Sisterhood Blog

The New York Times and Gendered Editing

By Debra Nussbaum Cohen

  • Print
  • Share Share
Getty Images
New York Times Executive Editor Jill Abramson

I used to roll my eyes when my mother would point to someone on television and say, “He’s Jewish!” or, “She’s Jewish!” Now I’m that person, thrilling to the news of a Jewish woman’s rise to a position of prominence and influence, like when Elena Kagan was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court, or when Jill Abramson was named the new executive editor of The New York Times.

So I joined Forward Editor Jane Eisner and countless others in reading with particular interest Abramson’s interview with Times Public Editor Arthur Brisbane in last Sunday’s issue of the paper.

Brisbane’s first question in that interview is whether Times readers would notice a difference “because a woman is now in charge.”

Abramson said, “The idea that women journalists bring a different taste in stories or sensibility isn’t true.”

Brisbane’s second question, “Will you be a command-and-control type of leader, or one who leads by more subtle means?” also underscores how common the perception that women and men have different management styles has become.

Jane, in a Forward Thinking blog post, writes that she respectfully disagrees with Abramson, and cites as an example a story that she felt important but a male editor might not have: the Forward’s annual salary survey of major Jewish organizations, to see how many men and women are in leadership positions there and how their salaries compare.

She wrote: “sometimes, women will see a story where men don’t, and vice-versa.”

I definitely agree.

But I respectfully depart from there in that I think the whole debate about gender’s impact on judgment ought to be broadened to reflect the reality that it is different individuals with different life experiences who have different perspectives. It goes far beyond gender.

An editor from a financially impoverished background is more likely to be attuned to stories about economic disadvantage. A gay or lesbian individual is likely to be more interested in stories relating to GLBTQ identity. An editor who runs marathons is more likely to be interested in stories relating to her avocation. You get the idea.

People are complex, and it does a disservice to members of every group to assume that they will have one perspective or another .

Certainly there are people whose work contradicts every known element of their background. Case in point: Ralph Lauren’s empire is built on an uber-Waspy ideal of beauty, though the background of the designer born in the Bronx as Ralph Lifschitz is anything but.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve met people who think I’m either lesbian or Orthodox because I’ve written lots of stories about those communities over the years, and then are surprised to find out that I’m neither.

Each one of us comes to our job with a wide range of experiences, biases and interests.

It does a disservice to women to say that there is “a woman’s perspective” or “a female management style.” In fact, it’s dangerous, and easily used (overtly and subtly) to limit women’s opportunities in the workplace.

It is in the best interests of all of our companies to have in top management a diverse range of people. And it’s to the benefit of all female workers for managers to be reminded that gender is not the only paradigm.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: New York Times, Journalism, Gender Wars

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • What's for #Shabbat dinner? Try Molly Yeh's coconut quinoa with dates and nuts. Recipe here:
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.