shelley writes:

So it’s not surprising, though perhaps is ironic, to see that there is actually better representation of women and blacks and other racial minorities in the professional journalist circles than there is in the so-called ‘citizen journalistic’ ranks of weblogging, because there is no economic or social incentive for the citizen journalists to look outside of their ranks. At least, not at the moment.

i find that both interesting and suspicious. the interesting part is that the most famous professional journalists are, quite ironically, more diverse than the most famous webloggers. at the same time, i had this sneaking suspicion that the famous in either camp weren't actually representative of the wholes. so are women and minorities really disproportionally under-represented within "citizen journalism" (i.e. weblogging)? i have no doubt that they are under-represented within the so-called "a-list" of weblogging, but what about the other 99%?

i thought i read somewhere that there were more women than men with weblogs. turns out that was on shelley's weblog. so women, at least, would appear to be reasonably represented in weblogging. i'll assume the same is not true for lower-income people, as internet access costs money and time. and i have no idea about racial minorities, but i doubt the disparity is as great within weblogging as it is within professional journalism.

so what about the other 99% in professional journalism? how do the local markets fair in minority representation? within weblogging, it would appear that those with the largest audiences are the least diverse. however, the opposite seems to be true in professional journalism. see this table of data from "Minorities and Women in Radio News," a report by vernon stone of the missouri school of journalism:

____________________________________________

Table 1. Female and Minority Shares of the
Radio News Work Force -- 1994 
____________________________________________

                    Female   Minority     N

All stations         31.3%     11.3%     248

Major markets        32.9%     16.4%      35
Large markets        26.6%     16.8%      44
Medium markets       29.9%     10.0%      82
Small markets        28.8%      5.0%      90
____________________________________________

both women and minorities are less common in smaller markets. given the limited sample size, the date, and geographic area, that may not be representative of broader trends today, but i would guess that it is.

so what does a statement like there is actually better representation of women and blacks and other racial minorities in the professional journalist circles mean when there are, actually, proportionally fewer women and minorities in professional journalism as a whole? it means we are measuring representation by the top section of the medium, rather than by the whole. this is a common mistake, but we need to stop making it if we hope to improve any of this.

the problem is that resposibility and authority are intertwined. every time we assert that someone has a responsibility, we are assuming that they have - and implying that they should have - the authority to exercise that resposibility. that's okay when they should have that authority, not so good when they shouldn't but do have the authority, and downright bad when they don't even have the authority and we are demanding responsibility as if they do. specifically, unless we are willing to allow the "a-list" webloggers to rule "citizen journalism," we should stop demanding that they rule fairly. if we don't like what they are doing, we should ignore them before we don't have that option.

the same is true of professional media. this is a point i frequently raise within my local peace and justice organization. members frequently complain of an apparent right-wing bias in the local newspaper, yet when it comes time to do some advertising, we invariably send our money to the same local newspaper. and most subscribe to the same paper. and those who write letters send them to the same paper, despite the existance of a viable and friendlier alternative, "the indy".

there is, of course, a balancing act. the readership of the indy is an important factor in considering support. likewise, if you want an idea to be heard online, you probably don't want to completely disassociate yourself with everyone who has a sizable audience. but it's my impression that most of those i see complaining about by media, whether professional or weblog, don't even stop to seriously consider the possibility of ending all association with the media they don't like. i think ignoring is an under-used tactic for changing. and it may just be the best tactic where attention defines value.

 

one of my recent projects was a collective bibliography tool. it's pretty much del.icio.us with books and films added to the tagged mix. unfortunately, of about 120 users for whom i made accounts and announced this tool, i appear to be the only person using it. i'm not sure why i bother, but i continue to post everything i see recommended on this group's email list, hoping some day someone else will notice this nifty tool and start using it.

but that's not why i'm pointing you to it. you can't actually post items using this tool unless you are one of the select few who has an account, and odds are you're not. but you can see what a bunch of peaceniks are recommending to each other and appreciate what a great application i made.