Last night marked the first annual Women’s Media Center Media Awards at the Arthur M. Sackler Foundation in midtown. Catered and cozy, the event took place in a small, packed room brimming with well-established female media types and bright-eyed J-school students, with a mic stand in the corner for awardees like Salon.com’s Rebecca Traister, as well as hosts Gloria Steinem and WMC President Carol Jenkins. â€¨â€¨
The evening was divided into two parts: the first honored six women in the media industry who have done outstanding work in bringing women’s issues to the forefront of media coverage; the second part cued a wag of the finger at organizations and events that shed a particularly negative light upon women in the past year. “It’s very important that we criticize when [women’s coverage] is incomplete, but praise when it’s complete,” Steinem said, explaining the reason for organizing the awards this way.
In her opening remarks, Steinem also associated the media with a modern-day campfire, a place where people gather to tell stories and express themselves. “It is crucial that everyone’s stories be told…the media is our campfire,” she said. “And if we cannot tell our stories or have people listen to our stories, we feel alone.”
Among the night’s honorees were CNN political correspondent Candy Crowley, US News & World Report contributing editor and PBS personality Bonnie Erbe, Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Lynn Nottage, documentary filmmaker Gini Reticker, LGBT blogger Pam Spaulding, and Salon.com senior writer Rebecca Traister.
Erbe, whose PBS news analysis program “To the Contrary” has run for an astounding 18 seasons, expressed a sentiment which may resonate with many women in the media world. “The past election showed that we’ve made tremendous strides against racism,” she said. “But there is sexism that is still very PC.”
During the second part of the evening, Steinem read off of a list of poor behavior towards women on behalf of the mainstream media (right). “We have to let her do this or she’ll go home dissatisfied,” joked Jenkins. The list included “deadly words,” “the networks,” and “media executives: for failing to create a diverse White House press corps.” â€¨â€¨
The mission of the Women’s Media Center, which was founded in 2005 by Steinem, Jane Fonda and Robin Morgan, was aptly put by WMC board member Gloria Feldt as a closing remark: “The mission of WMC is to point out, with your help, all the bullshit…wherever it is.”
–By Jessica Roy