Friday, October 15, 2010

Introducing Chicago's Newest Women's Publication, the Tribune

Posted By on 10.15.10 at 05:45 PM

Pink means women
  • "Pink" means "women"
Is the Trib retooling its content to counteract those frat boy comparisons that so many people have been making about company execs? In reading the paper online today, I spotted five examples of femme-friendly articles, prominently displayed and covering issues ranging from sexism to women's health. There might be others elsewhere on the site.

In honor of Chief Innovation Officer Lee Abrams—er, make that former chief—I'll *STAR EVERYTHING I noticed:

* "Favre Scandal: Why do some men do it?": On the home page, this one's advertised as, "What the Favre scandal and 'junk shots' say about men." Using New York Jets quarterback Brett Favre's recent sexted photos scandal as the news hook, reporter Rex Huppke discusses the "junk shot" phenomenon, by which men send photos of their privates to others because they are a. hoping to disgust/confuse/offend/impress the recipient with "adolescent behavior," b. spicing up their sex lives in a consensual way, or c. exhibitionists. Huppke talks to a woman who received junk shots from a guy she dated, then dumped. The takeaway is, "you have to really know your audience."

Let's apply this advice to some recent developments. In sending Trib staffers a memo linking to a video containing female nudity, Lee Abrams demonstrated that he didn't "know his audience." Could it be because he was always too busy kissing his toons and writing memos about ROCK AND ROLL to ever listen to his audience? Sure, though living on another planet probably doesn't help. Takeaway: STFU about the tunes, and the toons, and listen to your employees, or you might end up doing something that offends them and gets you suspended ("dumped").

This line from Huppke's story—"It can be a balancing act for people to express their sexuality and feel good about it while not acting in a way that might make others feel uncomfortable or threatened"—fits the alleged incident involving Trib CEO Randy Michaels's offering $100 to a waitress to show her breasts. In most contexts, offering a woman money to expose herself counts as "acting in a way that might make others feel uncomfortable or threatened."

* "Moms, it's OK to work": As I type, this one's the lead story on the front page's Health section. Originally published in the Tribune Co.-owned L.A. Times, it goes:

Women who return to work after childbirth shouldn't worry that they are dooming their offspring to future developmental and emotional problems because they aren't at home to tend to them around-the-clock. An analysis of all of the solid studies on the topic — 69 to be exact — found that children whose mothers return to work before the child turns 3 are no more likely to have academic or behavioral problems compared with kids whose mothers stayed at home.

Never mind the role that fathers might play in making sure their offspring aren't doomed to "future developmental and emotional problems." Anyway, go get your damned jobs, moms.

* "Here's what makes a good boss": This column by Mary Schmich acknowledges National Bosses Day, which is today (happy day, bosses!). Though annoying in its use of third-person male pronouns, the column provides a sensible list of qualities that a good boss should have, such as "respect" and self-awareness. This item kind of sticks out:

"The good boss is not sexist, racist or the biggest clown at parties. Having said that, I have to say that the most brilliant boss I ever had had a couple of those failings."

Don't jump to conclusions: Schmich's boss is a woman, not Randy Michaels, so this comment probably isn't about him despite the "brilliant" part. But given what we've been hearing, it might be a good idea for Michaels to post Schmich's article on the door of his mini-fridge, which we assume he keeps next to his man chair, in managing the Trib employees he does oversee.

* "Wash your hands! It's Global Handwashing Day"! Jesus Christ, what is today NOT the day of? This article is dated October 14, but the holiday is today, make no mistake. Though seemingly gender-neutral, and written by a reporter for the Tribune-owned Orlando Sentinel (the hometown paper of Donald Duck), this article gives women special props for being better and more consistent hand-washers than men. You go, girls.

* The Trib's page about breast cancer, and the pink ribbon festooning its logo. Breasts are not just for lookin' at—they are also subjects of concern. Here's $100, go get yourself a mammogram.

Is there something to all this coverage of women's issues, or is this just me making up a "trend piece" for which there is no trend? I've called up the Trib to get someone on the record, and will update you on what they say.

In the meantime, today Susan S. Stevens, Beth Konrad, and Howard S. Dubin—the president, president ex-officio, and treasurer of the Chicago Headline Club, respectively—sent a stern letter to the Trib Co.'s board, executive management, and creditors commitee, plus the federal bankruptcy court, objecting to what they call "the culture of offensiveness that has marginalized women at the Chicago Tribune." They write:

In recent generations, American workplace managers presumably moved beyond sexism, racism and other forms of discrimination against employees. Yet in recent years, as the New York Times asserts in an Oct. 5 article, offensive behavior has become all too frequent among Tribune Co. management. The Times article is not the first time such complaints have been reported. It is, however, the largest compilation of allegations of “sexual innuendo, poisonous workplace banter and profane invective.”

Corporate rock star status and/or supposed creativity do not excuse this behavior. Nor, we might add, has a boys’ locker room attitude helped dig the Tribune Co. out of its financial hole. If anything, unacceptable treatment of employees has cost the company the loyalty and dedication of staff.

The letter points out that acting like frat boys violates the Society of Professional Journalists' Code of Ethics; the Headline Club is the Society's Chicago chapter. For emphasis, the journalists' code is attached.

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