Major Magazine Award Nominations Snub Women, But There's Progress Elsewhere
Note: This post has been updated and expanded with more links.
The announcement of the American Society of Magazine Editors Award nominations caused a flurry of excitement among everyone--well, among journalists, who can sometimes think we're everyone--today. Chatter centered around the wonderful columns and incisive essays that got the nod. Hurray!
But then journalist and editor Liliana Segura tweeted her dismay that in some of the most esteemed categories, the numbers were a little lopsided, gender-wise:
Someone tell me I'm misreading this: NO WOMEN nominated for ASMEs in Reporting, Features, Profiles, Essays or Columns? bit.ly/H6m1T1— Liliana Segura (@LilianaSegura) April 3, 2012
Women hold their own or dominate in servicey categories (public interest, personal service) and fiction. They are not represented at all in the categories of reporting, feature writing, profile writing, essays and criticism, columns and commentary.
This awful breakdown may have been an outgrowth of structural problems, considering the recent VIDA numbers which showed that the very same "thought leader" magazines whose writers tend to compete for these awards are (surprise, surprise) skewed heavily towards male bylines. Although we obviously can't say for sure, it appears that there was not a robust enough effort on the part of the ASME award-givers to rectify that problem, to look extra hard for the gleaming female bylines that deserved consideration.
Alyssa Rosenberg offered this explanation for why there may be an even larger structural problem beyond byline breakdowns. You see, women's magazines have their own ASME category while men's magazines like GQ are competing with The Atlantic and The New Yorker.
But the existence of the Women’s Magazine category, and the grouping of women’s magazine in with subjects that tend to be considered second-tier in comparison to the subjects that tend to win National Magazine Awards—heath and family versus national security, national tragedies, national media phenomena and the people who handle all three—isn’t helpful. It’s worthwhile to consider whether judges have biases. But it’s also worth interrogating whether the categories the National Magazine Awards uses aren’t set up to elevate the best in journalism, whatever its subject matter is.
And not all is despair-- there are some bright spots in this week of 2011 journalism awards. The Hillman awards spotlighted a much more diverse and progressive group of journalists, including an award to Seth Freed Wessler's devastating expose of the breakup of immigrant families: "Thousands of Kids Lost From Parents In U.S. Deportation System," at Colorlines.com.
And then there's the American Society of Newspaper Editors, which this weekchose five women--including media superstars Arianna Huffington and Jill Abramson--to lead an innovative "leadership in newsrooms" panel, and a sixth woman, Gwen Ifill, to moderate: “I wanted all women up there but didn’t want to make it about shattering glass ceilings but about breaking through entrenched institutional barriers,” Wanda Garner Cash, of University of Texas’s journalism school and the ASNE planning committee, told Poynter.
Unfortunately, like ASME, ASNE's own list of awards appears at first glance to be leaning pretty male too. Correct me if I'm wrong.