Accuracy in Media

To those familiar with left-wing hypocrisy, it should not come as a shock that The New York Times has not been quite living up to its professed standards.  The Times may have a strong history of promoting affirmative action and encouraging gender balance in the workplace, but when it comes to actual practice, The Times still discriminates in favor of men.

On February 2, 2011, VIDA released a study called The Count 2010.  The page shows that in 2010, The New York Times failed supremely to give men and women equal voices in The Times’ Book Review.

The chart of book reviewers in 2010 showed that of the book reviews published by The Times, 438 were written by men—while only 295 were written by women.  The numbers are worse for the authors reviewed: while male authors received a whopping 524 book reviews in The New York Times Book Review, female authors only received 283 reviews, total.  These are funny numbers to come from an organization that professes to support gender balance.

Of course, many female writers out there don’t need VIDA’s study to show them that The New York Times is sexist.  Famed writer Jodi Picoult wrote in August of 2010 that The Times favored “white male literary darlings” in its Book Review.  In an email to the NYT Picker, she wrote, “It is my personal opinion that yes, the Times favors white male authors. That isn’t to say someone else might get a good review — only that if you are white and male and living in Brooklyn you have better odds, or so it seems.”  Picoult went on: “How else can the Times explain the fact that white male authors ROUTINELY are assigned reviews in both the Sunday review section AND the daily book review section (often both raves),while so many other writers go unnoticed by their critics?”

The UK-based Guardian noted in 2010 that Picoult is hardly alone: chick-lit writer Jennifer Weiner once tweeted, “Carl Hiaasen doesn’t have to chose between getting a Times review and being a bestseller. Why should I? Oh, right. #girlparts.”  She went on to say, “NYT loves its literary darlings, who tend to be dudes w/MFAs … In summation: NYT sexist, unfair, loves Gary Shteyngart, hates chick lit, ignores romance. And now, to go weep into my royalty statement.”

Joanne Rowling—more commonly known as J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter fame—has freely acknowledged that her choice to go by initials rather than her given name came from her publishers: “My British publisher, when the first book came out, thought ‘this is a book that will appeal to boys’ but they didn’t want the boys to know a woman had written it. So they said to me ‘could we use your initials’ and I said ‘fine’,” Rowling said in an interview with Oprah.

Clearly, women still have the short end of the stick when it comes to the literary world.  Jim Berhle, writing for The Hairpin, wrote: “Sam Tanenhaus, the Review editor, was smugly quiet on Picoult’s rather prescient criticism. Something is up. What is he going to do about it as an editor?”

Apparently we still don’t have an answer. The New York Times should be held accountable for its hypocrisy in the arena of gender balance: if the paper is going to editorialize in favor of more female contributions to the world, one would expect the paper to follow up with actions to match.  The issue here is hypocrisy—hypocrisy in standards imposed and then ignored by The New York Times.

It will be interesting to see if Media Matters and other progressive watchdogs find this hypocrisy bizarre and distasteful, too.

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