Monthly Archives: December 2012

Daily Telegraph sportswriters deserve Horse’s Ass of the Year Award

horses-ass-award-aviation-prI’m not a big sports fan. I’d be hard pressed to name Australia’s top 10 sports people – male or female. I am, however, a very big fan of fairness, a commitment to equality, professionalism and good judgment – all qualities sorely lacking in the two bozos from the Daily Telegraph who thought it was oh so funny to name cricketer, Michael Clarke, Sportsman of the Year and Black Caviar – a racehorse – Sportswoman of the Year.

Phil Rothfield and Darren Hadland are the two sexist oafs who conceived of the idea but one also has to ask, “Where were the gatekeepers?”  Did no-one at the Daily Telegraph read this piece of neanderthal nonsense and think, “Hmmm, maybe that’s a really bad idea?”

In my recent article for the King’s Tribune I reveal that women are extremely poorly represented on the front pages of Australia’s leading newspapers. Drawing on research by media expert, Dr Louise North, of Monash University, I suggest that the blokey culture of Australian (and international) news rooms is a major obstacle to female journalists’ professional success. In turn, the lack of senior female reporters and editors means that newspaper reporting is often skewed to favour masculine perspectives – and not always in a good way.

The Daily Telegraph was one of the newspapers I studied over 10 business days. The results weren’t good.  In 10 weekday issues of the Tele not one front page story was written by a female journalist. Further, seventy-eight per cent of the Daily Telegraph’s front page stories focused on male protagonists. On my ‘blokeyness index’ which took into account six key categories:

The Sydney Morning Herald achieved the highest score for ‘blokeyness’ with an average ‘male representation’ score of 82 per cent based on the six key indicators (see table). But it was a close race, with the Daily Telegraph scoring a whopping 80 per cent on the blokeyness barometer.

It’s very hard not to see this latest stunt as a symptom of the Tele’s blokey culture and apparent lack of female gatekeepers.

In an interview with the Women’s Weekly in July, Telegraph editor, Paul Whittaker, insisted that his paper was not failing its women readers. I’m sorry, Mr Whittaker but I beg to differ.

The idea that it’s okay to name a horse as Sportswoman of the Year is a prime example of a masculine perspective which is completely out of touch with contemporary values. It is particularly irksome considering the high profile public debate we have recently had about misogyny. Frankly, it is so gobsmackingly stupid it’s almost hard to believe.

And you don’t have to be a militant, hairy arm-pitted, bra-burning feminist to be offended by this schoolboy stunt. I mentioned it to two delightful 88 year old ladies this afternoon. They gasped in disbelief when I told them the story and, when I assured them it was true, they launched into a spirited tirade which included the words ‘outrageous’, ‘demeaning’ and ‘disgusting’. One of the octogenarians, my mother, shook her head and said, “The bastards!”

With newspaper readership on the wane, newspapers are increasingly aware that they need to capture the female demographic. This is not the way to do it, Mr Whittaker.  The Daily Telegraph was the second worst of the eight newspapers I studied for my King’s Tribune article – all of which scored badly on the ‘blokeyness index’. Naming a horse as Sportswoman of the Year takes your newspaper to a new nadir.

In my view, the two ‘so-called’ journalists who conceived of this drivel should be stood down and so should the editors who let  it go to print. Here’s a novel idea – why not fill the vacancies with women?

Chrys Stevenson

Related Articles:

The Blokeyness Index: blokes win the gender war in Australia’s 4th Estate – Chrys Stevenson, King’s Tribune

Sportswoman of the Year? Really? – Wendy Harmer, The Hoopla

Atheism – A Sociological Survey

tom_arcaroMy friend,  Dr Tom Arcaro is a Professor of Sociology at Elon University in North Carolina. In 2010 Tom did a fascinating sociological survey on the stigmatisation of atheists. Now he is conducting a new survey which touches on stigmatisation, but which also focuses on non-believers’ participation in, and attitudes about, our local, national and international atheist organisations.

