Home > Uncategorized > Nonsense, nonsense and thrice nonsense

Nonsense, nonsense and thrice nonsense

I quite like Fleet Street Blues: it’s published some of my stuff in the past and it’s generally on top of what’s going on in the print press world. But I can’t forgive its churnalistic response to the latest Harmanesque Guardian nonsense about sex bias in the national press:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2011/dec/04/why-british-public-life-dominated-men?CMP=twt_gu


Forgive me if I’ve rudely awoken you by returning here after reading all that turgid, statistical onania. Here is how Fleet Street Blues interprets it, with a lovely chart brought to you in full Adobe Illustrator technicolor:

Guardian's male-female national media chart

Oooh-er, missus! Seems you're dropping behind!

I’ve noticed that FSB, bless him, is a sucker for graphics – the shinier the better (we all know what to get him for Christmas), and he writes:

Overall though, if the methodology is right – and we have no reason to think it isn’t – then the chart above seems pretty conclusive. Fleet Street is still very much a man’s world.

If the methodology is right...If the methodology is right…?

Well, no, the methodology is plainly not right. You only need to take a second or two to see that it isn’t.

1) Whyfore the critereon of a byline – generally given only to the lead story of a national newspaper page and rarely to downpage stories – be an indication of anything other than that was the person who wrote the strongest story for that particular place at that particular time? The news editor (more of which later) plainly decided was the strongest story and should be the lead. I would defy Kira Cochrane or FSB to argue against that decision, on a basis of sex discrimination, at that place and at that time it was made. Within deadline, please.

2) I can’t help but get the feeling that the original survey concentrates on the news, news comment and sports pages of national papers. Ms Cochrane and FSB do not seem to stray into the arts pages. This surprises me as far as Ms Cochrane is concerned, though not FSB , since he always struck me as a supporter of one of the more struggling football clubs, and in which the papers’ inside-page mires his interest more probably lies. But if Ms Cochrane is going to claim that the national papers’ Arts pages are regularly given over to a male hegemony, then I say  it is a sylvan pond into which she, and her intern researchers, have yet to dip their painted toes. They will find many other females doing likewise – though not all to their political liking, of course. There’s no accounting for taste when it comes to painted toenails, as the bishop said to Marilyn Monroe. There’s a lesson there, if only we knew what it was.

3) Nothing appears in a newspaper – or a newspaper blog – without going through about three or four people. You know that FSB. How many of those people are female? The news editors, the sub-editors, the deputy editors, proofreaders – need I go on? None of them are accounted for in Cochrane’s analysis.

The worst thing about these Harmanesque “equality” analyses is that they ignore women doing essential things that are below whatever line the surveyors claim is the one that matters, as though they don’t matter. They also ignore men, those who also are doing essential things, who are also below that line. They apparently don’t count either. We – who occasionally do get the bylines – know they do, FSB.

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