In Rockland, seasoned journalists talk about past and future of the trade

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Monday, July 1, 2013 - 11:45am
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Lynn Povich and Stephen Shepard. (Photo by Chelsea Sonksen)

ROCKLAND — On Thursday, June 27, people filled the pews of the Synagogue on Willow Street in Rockland to hear Lynn Povich and Stephen Shepard speak about the past and future of journalism. Both Lynn and Stephen, who have been married 34 years, were senior editors at Newsweek. Stephen went on to be the editor-in-chief at Business Week. He is also the Founding Dean of the Graduate School of Journalism of the City University of New York, the only publicly supported graduate school of journalism in the Northeast.

Lynn spoke about the changing climate for women in journalism. In 1970, Lynn was one of 46 young women to sue Newsweek for systematic discrimination in the first female class action suit. Lynn was the only female writer at the time, a junior writer covering fashion.

"It was the era of gender segregated help wanted ads," she said. "Nearly all editors at the time were men. The women were fact checkers and researchers. And before long, women with talent hit a glass ceiling."

Those women rallied in the ladies room, hidden from management until the lawsuit was filed.

Lynn noted that women still have a way to go, citing the ever-present pay gap, hostile work places, and the stagnant percentage of women in Congress and running corporations.

"The percentage of women in these jobs has stayed right around 16 to 18 percent for the past ten years. Women with the skills are choosing not to take the jobs. They often think that they can't be good mothers and good bosses at the same time."

Lynn stated that the workforce is based on: "a nuclear family, which doesn't exist. We need to make the workforce work for working parents. It's not just a women's issue."

Stephen spoke predominately about the media's transition into the digital age. He noted that while the landscape of journalism is radically altering, he remains optimistic about the future of journalism and the future of journalists.

"Ninety percent of the students who have graduated from CUNY School of Journalism are working in journalism," he said. "Some are working as old-fashioned reporters, while others are working on new platforms like video." He remains confident jobs for young journalists will remain. "They will just be different kind of jobs."

When an audience member alluded to a former golden age of journalism, Stephen shook his head.

"I don't think there was a golden age in journalism before the Internet," he said. "More people are reading journalism now than ever before."

He cited Huffington Post, Politico, California Watch, and Inside Climate News as successful new journalism platforms. Both California Watch and Inside Climate News are recent Pulitzer Prize winners.

Copies of Stephen Shepard's book, Deadlines and Disruption: My Turbulent Path From Print to Digital, and copies of Lynn Povich's book, The Good Girls Revolt: How the Women of Newsweek Sued their Bosses and Changed the Workplace, were for sale at the reception following the event.

 

Chelsea Sonksen can be reached at news@penbaypilot.com.