Tom plans to publish at least one paper as a result of this research and, if there is sufficient response from Australia, he has invited me to co-author a piece based on the Australian results.

The survey will take around 30 minutes and, if you don’t like or agree with any of the questions, there is room to say why (I always like that in a survey).

Last time, we received 300 responses from Australia and it would be great to better that in 2012-2013.

So, please consider completing the survey and share it with your own networks.

You’ll find the survey here:

Better Understanding of the World of Atheists Survey

Chrys Stevenson

A Christmas bonus – of sorts …

bonusI’m not big on Christmas presents, but today I got an unexpected Christmas bonus that really touched my heart. What’s more, I don’t have to worry about whether it fits the colour scheme, or whether I’ve got the cupboard space to store it.

Writer, broadcaster and feminist, Clementine Ford assembled a list of the 20 greatest moments for [Australian] women in 2012 for Fairfax newspaper’s Daily Life website. And there, at No. 18, is the article I wrote about Catherine Deveny’s appearance on Q&A on this very blog!

Considering this blog began as an extremely modest effort to direct web traffic to the  (then fledgling) Embiggen Books website, I have been thrilled and somewhat amazed at its growth over the past couple of years, and especially during 2012.

Clementine’s accolade is the icing on my Christmas cake and comes at a time when I definitely needed a little boost.

So, many thanks to Clem and to all of you who’ve discovered this little corner of the blogosphere, for your readership, friendship, comments, insight, encouragement, support, and compliments  during the year. And yes, thanks, too for the brickbats which made me think, or pound my head against the keyboard, but much more often made me laugh.

It’s been a blast and I look forward to continuing to Destroy the Joint when I’m back on deck in 2013.

Chrys Stevenson

It’s not FAIR! On the King’s Tribune, women in the media & impoverished writers in general

“The Blokeyness Index:

blokes win the gender war in Australia’s 4th Estate”

My Dad swore that, at the very moment I emerged from the womb, I opened my mouth and howled, “IT’S. NOT. FAIR!!!!!!”

At some point during my childhood, my overdeveloped sense of justice became so irritating to my parents that, “IT’S. NOT. FAIR!!!!!” went on the banned list of phrases – along with, “BUT. I. WANT. A. PONY!!!!!!”

I don’t think I’m a particularly effective feminist – Leslie Cannold and her ilk put me to shame –  but I still have a very strong adverse reaction to things that aren’t fair.

I didn’t think it was fair when Catherine Deveny was attacked for ‘taking over’ Q and A recently. Fortunately, the transcript backed me up and I was able to show that Deveny did not dominate the show, nor did she interrupt more than her nemesis, Archbishop Peter Jensen.

Analysing the transcript of Q and A is a tedious and laborious job and I swore I wouldn’t do it again. But, when Kate Ellis faced a pack of slavering chauvinist wolves on a subsequent episode, I pulled another all night stint to expose the injustice.

On the strength of those two blog posts, I was recently invited to undertake a project for the King’s Tribune, an independent magazine which focuses on politics, media and pop culture.  I should have been thrilled and honoured – and I was. But, my first inclination was to say “thanks, but no thanks”.

The thing is, I knew how much work the two Q and A projects involved. What Jane Gilmore, the editor of the King’s Tribune was suggesting was on a far greater scale altogether.  It was a fascinating project but, as I replied frankly to Jane, as a struggling writer, I just couldn’t agree to commit the amount of time needed for the project without getting paid.

It’s come down to this. I just can’t go on spending hundreds of hours researching and writing while I pay our handyman/gardener $30 an hour to do things  I could be doing myself if I wasn’t spending so much time on the computer! At some point you realise, you’re not just writing for nothing – it’s costing you to write for nothing! Costing a lot!

It’s particularly annoying when you know some people who are putting out online journals are making a living out of it, but the writers who supply the content often get nothing – not even a token fee.

