Answering for why there wasn’t a woman on the Tiger Bay panel about ‘new vs. traditional media’

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My friend Darden Rice asked a pretty direct question at last week’s Suncoast Tiger Bay forum on ‘new media vs. traditional media’ about why there weren’t any women on the panel.

Because I helped organize the panel and value Darden’s opinion, I followed-up with her and asked her to expand upon her question, so that I could discuss the issue here.

Darden writes:

“…I was struck by the singular fact of the utter lack of female representation on such the expansive panel.  Additionally,  I feel that the discussion would probably have been more interesting if there were women on the panel.  Even the moderator was male. Did anyone notice that a woman was not even mentioned until 40 minutes into the program when Mitch Perry finally brought up Rachel Maddow. It took an all-male panel 40 minutes to even mention a female in media.  Wow.

…(W)omen have something extremely valuable to bring to the panel. Women have a different style of communication, a different perspective, and a different experience of the world.  Diversity has a value in that women bring a richer dimension and added value to conversations and negotiations over politics, media, and government. And women most certainly play a critical part in all these things, whether they work in traditional or new media and whether they may be liberal or conservative.  Finally, women consume media differently as well.  We read and hear about the news in different ways than do men.  Thus, the all male panel stood out out as a remarkable oversight to me, and remarkable for the rich dialogue we could have had, but did not.

…I suspect the lack of women on the panel also hinted at something deeper about each of the media organizations that all six men represented and about women in media in general. … I am curious what women should have been on the panel.  Some immediate thoughts come to mind: Joy Ann Reid, Amy Hollifield, Robyn Blumner, Gayle Sierens, Susan Giles Wantuck, Lane DeGregory, Bobby O’Brien.  This list is by no means complete. Who are the women that should have been on the panel and why weren’t they there?

First of all, I completely agree with Darden’s points about women having a different style of communication, etc., and that women do consume news differently than men.  These are valuable topics worth investigating and discussing.

In fact, the entire thrust of Darden’s point is right on.  The lack of a female — any female — on the panel was a glaring oversight, for which I, as the board member who organized the panel, personally apologize.

Certainly, adding Karen McAllister, the audience editor at the Tampa Tribune, would have been a valuable addition to the panel.  So would have been Amy Hollyfield, the government and politics editor at the Tampa Bay Times.

As for a voice from the new media, I am hard pressed to think of many females in Tampa Bay who blog about politics, although Catherine Durkin Robinson, who writes Out in Left Field, would have been a worthwhile addition to the panel.

Who else?

It’s probably sad that media criticism is dominated by men and mostly old, white men at that. Poynter’s Andrew Beaujon offers this theory for why so many media critics are white males:

“Media criticism, which is a fly-in-the-soup job, is fundamentally an alt-weekly pursuit, and alt-weeklies’ DNA is heavily white and male. In turn, I have a couple theories about that, but my working one is that it’s because working at such places gives white males such as myself a chance to feel like an underdog for once in our lives.”

Shani Hilton of the Washington City Paper picks up on Beaujon’s theory:

“…reporting on longtime acquaintances, colleagues, and even friends, can be a pretty rough business no matter what your demographic background. A willingness to be frequently unpopular—something all journalists have to learn to deal with, though usually not within their cohort—is definitely part of the description.

But maybe more importantly, the ability to criticize probably comes a bit easier for folks who don’t ever have the question, “Should I even be here?” hanging over their heads as they look around a room and don’t see anyone who looks like them. To that end, it seems highly unlikely that media criticism will diversify until newsrooms do.”

And, while still apologizing, that may be my point as well, at least as it applies to Tampa Bay’s media.

Who would I remove from the panel to replace with a female?

Eric Deggans? He’s one of the most respected media critics, not just in Tampa Bay, but in the country.  There’s no man or woman on par with Eric in our region.

Jeff Houck? Yeah, maybe Houck could have been replaced by Laura Reiley, the food critic at the Tampa Bay Times.  But the panel was about new and traditional media. Houck networks and tweets with as much gusto as he does enjoy food, while Reiley abandoned her blog.  For this panel, it made more sense to have Houck.

Mitch Perry? Representing the alt-weekly wing of the journalism world, Perry represents a very specific niche.  I genuinely don’t know who could have replaced him and have spoken with as much credibility from that perspective.

Noah Pransky? Alright, here’s where there is probably the most room to work with, although that’s not a reflection on Pransky, who beyond his reporting for 10 News, maintains a smart blog.  Still, how many on-air investigative reporters are there in Tampa Bay?  Who also cover politics?

John Romano? Quick, who would you rather hear from, Sue Carlton or John Romano?

Me? C’mon, that’s a no-brainer and a non-starter.

What do you think?  Who are the female voices missing from this panel?  Certainly Rosemary Goudreau of Florida Voices belongs.  I’m sure there are others.  Your suggestions are welcome in the comments section.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.