NY Times Announces Addition of First ‘Gender Editor’ to Its Staff

October 11th, 2017 6:27 PM

Here’s another entry for the “Just When You Thought You’d Seen It All Department.” On Tuesday, The New York Times proclaimed that the newspaper had hired a “gender editor” whose task is to “re-imagine the news through an inter-sectional lens.”

Jessica Bennett, a former editor for Newsweek and author of Feminist Fight Club: A Survival Manual for a Sexist Workplace -- an “illustrated battle manual for fighting sexism at work” -- was motivated to apply for the post due to the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.

According to an article written by Teen Vogue contributor Brittney McNamara, Bennett will be “leading the charge in a new initiative to see the news through this lens” and “connect the dots on gender coverage in an important way.”

Those quotes came from Jodi Rudoren, editorial director of NYT Global, who also stated:

One of the things I grappled with for a long time as I tried to figure out who should be our gender editor and what our gender initiative should look like is, really, what is gender and what are gender issues?

I felt like we had all this great coverage around the newsroom and around the world that I would categorize as gender, and I knew we weren't doing what we should be doing or could be doing to link up these different stories and different projects.

Bennett -- who Rudoren described as an "idea factory" -- has worked as a freelancer with the Times on stories related to gender and culture, McNamara reported. In her new role, which she officially starts on October 30, Bennett wants to have an impact in not just one section of the paper.

The paper added that Bennett will lead "a multi-pronged initiative to deepen the engagement of female readers around the world."

“Stories on gender issues are nothing new in the Times,” McNamara noted, pointing to the investigation of sexual allegations regarding Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ announcement that transgender people are no longer protected by federal workplace anti-discrimination laws.

“But now,” she stated, “the institution is dedicating even more focus to how gender impacts our daily lives.”

“To me, what gender issues means is not simply coverage of feminism or issues related to women's rights, though of course that is important, and we're committed to approaching those issues,” Bennett explained. “But I think for a place like the Times, this type of content needs to exist throughout every section of the paper.”

“So whether that means stories about gender identity, or sexuality, or masculinity, or race and class and how that plays into gender identity, or simply the subjects that the Times already covers -- politics, international affairs, science, health,” she continued, “but approaching these subjects through a lens of gender."

"We're thinking about this really holistically," Bennett added. "It's about the type of coverage, and at times, elevating some of the underrepresented voices. It's also about looking at our own report critically and thinking about tone, and subtle language things, and the visual displays of stories, and bylines and sources."

McNamara also quoted Bennett as saying that “gender impacts every part of our lives, even as the strict understandings we once had about how gender shapes our lives change.”

"I think it's everywhere, but I also think it's one of those things that we don't necessarily see," Bennett told Teen Vogue.

"We’re in a moment right now where women's rights are a subject of intense discussion and scrutiny,” she continued. “To that extent, it feels very of the moment and in your face. But at the same time, this is the kind of thing that plays out in our daily lives in so many ways."

“And that's precisely why Bennett won't head a section of the Times,” McNamara indicated. “Instead of creating a gender ‘section,’ Rudoren said the Times is breaking down the typical walls inside that we might expect to see coverage of gender issues.”

“That's because gender is so pervasive in our everyday lives it can't be constrained to one area of coverage -- it's in business, politics, science, style and sports,” Rudoren stated.

"The reality is that institutions -- and old-school media institutions -- were primarily created by and for white men," Bennett said. "But that has changed."

The Washington Free Beacon's Alex Griswold also reported: “Bennett first approached Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet three years ago, pitching a full-time reporting position focused solely on gender issues. The discussions fell through, but the Times subsequently created the gender editor role.”

It will be interesting to see how the “gender editor” deals with issues confronting men, though it’s unlikely that gender will ever be discussed.