There are very few online journals that pay writers – and those that do, pay much less than you might expect. And that’s a shame because, while people like me are often happy to clack out a couple of thousand words every so often on things we feel strongly about, ultimately, writers have bills to pay too!

I have to admit that I didn’t know a lot about the King’s Tribune when Jane approached me. My friends Shelley Stocken, Jo Thornely, Mike Stuchbery  and Ben Pobjie are regular contributors so I knew it was a quality magazine, but I hadn’t been nosey enough to ask them if they were paid for their articles.

So, when Jane emailed back to confirm that “Yes” the King’s Tribune pays writers and would pay me for my time, I was surprised, and thrilled, and, even though the fee offered wasn’t astronomical, it was something and I appreciated the goodwill and respect that signified. In short, it was FAIR.

‘The project’ Jane had in mind was inspired by a newspaper article,  “Why is British Public Life Dominated by Men?” ,  by Kira Cochrane from the Guardian newspaper and subsequent research undertaken by UK advocacy group –  Women in Journalism.  Both Cochrane’s original research and the follow-up WiJ study found that women are extremely poorly represented – both as journalists and as news subjects – in the British media. Similar international and US studies reached similar conclusions; women journalists, and women in general, simply weren’t being treated fairly or equally in the media.

But what about here, in Australia? Is our media the exception or the rule? In a country led by a female prime minister and a female governor general – a country in which Michelle Grattan is a household name – surely the media is more enlightened than the British tabloids and their infamous  ‘page three’ girls?

The project took a month – pretty much full time – to research and write. It’s the kind of project that probably wouldn’t have been done if someone hadn’t been willing to pay for it. The King’s Tribune was. And, this is my (and their) point:

If we want good writers to undertake serious, time-consuming projects like this,  then we have to value their work and pay them. For independent publishers – the only way to pay writers is either to take advertising (which may compromise their independence) or to charge readers for access.

All of which is a long winded way of making two important statements.

The first is that my first (and hopefully not my last) article for the King’s Tribune, “The Blokeyness Index: blokes win the gender war in Australia’s 4th Estate” is the lead story in the King’s Tribune December issue; available both online and in printed form. But, to read the whole article you will need to subscribe ($5 for a single month’s subscription) or order a printed copy of the magazine to be mailed to you ($8.95). That means you won’t just get my article, but all the other great articles in the December edition of the magazine.

The second point  is, that in order to continue paying good Australian writers, the King’s Tribune needs more than just subscribers for this one edition. They could really do with your ongoing support. So, if you can manage it – either before or after you get your hands on the December edition – please consider taking out a one year, six month or three month subscription.  If you have friends or relatives who value good quality writing on topical subjects – think about a gift subscription.  And, if you have had a particularly good year and you’re feeling all welled up with Christmas spirit and goodwill towards us starving scribes – perhaps you might consider making a ‘one off’ contribution to help the King’s Tribune stay afloat.

Here’s editor, Jane Gilmore, talking about the history of the magazine and why you should think about supporting it.

As Jane says in her September article, “On Paying Writers”:

“… ultimately it’s the readers who need to know that the service they are getting is valuable. Ten or more years of free content online has inculcated everyone with the idea that good writing is a valueless service. It’s not. But paying writers what they are worth is not going to happen until that ingrained attitude changes.

Finding good writers is far more difficult than you would imagine. Finding good writers who are an incentive to paying customers is even more difficult. But the solution to this is not just up to publishers. Everyone has to join the dance.”

You can read the introduction to “The Blokeyness Index” here. But, to read the whole thing, you’ll need to subscribe – either to just the December issue ($5) or in one of the ways listed on the link above. Please consider subscribing (either short-term or long-term) in order to read the full article and, if you enjoy it, encourage your friends to do the same.

Yes, they’ll have to pay a small fee but,  come on, isn’t that only FAIR?

“The Blokeyness Index:

blokes win the gender war in Australia’s 4th Estate”

Chrys Stevenson