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Reclassifying Soft and Hard News Culture Specific Findings or a Reflection of Gender?
Unformatted Document Text:  Barbara Walters, selected as first woman television news anchor for ABC in 1976, alongside Harry Reasoner, frequently claimed that television news was a man’s world and protested the discrimination against women in the media (Holston, 1993). Years later, she recounted that she was not allowed to write anything for men; She couldn’t write anything that supposedly was “hard” news, or had to do with science, or had to do with economics (in Remington, 1992, F2). Walters’ description is in many ways similar to the stories of many women in Western countries who attempted to penetrate media organizations, in general, and the news, in particular. Walters’ exclusion from “hard” news is concrete evidence of one of the classic distinctions regarding the differential functioning in journalism of men and women: Men are equated with “hard” news while women are equated with “soft” news. This foundational approach led to one of the professional insights of newsmaking practice: men prioritize and prefer to create “hard” news while women have a disposition for “soft “news. This traditional dichotomous classification, corresponding to binary categories of issues on the agenda, was successfully assimilated in media news desk practice, to the extent that such thinking became accepted and as natural. Subsequently, a certain “blindness” towards the phenomenon and its implications developed. The distinction between two types of news also functioned as a gender-based occupational filter, albeit an informal one, in recruitment of journalists, and in the division of areas of coverage and assignments. In other words, men were assigned coverage of the “hard” news while women dealt with “soft” issues. On the backdrop of increasing feminization of the media, an awareness of the situation, anchored in feminist approaches and supplemented by critique based on a functionalist approach, generated the following anticipation : the increasing number of women employed in news departments of media organizations will effect not only a change in the gender-based distribution of occupations, it will also bring about a change in the contents of news and, ultimately, in the classic division between “hard” and “soft” which reflects industry patterns formed over generations by men. Expressions of this approach, however, suffer from paucity in empirical support and therefore have remained mainly in the realm of theory. The main argument of the present paper, which is based on a comprehensive study conducted at two radio stations in Israel, is that the feminization process which is reflected in the increasing number of women employed in journalism, also finds

Authors: Lavie, Aliza.
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Barbara Walters, selected as first woman television news anchor for ABC in 1976,
alongside Harry Reasoner, frequently claimed that television news was a man’s world
and protested the discrimination against women in the media (Holston, 1993). Years
later, she recounted that she was not allowed to write anything for men; She couldn’t
write anything that supposedly was “hard” news, or had to do with science, or had to
do with economics (in Remington, 1992, F2).
Walters’ description is in many ways similar to the stories of many women in Western
countries who attempted to penetrate media organizations, in general, and the news, in
particular. Walters’ exclusion from “hard” news is concrete evidence of one of the
classic distinctions regarding the differential functioning in journalism of men and
women: Men are equated with “hard” news while women are equated with “soft”
news. This foundational approach led to one of the professional insights of
newsmaking practice: men prioritize and prefer to create “hard” news while women
have a disposition for “soft “news. This traditional dichotomous classification,
corresponding to binary categories of issues on the agenda, was successfully
assimilated in media news desk practice, to the extent that such thinking became
accepted and as natural. Subsequently, a certain “blindness” towards the phenomenon
and its implications developed.
The distinction between two types of news also functioned as a gender-based
occupational filter, albeit an informal one, in recruitment of journalists, and in the
division of areas of coverage and assignments. In other words, men were assigned
coverage of the “hard” news while women dealt with “soft” issues.
On the backdrop of increasing feminization of the media, an awareness of the
situation, anchored in feminist approaches and supplemented by critique based on a
functionalist approach, generated the following anticipation : the increasing number
of women employed in news departments of media organizations will effect not only
a change in the gender-based distribution of occupations, it will also bring about a
change in the contents of news and, ultimately, in the classic division between “hard”
and “soft” which reflects industry patterns formed over generations by men.
Expressions of this approach, however, suffer from paucity in empirical support and
therefore have remained mainly in the realm of theory.
The main argument of the present paper, which is based on a comprehensive study
conducted at two radio stations in Israel, is that the feminization process which is
reflected in the increasing number of women employed in journalism, also finds


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