The Inquirer’s Old Boys’ Club
Every Sunday, I get pissed off.
I tell myself I won’t, but I do anyway. I can’t help it. It’s that bad. And it’s getting worse.
Every Sunday, I open the “Currents” op-ed section of the Inquirer, hoping against hope that all the bylines won’t be male. After all, it’s 2010, not 1970, right? The Inquirer promotes itself as a bastion of diversity, right? There are plenty of women on the masthead, right?
Yes. Yes. Are you high?
Right up front, full disclosure: I am what is colloquially termed A Disgruntled Former Employee. [SIGNUP]
In 2007, Inquirer management killed my popular TV column of 25 years and forced me to the Metro staff. After two miserable years, I packed up my desk at 5 o’clock on a Saturday morning and left the building.
Certain editors undoubtedly were rewarded for their role in reducing the newsroom payroll by six figures. May they live long and prosper during the next round of layoffs.
Back to “Currents:” A typical section includes a dozen or so male bylines, most accompanied by head shots. There’s usually one, maybe two females. Of the seven freelancers under contract, all are men, according to Editorial Page editor Harold Jackson.
Foreign affairs specialist Trudy Rubin, the editorial page’s lone staff writer, is a regular presence on Sundays. She is sometimes joined by Cynthia Tucker, a Pulitzer Prize-winning syndicated columnist for the Atlanta Constitution-Journal.
Readers are led to believe that Tucker, a former Inquirer reporter, is still employed there. There is no information to the contrary. The ID beneath her column offers no description other than her email address, which is from the AJC. The Inquirer does run her picture, however. Did we mention she’s black?
At best, neglecting to point out the affiliation of a non-staff writer is misleading. At worst, it is deliberate deception. In either case, Tucker’s column in “Currents,” as is, gives to the public a false impression of the paper’s real gender/race breakdown.
Jackson, whose staff has been slashed to 11 from 18 in 2007, labels it an oversight.
“We’ve been very diligent about identifying people’s affiliations,” he says. “Readers should know exactly who they work for, or are syndicated by. If that wasn’t done, it might be something I didn’t notice.”
Jackson later acknowledges that he dropped the ball with Tucker. It won’t happen again, he says. He also acknowledges that his roster of contract writers is heavy on testosterone.
“I need to do a better job of finding women writers, I confess,” Jackson says. “I need to work harder.”
The dearth of women in “Currents” underscores their virtual absence from real power positions at the Inquirer. Of 11 names on the masthead, 10 are men. This bears repeating for the scores of silent, seething women in the newsroom — OF 11 NAMES ON THE MASTHEAD, 10 ARE MEN.
Need more? The lone female, managing editor Sandra Long, suddenly disappeared from the masthead a while back. Just as suddenly, she re-appeared. Did we mention she’s black?
GAIL SHISTER, TV columnist for the Inquirer for 25 years, teaches writing at Penn and is a columnist for tvnewser.com. She writes for The Philly Post on Tuesdays.