Friday, June 6, 2014

Is the male-dominated media biased as to which historical events get commemorated ?

The answer - unfortunately - is yes : male-dominated news coverage is still very gender-biased.

When it comes to commemorating violent versus beneficial historical events , it usually proves that male journalists are from Mars and the women from Venus.

And since most executive editors and executive producers are still men , guess which kind of historical events are splashed about and which get merely 'noted' ?

Wartime New York had two Manhattan Projects - one pioneering death-dealing atomic bombs and the other pioneering life-saving penicillin.

Both will be celebrating their seventy five anniversaries next year but it is quite likely that you will only see news stories about one of them.

In March 1940, Columbia University scientists Fermi and Szilard got $6,000 for building their atomic pile , on the authorization of President Roosevelt, an event usually viewed as the start of the atomic Manhattan project.

Call this the 'Little Boy' Manhattan project, after the name of the first bomb. (Would women name a bomb that was about to burn tens of thousands of children to death after a child ?)

The American national government has since spent far more than six trillion dollars on atomic research - a sum (by no coincidence) that is about the size of the entire publicly held debt of the America national government.

Try converting all that into new books for school libraries, extra staff for nursing homes and new places in daycare centers to imagine what $ six trillion dollars looks like when it is spent on something useful and productive.)

On October 16th 1940, penicillin's Manhattan project began, when the first needles of penicillin-the-antibiotic were given to patients Charles Aronson and Aaron Alston by Columbia University scientist Martin Henry Dawson, thus ushering in our Age of Antibiotics.

And by the way, Dr Dawson - who was combatting a painful terminal illness the whole time he was fighting for abundant cheap wartime penicillin for all humanity - never asked for any money from the government.

Call his effort the 'Baby Girl' Manhattan project .

(After the August 1943 story about how dying baby girl Patty Malone only received penicillin after intervention by Citizen Hearst's newspapers sparked a national protest by Doctor Mom that finally made penicillin world famous overnight, fifteen neglected years after it was first discovered.)

If male journalists continue to rule the roost - guess which event will be ballyhooed next year and which one will be ignored or only 'dutifully noted' ?

Mars may still domain the battlefields - but it does not have to go on dominating the newsroom and the TV in our living rooms .

A 1999 Newsday/Newseum survey of 35,000 American media consumers confirms that male readers think that the atomic bomb and the Little Boy story was the top news story of the 20th century.

But the women thought penicillin and the Baby Girl story was the top news story of the 20th century.

Since there are slightly more women than men , a prudent journalist should try and think of all their audience when they have two similar stories at the same time to report.

But unless New York's female media 'Act Up' , I think the events behind the 75th anniversary of the start of the life-saving Age of Antibiotics will be ignored --- once again....

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