Media promoting victim blaming

I’m really troubled by the way the media is handling the Ines Sainz debacle.

Reportedly, Sainz entered the New York Jets locker room after the game with other sports reporters only to be cat-called and sexually harassed. For the record, Sainz is not the one who reported the incident.

Thankfully, Jets owner Woody Johnson “stressed to Ines that he expects all members of the Jets organization to conduct themselves in a professional manner at all times.”

(As a sidenote, I feel it’s inappropriate to be in a locker room after the game where players are naked. As a former athlete, time in the locker room, and after the game, should be private without the thought of reporters and others.)

Now the media (Joy Behar – since when is this woman a journalist?) is asking if her choice of clothing, including low-cut tops, short skirts and tight jeans – perhaps a little revealing for American audiences, but hey, she’s from Mexico – invited the incident.

This is just one form of victim blaming. To say that Sainz’s tight jeans make it okay for men to yell inappropriate things at her is to say that men are allowed to throw professionalism out the window and act like animals if the clothing prompts it. This is a cop out.

If she had been touched by these men, I assume many might change their tune. But there should not be a difference. What the men did was wrong. It infringed upon her rights – words can be just as damaging as physical contact. There’s a reason sexual harassment will get you fired from a job.

Sainz allegedly calls herself the sexiest sports reporter in Mexico, or something to that effect.

Good for her. Women should be allowed to declare themselves sexy and embrace their sexuality without retaliation. It was a comment about herself, not an invitation for comment from others.

I suppose the thing that bothers me the most is that by questioning Sainz, the media is setting an example for media consumers. Young men might see the way players treated Sainz and assume it’s ok to react similarly to women in their own lives – women who are our friends, sisters, wives and mothers – because after all, they asked for it simply by being beautiful and being proud of who they are.

Athletes are still the role models youth look up to. Is this the example we want to set?

Knee-jerk apology from Portland Press Herald

Yesterday I happened to see the Muslim/9-11 apology letter from Portland Press Herald publisher Rich Connor.

For those of you who missed it: On 9-11, the PPH featured a story about Eid al Fitr, the holiest of holidays in Islam that marks the end of Ramadan, by reporter Dave Hench and photographer Gregory Rec. The correlation between the holiday and the day nine years ago that marked a change in so many of our lives was entirely coincidental. The editorial staff at the PPH decided to hold 9-11 coverage until the day after (9-12), having a run-down of the day’s events ready for readers in the morning.

Readers responded angrily, many wondering why those “terrorists” were being lauded on A1 on a day still so fresh in the minds of America.

Rich responded by writing a lengthy open letter. Here’s one part:

“We are sorry you are offended by today’s front page photo and story and certainly understand your point of view. Many feel the same way. We do not offer the stock excuses you cite. We should have balanced this story with one that showed our sensitivity to today’s historic importance.”

Justin Ellis, a former PPH reporter who took a buyout earlier this year, responded on his blog with many comments that I agree with.

“Even though Connor says he agrees that the story is newsworthy, the act of issuing a letter to readers over an error that does not violate the paper’s standards, is a betrayal to the writers, photographers, copy editors and everyone down to the pressmen at the paper.

Worse, the apology, in trying to make amends with one part of the community, does it at the expense of another. In trying to mollify the outrage and indignation of readers upset over showing Muslims practicing their religion, the Press Herald has now helped to alienate Muslims in Portland and around Maine.

And it’s here where the Press Herald made it’s biggest failure: By apologizing for this episode they’ve injured their ability to educate readers. In this case the lesson lost is simple – tolerance. Like newspapers around the country the Press Herald covers its religious communities through their observances, whether it’s Rosh Hashanah, Easter or Ramadan. This matters because people of faith aren’t just newspaper readers, they’re part of the community that journalists are responsible for covering. Through writing about these events we’re supposed to gain greater insight into where we live and the people around us.”

I wholeheartedly agree with Justin’s well-written and very thoughtful analysis. We should never apologize for writing ethical, well-reported, timely, relevant, unbiased, interesting and educational stories. Ever. Instead of apologizing for the article and saying there should have been more balance, Rich should have simply said that he apologizes for not memorializing such an important day on the front page of the paper on the anniversary of the event.

