Sunday, September 27, 2009

Marcus' Questions

Q1) Everbach’s study on the Sarasota newspaper’s female management team interested me, largely because it was framed as if this was an anomaly – just about every newsroom I’ve worked in has been dominated by women, and now that I think about it, I’ve had many more female editors than male editors. Now I’ll believe, certainly, that this has not historically been the case; not in journalism, and not in many other fields, either. But that’s not what I’ve experienced at all, so I wonder if it’s a generational gap? Or if Texas somehow is bucking that trend, as weird as that may sound? I don’t know how it works, but it seems to me that at least recently, female journalists are outnumbering us dudes by a fairly healthy margin. In fact, I even had a job interview once where one of the editors expressly said he wanted a male for the position, just because the gender balance in the newsroom was so lopsided in favor of women – which is illegal as all get out, I know, and I wound up taking another job while they were taking way too long to make a decision, but it’s still a noteworthy point. Am I the only one that’s come across this?

Q2) How does Everbach qualify “teamwork” and “consensus?” Those seem like fairly intangible terms to me, and it seems like those are very much open to interpretation – particularly along gender lines, since that’s what she’s focusing on. Example: I’ve worked for two editors, one in college and one in the so-called real world, whose way of telling staffers they did a good job was to sling one of a dozen uncouth variations of “get back to work, shithead!” That worked fine for me, and it worked well for … well, everyone in college was fine with it, and the female reporters at the for-profit paper thought it was funny too, although some of the non-writing small-town female staffers were offended. And then they wound up getting the editor fired, the reporters bailed and the paper’s been in freefall ever since – but my point is, I would have no problem classifying “get back to work shithead” as a variety of teamwork, but I doubt that’s what Everbach was looking for. And there are other newsrooms where “Teamwork” translates to “either be best friends with the boss and everyone here, or get out,” which I’ve also had to deal with.

So, I guess my point is, how dependent is qualitative research on terminology? The Jensen piece touched on this a few weeks ago, I know, but with methods that are so dependent upon perspective, don’t we risk disqualifying or ignoring diversity simply because our data –by definition - isn’t open-ended?

Q3) Gabino and Alex both touched on Adler’s Tearoom Trade, and I thought I’d throw in my two cents as well. On the one hand, Gabino is right that consensual public sex is, by definition, a public act; part of the point is to be a spectacle, which requires an audience. But Alex is right that Adler served as a clear enabler, which – among other things – compromised his research. This wasn’t a random public act that he encountered, it’s one he helped engineer for his research, and there’s a big difference – especially when he’s labeling it as depravity. If it was all that depraved, he wouldn’t have been rigging it in the first place. So in that case, how can accountability be established? Or should it?

Q4) I like Fontana and Frey’s discussion of framing interviews, but their categories seemed pretty academic to me. They’re right, in theory, interviews can be done in a strictly sober way, or they can be very opinion-driven and conversational … in the field, I don’t think it’s possible to separate the two. On the one hand, boundaries need to be established – in most cases, expressing an opinion will set you up for trouble and criticism, especially about something contentious like politics. But on the other hand, nobody likes to talk to a robot, and the best quotes and support come from people that trust you – they know you’re a reporter or a researcher, but they also enjoy talking to you. There are a few exceptions for journalists, but I can’t imagine a researcher conducting a hostile interview, so I think it applies here. So why try to break it down, why try to doctrinally establish the best way to hold an interview? It’s the kind of thing that you can’t really be taught anyway, and if qualitative research is so defensive about being unconventional, then why try to establish a rubric here?

Q5) Note to Gabino – those “poor rich, white, middle-aged men” you speak of are all capitalists … every one of them. I’m just saying. But he does make an interesting point, and I wonder if it’s because men don’t typically conduct gender-based research? Is it that the field is too focused on traditional narratives, or simply that researchers who would present alternatives are focusing on other topics?

1 comment:

  1. Hi, Marcus, I am the author of the piece and wanted to chime in on a couple of points. First, your personal experience in newsrooms is your personal experience, not a measure of how newsrooms nationwide operate. It's a pretty established fact that women make up 37 percent of newsrooms and only about 34 percent of newsroom managers. The American Society of Newspaper Editors does a newsroom census every year and you can see it at But I think it is great that you worked in newsrooms with female bosses.
    As far as the style of management--not all women have the same management style, just as all men do not. So your experience being demeaned by a female manager does not necessarily reflect on all women managers. Male managers can be nurturing and female managers can be hardasses.
    I hope this clarifies some of your points.