Communication and Citizenship: Journalism and the Public Sphere in the New Media Age

By Peter Dahlgren; Colin Sparks | Go to book overview

Chapter 10

A tyranny of intimacy? Women, femininity and television news

Liesbet van Zoonen

In this chapter I shall explore feminist perspectives on journalism and the public sphere. A basic feminist requirement of news is that it should enable women (and men) to make sense of their own social and political circumstances in such a way that they feel empowered to criticize and change them. One might argue that news never enabled anyone, woman or man, to understand their own circumstances:

How often does it occur that information provided to you on morning radio or television, or in the morning newspaper, causes you to alter your plans for the day, or to take some action you would not otherwise have taken, or provides insight into some problem you are required to solve?

(Postman 1984:68)

However, the customary feminist critique postulates that news has always been more alien to the socio-political concerns of most women than to those of most men. That critique is rapidly overtaken by changes in the subjects and styles of TV news, current affairs programmes and other forms of journalism, including among other things a growing attention to human interest subjects, an intimate and personal mode of address and the treatment of political behaviour and issues as though they are matters of personality. The label 'intimization' provides a convenient reference to these trends.

I hope to incite a reconsideration of feminist perspectives on journalism by analysing a seemingly marginal phenomenon: the predominance of women newsreaders in Dutch television news. Although their exact number may change with regularly occurring changes in personnel, women invariably occupy at least half of

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