The letter was a knee-jerk reaction from Rich in response to a vocal, angry mob. Seeing how this story has gotten play on the Internet making him out to be a newspaper man who panders to bigots, I assume he now regrets the decision to write the letter and not wait a few days to see if it blows over, apologizing for not mentioning 9-11 on 9-11 on the
front page of the largest paper in Maine where close to 90 percent of Mainers get their local news.

I’ve worked at the Portland Press Herald. I know Rich Connor, Greg Rec, Dave Hench and the editors there. They had no ill-intention. They’re committed to covering the community.

It’s sad that this has to occur at a time when much of the media is committed to fear mongering at the sake of Americans who choose to read from a different holy text.

I just hope the decision to issue the apology hasn’t cost a bleeding industry more cancelled subscriptions and less confidence in people who are committed to making a difference and furthering democracy by telling the stories of others.

Saying goodbye

Today is my last day at the Portland Press Herald. I feel like I’ve been getting pretty good at goodbyes, with leaving my family and college friends and professors behind earlier this summer, yet I find I’m not getting any better at it when it comes to places.

People I can say goodbye to – we keep relationships going through phone calls and e-mails. But leaving physical places is always so bittersweet.

There’s something really sad about knowing I won’t be sitting on Fortunes Rocks beach again or having lunch in Monument Square with the cool ocean breeze wafting through the streets.

Over the past year or so I’ve had the opportunity to spend time all over: the waterfront of Texas, the canyons of Arizona, the plains of the Midwest,  and the rolling hills of Tennessee. The pine tree forests of Maine will now be added. I’m constantly in awe of the beauty of our great country. If you haven’t explored our greatest treasures in our national parks, please do – and take your family.

There’s just something about land – the Indians had it right.

Carrie Bradshaw

Sometimes I wonder what role Carrie Bradshaw played in me becoming a journalist. Like every second woman in America, “Sex and the City” was one of my favorite shows. I own every season and will watch episodes over and over.

When I first started watching it, I had no idea I wanted to go into journalism. I was planning on being a lobbyist (laugh!) or a lawyer (hehe!). I’d always liked writing, and while I doubt I saw the show and thought, “I want to be her,” there was definitely a part of me that admired Carrie and the way she was self-sufficient and doing something she loved. I think she was a role model for many women, saying that you can be successful and single and still be happy.

This article in The Guardian I think describes some of what I’m trying to say. Candace Bushnell gave so many women a voice. She made us realize that our foibles and stories were worth telling, even when there wasn’t a happy ending.

This Huffington Post column seems to say that the Carrie Effect has pigeonholed women into writing about women’s issues and not hard reporting. As someone who recognizes the value of good investigative reporting, I tend to disagree. If anything, this widens the category of women writers, not narrows it. People will read good writers, and if it takes a sex column to find them, so be it.

I wonder more about the Carrie Effect when I look around the newsroom and see that it’s still mostly men old enough to be my father while my journalism classes scarcely had a male in them. I wonder how much longer we will be minorities.

Blogging about srat life

I’m proud to say I’m a member of a premier organization for women, Pi Beta Phi. One of the saddest things about leaving college is leaving behind all my “srat” sisters. But that doesn’t mean I’ve left sorority life behind.

For College Lifestyles, I’ve been concentrating on blogging about Greek life, of which I am a huge proponent because of the friends, leadership opportunities and experiences it has given me.

This summer, I’ve focused on a series on deciding if sorority life is the right choice. Granted, I’m totally biased, but the posts have been popular. Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 are here. Mainly I’ve focused on the fact that stereotypes aren’t always what they seem and that you really have to give something a chance before you can shoot it down.

As an alumna, I’ll now be advising the Millikin University Pi Phi chapter, and I’m so excited to start. Volunteering my time is something that’s always been really important to me, and I know helping these women is going to be important. Often campuses in rural environments, like Millikin and my own experience at W&L, don’t afford us the same resources that chapters at larger universities get.