By: Dave Astor
Diane Glass — the liberal half of the point-counterpoint “Woman to Woman” column — is leaving the feature as she battles stage four bile duct cancer, announced Universal Press Syndicate.
“This week’s column is a special farewell written by Diane with the help of her sister Janet,” Universal said in a statement. “‘Woman to Woman’ will then take a one-week hiatus, after which columnist Shaunti Feldhahn will square off with a new contributor, in a column for use Aug. 12.”
Feldhahn, the feature’s conservative commentator, also made a statement: “It’s very hard to think about saying good-bye to someone who has been my business partner in this column — and my friend — for four years. Yes, we have disagreed on almost everything in print, but behind the scenes we have always had a mutual respect.
“I care about Diane a great deal, and I’m saddened that after she conceived this column, advocated for it, nurtured it, and hired me, that she now is the one having to step aside. She and her family are constantly in my thoughts and prayers.”
“Woman to Woman” began at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, where Glass has been a staffer — most recently as the online director of new business development.
Glass and Feldhahn were profiled in E&P’s October 2005 issue. Here’s that “Columnists Fight Weekly ‘Civil’ War” story:
“Woman to Woman” started on The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Web site, whose AJC.com initials could also stand for “A Jousting Column.”
That’s because liberal Diane Glass and conservative Shaunti Feldhahn — armed with computers rather than lances — use the weekly column to debate issues during a particularly polarized time in America. But the duo’s point-counterpoint battles, while spirited, do not descend to the shoutfest levels of some cable-television pundits.
Feldhahn, the author of several books, said TV pundits often “literally talk over each other. You can’t hear what they’re saying. It’s extremely annoying.”
“Shaunti and I try to make our points and argue effectively without attacking,” said Glass, the Journal-Constitution’s director/online database management.
“We’re generally pretty respectful of each other, but the column still has an edge,” added Feldhahn.
“Shaunti and I like each other,” said Glass. “She’s actually a very nice person who I don’t happen to agree with on a lot of issues.”
This tough-but-not-vicious approach has struck a chord with readers and editors. “Woman to Woman” entered national distribution via Universal Press Syndicate in May, and already has about 45 newspapers — a healthy total for a relatively new column.
Each installment features a 350-word commentary and 350-word rebuttal — a column length Glass believes works for readers. “You quickly and succinctly get a 360-degree view of a topic,” she said. Feldhahn did add that it’s not easy to write so short: “I always end up with 500 words. I spend an extra hour or two a week getting it down to 350.”
Glass and Feldhahn take turns deciding on a topic, and the one who selects it writes that week’s commentary portion of the column.
The debating duo — who often quote experts in the column — have squared off on subjects such as Hurricane Katrina, the Iraq War, Cindy Sheehan, Karl Rove’s “Plamegate” involvement, medical marijuana, the Bush administration’s energy policy, whether Sandra Day O’Connor’s resignation from the U.S. Supreme Court will set women back, whether Christian counseling can change a person’s sexual preference, and whether Bible courses should be allowed in public schools. There’s also the occasional pop-culture topic, such as one about whether American Idol judge Paula Abdul should respond to allegations that she slept with a contestant.
A September “Woman to Woman” column asked the question: “Did the commitment of federal resources abroad undermine the federal response to the hurricane disaster?”
Glass wrote that “the massive, Bush-prompted budget cuts and the diversion of funds to support the Iraq war” were among the reasons for “the slow federal response” to Hurricane Katrina. She added: “(R)ather than appointing strong leaders, Bush used good-old-boy criteria for hiring FEMA directors” with little or no experience in emergency-response management.
Part of Feldhahn’s rebuttal: “I know it is hard to accept, but those experienced in disaster response recognize the hard truth: The Katrina response wasn’t perfect, and some local plans fell through, but it went about as smoothly and quickly as it could have under the circumstances — and our foreign commitments were irrelevant.”
In an earlier “Woman to Woman” column on Rove, Feldhahn wrote: “If Rove’s grand jury testimony is accurate, all he did was warn a Time reporter away from printing a lie.”
Glass responded sarcastically: “Rove is just a closet do-gooder with a big heart, trying to get the facts straight by helping out a misguided journalist. Right!”
On AJC.com, “Woman to Woman” includes a reader- response area that generates hundreds of postings a week.
Most of the feature’s other clients are print-only at this point, according to Universal. But Glass said that even without an online forum, the column has an interactive feel that reflects its Internet origins. One reason is that the rebuttal responds directly to the commentary in “Woman to Woman.” This differs from the approach of some newspapers that run point-counterpoint columns by people who haven’t read each other’s pieces. So they may end up talking past each other or going off on tangents.
Glass began “Woman to Woman” on AJC.com in 2002. The co-columnist — who credited Hyde Post, the site’s editorial director, with supporting the feature from the start — collaborated with two other conservative writers before Feldhahn came on board in mid-2003. The feature also shifted from commenting mostly on women’s issues to more general topics. “Woman to Woman” came to Universal’s attention when Jack Prahl, the syndicate’s assistant vice president/sales in the Southeast, saw it on AJC.com.
While the “Woman to Woman” dynamic is mostly left-right, other factors come into play. Feldhahn is a married mother of two; Glass is single. Glass is agnostic; Feldhahn is a churchgoing Christian. “And she’s blonde and I’m brunette, but I don’t hold that against her,” joked Glass.
Ironically, Glass grew up with conservative parents and Feldhahn grew up with more liberal ones. They do share Harvard educations: Feldhahn has a master’s degree in public policy and Glass a master’s in theological studies from that university.
Why that major for someone with agnostic views? “For me, religion encompasses many academic disciplines, including sociology, psychology, and history,” replied Glass, adding that, because she’s not religious, her theological studies helped her “understand the other side.”
Feldhahn has worked for the U.S. Senate Banking Committee and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Her books include “spiritual thrillers” such as “The Veritas Conflict” and nonfiction works such as “For Women Only: What You Need to Know About the Inner Lives of Men.” Feldhahn is writing a “For Men Only” sequel that’s slated to be published next year.
Glass — who’s working on a book about high-tech stalking — published “The Woman Rebel” in the mid-1990s. That small national magazine included point-counterpoint content that planted the seed for “Woman to Woman.”