The story is that men control the media, with surveys of professional newsrooms continuing to paint a bleak picture for women and minorities — especially those who aspire to hold leadership positions.
But in college newsrooms, the story is different, as I found in discussions with representatives from 11 schools — Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan, Iowa, Minnesota, Oregon, Harvard, Iowa State, Tampa, Maryland and Wisconsin-Madison. At those schools and others, women increasingly lead — and the gap may be widening in their favor.
“I’ve had some females in the newsroom I would put in a bar fight with a guy any day,” said Laura Widmer, general manager at the Iowa State Daily, who previously worked as director of student publications at Northwest Missouri State University for 29 years. “But the difference in leadership with the females I’ve had the pleasure of working with is that they tend to take a more interactive, more nurturing approach. Managing from the heart as opposed to from the desk, and they realize that leadership comes from their personality and knowing the personality of the your staff.”
Widmer, who also previously has served as president and New York convention director for the College Media Association, said in a phone interview that yearbook editors have skewed female since she began working in the 1980s, and in the next decade “we started seeing more females moving up the ladder and taking those roles” at newspapers. (While there are more women pursuing and earning college degrees than men, I found no reliable statistics on female leaders in university newsrooms. College Media Association executives also weren’t aware of research in this area.)