Anguish Over Covering Themselves p. 9

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By: DEBRA GERSH HERNANDEZ

Sensitive coverage of women and minorities can be tricky, even when the reporters are themselves women and minorities.

“The threshold question is, Is there a difference in the way you treat the people you cover?” said Chicago Sun-Times bureau chief Lynn Sweet, answering herself, “Yes and no.”

Reporting on politics mirrors who is being covered, Sweet explained during a panel discussion at the Society of Professional Journalists annual convention in Arlington, Va., recently. For example, when Jane Byrne was mayor of Chicago, a woman appeared on the front page almost every day. With Mayor Harold Washington, readers saw a black man. Now, with Richard M. Daley, the focus is on a while male.

At the same time, reporters control whom they seek out as sources, she added, noting that diversity is important not just in gender or race, but in viewpoint.

“To some degree, reporters reflect who they are,” she said, adding, “My stories quote more women.”

Sweet suggested, however, that reporters “avoid the good-old-boy or good-old-girl club with the same old people saving the same things all the time.”

Maria Douglas Reeve, a black woman who covers the state capital for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, said she is treated differently than her mostly white male colleagues, but it often is positive, such as when female legislators told her they were glad she had come aboard.

Nevertheless, Reeve said she does not “try to get in good with the girls or do anything outside the ordinary” when covering the legislature. …

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