Chicago Tribune Ombud: Using Hillary's First Name In Headlines Is Sexist, 'Diminishing'

Chicago Tribune “public editor” Timothy McNulty claimed on Friday that he has been sensitized to a gross indignity: stories referring to Hillary Rodham Clinton as merely “Hillary.” Prodded by feminists, he claimed that this indignity deserves exploring, even as he acknowledges that Hillary uses “Hillary!” as a first-person promotional tool in her own campaign. As Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post blew it off in his online chat today: “I used to have the same concern until HRC began running for office and promoting herself as "Hillary" on her Web site, in literature, etc. If it's good enough for her, it's good enough for me.”

The prodding feminist McNulty quotes in the piece is online Tribune editor Jane Fritsch, formerly of The New York Times, who wrote McNulty in an e-mail that "The simple fact is that Hillary Rodham Clinton is running in a field of men who are never referred to by their first names...The argument that we call her Hillary to avoid confusion is a weak one. There are easy alternatives. ... Certainly the problem created by the existence of two presidents named George Bush has been a difficult one, but we found ways to solve it without diminishing George W. Bush."

It’s a little dissonant for the feminists to defend Hillary’s tolerance for adultery in her marriage by insisting “if it’s good enough for her, it’s good enough for me,” but not take this position on newspaper headlines. But McNulty overcame his own doubts, writing that in politics, “the use of a name, a nickname or even initials has a double edge. Some radio and television commentators (you know who you are, Bill O'Reilly) pronounce it with a special emphasis and ‘Hill-ary’ is meant to sound diminutive and dismissive, and often accompanied by an eye roll.”

McNulty doesn’t seem to investigate beyond the headlines. He notes stories like “Hillary’s once-in-a-lifetime journey” (on a fairly positive Kathleen Parker column from February) and “With Hillary books, fairness doesn’t sell.”  Don’t the articles matter at least as much as the headline? It’s easier to suggest that the last headline (a recent piece by Alicia Shepard on the liberal-media-elite Hillary biographies)  is plainly more insulting to conservative Hillary-questioning authors (like Brent Bozell and moi) than it is to Hillary.

(Hat tip: Romenesko)

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