Reprinted from the January 1, 1976 issue of Media Report to Women
As Media Report to Women begins its fifth year of publishing, and its fourth volume (Volume 1, published by the Women's Institute for Freedom of the Press which founded Media Report to Women , encompassed both 1972 and 1973.), it seems a good time to state the journalistic principles which have guided our news information decisions.
Media Report to Women has three criteria for the selection and presentation of its news information. (We have also found the three criteria useful as a standard for examining the performance of other media as well as our own.)
We believe that journalism based on these three principles is more respectful of people.
Recognizing that people are capable of interpreting news information for themselves, we see our function as supplying factual information that is not easily available elsewhere, and we leave the formation of opinions about it to each individual. (We do not consider that our judgment can be better for another person than her own.)
The public has more to tell newspeople than vice versa, we have observed -- because news information resides in people. Therefore we believe that people should convey their information to the public as directly as possible. Our criteria would redefine " news" and redefine the role of the newsperson.
Defining the word " feminist" here as " having the characteristics of females," we propose a new set of standards to improve or replace the existing male journalism. The following are our Three Principles of Feminist Journalism :
1) NO ATTACK ON PEOPLE
In Media Report to Women we do not attack anyone, call names, use opinion nouns or adjectives that characterize, label or pass judgment on the opinions, actions, ideas, or attitudes of other women -- or men. We know that they are just as entitled to their views as we are to ours. We also know that media characterizations of people can be inhibiting and restrictive -- both to the person characterized and to those among the public who may wish to pick up on an idea or take an action -- be they children or adults. To the contrary, public news media, we believe, should work to widen the social, political, or economic options for people, not inhibit them. In Media Report to Women , we do not say, for example, that a book or speech is good or bad, or fair or biased; rather we report what is in it and let each woman judge for herself.
2) MORE FACTUAL INFORMATION
Priority is given to facts over opinion in Media Report to Women . We include full texts wherever possible. Although entitled to express our opinions, even without giving the facts on which we based them, we believe that all people must find, as we do, that others' conclusions are nearly useless without their facts to enable us to judge the opinion's merit for ourselves, or to form our own. Conclusions without facts keep us apathetic, powerless to act, and dependent upon the decision-making of others.
We emphasize fact over opinion in Media Report to Women's limited space also because the existing media carry so little information from women, for or about women (as well as other parts of the public) -- especially compared to the abundance of information available to be known. Therefore, as long as there is information people do not yet know about, we cannot justify using our limited space for our opinions of the information they already do know about. We thus avoid the repetition which is customary in the " issue-making" of conventional journalism -- as well as its emphasis on opinion.
3) PEOPLE SHOULD SPEAK FOR THEMSELVES
We believe that the surest way to dispel stereotypes, to achieve accuracy, and to add more, new factual information, is for people to make their own case directly to the public and thus to define themselves. Therefore, to the greatest extent possible, in Media Report to Women we do not tell about what women do and think, as we would in conventional journalism, but we let them tell it themselves. People know their own information best, and we believe that neither the person with the information nor the public needs an intermediary reporter to be an interpreter -- but only to help the person get her own account down on paper, on the air, or into some other medium.
People speaking for themselves provide not only more accurate information but information that is more diverse, complex, direct, honest and reliable, imaginative and lively than anyone else can make it in reporting it second hand. Even the simplest statements of information are better direct from the source. For example, " 'I think we ought to have more women represented,' " is far preferable, we believe, to the conventional journalism' " She said she thought that there ought to be more women represented."
These three basic criteria also address the three most common complaints women have about the communications media, as we at Media Report to Women hear them, and we believe that the application of the Three Principles could constructively improve the conditions that give rise to each type of criticism: 1) that the image of women in media too often is derogatory, restrictive, and inaccurate; 2) that the media do not carry enough news coverage of women's activities and issues, especially in light of the proportion of the public that are women; and 3) that insufficient employment of women in the media, particularly in policy-making positions, results in men speaking for the female 53% of the population.
Although the Three Principles of Feminist Journalism may help in these respects to improve the mass media as a means of communication with others both at home and abroad, their first purpose is to serve women as guidelines for our own media.
Dr. Donna Allen, Editor
Martha Leslie Allen, Associate Editor
(All back issues and volumes of Media Report to Women from 1972-1987 published by the Women' Institute for Freedom of the Press are available for purchase, as well as its index annotated in over 150 subject categories, 1972-1987.)
(Be sure to see our booklets series for more media philosophy. These booklets, and other publications, are available in printed form.)