What If Bob Woodward Were a Woman?

July 03, 2012

Last month, I got to see Bob Woodward discuss the 40th anniversary of Watergate at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. He’s one of the two amazing Washington Post reporters who broke the biggest story in American politics. In case you need a refresher, the Watergate scandal was uncovered when the two reporters started investigating a burglary at the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate Hotel. Woodward and Carl Bernstein uncovered a criminal conspiracy and White House cover-up that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon. Another 43 people, many of them senior officials, were either indicted, tried, or went to prison because of Watergate.

Although I’ve gotten to hear from many great journalists as a journalism student, it was amazing to see yet another one discuss his career. These reporters are heroes in their own right, and Woodward has remained a big name in investigative journalism, even 40 years later. But seeing this brilliant man in person got me thinking, What if the story had been uncovered by women?

Woodward admits that if the break-in had happened on any other day, the story would have belonged to a different reporter. And even though there are more women in newsrooms today, I’m not sure how much more likely women journalists are now to break Watergate-like stories than they were in 1972.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&list=PL4E7D07965303268C&v=K2iM3Lwk6MY]

Today, women are getting noticed for their work as foreign reporters, and more articles are published by women than ever before. Through less-traditional avenues like Twitter, women are finding their voices and getting noticed. However, men’s names grace a large majority of bylines on articles about topics that are considered important, like politics, media, and the economy.

Since women only make up 10 percent of supervisory or upper-management newspaper positions, it feels like women’s issues are being given less clout and like a female voice is missing from the important stories. And readership reflects this disconnect. Women accounted for only 44 percent of American newspapers’ readership in 1999, and that has remained largely unchanged.

Who are today’s female Woodward and Bernstein? Do you think more female leadership would make stories about politics, media, and the economy more appealing to women?

This post was written by AAUW Marketing and Communications Intern Marie Lindberg.

By:   |   July 03, 2012

3 Comments

  1. Marcia Weissman says:

    For those who need a further refresher, Bob Woodward’s boss at the Washington Post was a woman (Katherine Graham). I believe that John Mitchell, Nixon’s campaign manager, spoke about wanting to “put her tits in a wringer”. If she hadn’t backed them, Woodward and Bernstein’s stories would not have been printed. So my guess is that if a female reporter had picked up this story, she would have been able to run with it.

  2. Marie says:

    Thanks for your comments Marcia! Graham was indeed an accomplished woman and a role model. However, her success and that of many other brilliant woman doesn’t discount the real issue of continued misrepresentation of women in the news media. Just looking at the front page of big newspapers like the Washington Post or the New York Times on a regular basis you can see there are far fewer women reporters getting the so-called “important” stories. Also, here is a good graphic showing women aren’t even cited as often as men. http://www.4thestate.net/female-voices-in-media-infographic Thanks!

  3. All-USA-Teacher says:

    I disagree that women news writers are actually mis-represented – but agree, perhaps, they’re under-represented……and less quoted….

    But I say “so what” – just keep writing away, and note that some women succeed sensationally – in spite of this!

    Focusing on the individual is what seems most important…..I note that more women than organizations are also quoted.

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