-rated videotapes, which he continued to watch while she tried to interview him. …

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