Carole Simpson: News Was Made In 'White Men's Interest'...in 1998?

In the fall edition of Ms. magazine, author L.S. Kim interviewed former ABC news anchor Carole Simpson to discover that it used to be that the news was presented "not in the public’s interest, but in white men’s interest." If that sounded plausible forty years ago, it certainly does not today. But feminist bloggers thought that Kim's article was "one of the standout articles." Here's how Kim quoted Simpson:  

As Carole Simpson, a trailblazing African American woman who was ABC’s former weekend anchor for World News Tonight, explains, the news of old wasn’t delivered by men but solely decided by them. " And they were usually white, middle-aged, and upper-middle-class," says Simpson, currently a faculty member at Emerson College School of Communications. "The news they presented was not in the public interest, but in white men’s interest. News about, for, and by women was relegated to ‘women’s pages’ or ‘women’s shows.’"

That sounds plausible when applied to the 1960s, but then Simpson goes all 1990s in her examples (Viagra arrived in 1998):

She gives a potent example: "When Viagra became available, we had stories about the 'wonder drug' night after night on the evening news. But when the breast cancer drug Tamoxifen showed promise for women suffering the disease, newswomen had to fight to get that story on the air, and stories about hormone replacement therapy, the lack of women in government medical studies, the abortion debate and in vitro fertilization."Simpson was always vocal about what should be included in newscasts – with varying success: "If the executive producer respected my judgment (and some did) I could have real impact, making sure there were social-issue stories....I would watch closely how women and minorities were portrayed and effect change." She did not, however, hold the kind of power retained by the network’s lead anchor, who was white and male. And if the executive producer insisted on being the "boss" of the program, Simpson’s idea could be rebuffed.

There's also a nod to the opinion of PBS anchor Judy Woodruff:

Despite women’s advancements, in some areas of news journalism they continue to lag way behind. Judy Woodruff, a CNN anchor for 12 years and currently senior correspondent and moderator of 2008 election coverage for The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer on PBS, points out that there are still not enough women in management – where critical decisions are made about hiring, firing, promotions, and story selection...

The piece concluded:

Yes, mass media can bring about progress and social change – but not without feminist and other alternative media pushing and guiding. As Carole Simpson says, "Things are better than they used to be, but not nearly what they could be and should be in 2007."

PS: Elsewhere in this 35th Anniversary Issue, Whoopi Goldberg, the moderator of ABC's The View, congratulated her feminist sisters in a section on what Ms. magazine means to you:

Gloria Steinem and Ms. magazine changed the course of history for modern women, priod. Who can say what direction things would have gone in without that movement, but there's no question that our eyes were opened and have remained so. We just have to keep our eyes open -- as well as our ears and hearts. It's constantly evolving, that's why it's called a movement...Always look forward, baby.
Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis