When Media Report to Women was
started five years ago, no one thought the
typical fledgling women's periodical with
three to six mimeographed pages every
other month, had much of a future. But
most people were counting without the
precision and tenacity of the unflappable
Today the 16-page newsletter, a
compact compendium of the status of
women and of feminist issues in every area
of the media, is self-supporting through
When Allen saw the problems with
coverage of women's issues by the mainstream (white male) press, she decided to
turn her talents to providing a forum for
women. Soon Media Report was carrying
news by and about women who worked
in communications as well as information
about how women are portrayed in media.
In an interview with Matrix, the
quarterly magazine of Women in Communications, Allen pointed out that women are still a minority in media production
and management. "There are two ways in
which women's progress toward full equality is hindered by this: First, women lack
a means of communication. After all, if
you don't know you can do some things
or change other things, you probably
won't do them. Second, women's progress
is hindered by attacks by the media-the
press divides us, and then asks why we are
Dr. Allen, economist, historian and
author, is a member of the Media Committee, U.S. Commission on the Observance of International Women's Year and
convenor of the Media Task Force, National Women's Agenda.
In the January 1, 1976 edition of
Media Report, she outlined Three Principles of Feminist Journalism to counter
the problems created by a male-dominated
press. They are: 1) "no attacks on people";
2) " more factual information with full
texts and direct quotes where possible";
and 3) "people should speak for themselves." While Allen uses these criteria for
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the selection and presentation of its news
information in Media Report, she adds,
"We have also found them useful as a standard for examining the performance of
other media as well as our own. We believe
that journalism based on these three principles is more respectful of people."
These concepts challenge the traditional theory of mass communications
which holds that using labels to describe
sources, citing sources' opinions instead of
provable facts, and paraphrasing quotes
are sometimes acceptable practices in both
news and feature stories.
In discussing the problems that gave
rise to the feminist journalism principles,
Allen wrote, "These three basic criteria
address the most common complaints
women have about the communications
media . . . and we believe that their application could constructively improve
the conditions that give rise to each
type of criticism: 1) that the image of
women in media too often is derogatory,
restrictive and inaccurate; 2) that the
media do not carry enough news coverage
of women's activities and issues, especially
in light of the proportion of the public
that are women; and 3) that insufficient
employment of women in the media, particularly in policy-making positions, results
in men speaking for the female 53 per cent
of the population" (italics hers).
Media Report to Women practices
all that Allen preaches. Stories use extensive quotes, exact dates and sources'
names. And the subscription rate of $15
a year is reduced to $10 for women who
send a personal check or money order,
since women in general are paid only
two-thirds of men's wages.
In addition to Media Report to
Women, the Women's Institute for Freedom of the Press, also founded by Allen,
publishes an annual index and directory
which lists more than 500 women in
media, women's presses, library collec
tions and publishing houses. The Institute
is a non-profit, tax-exempt organization
devoted to research and publishing of
practical and theoretical works on the
communication of information.
The Institute does research on all
aspects of communication, studies the
ways that freedom of the press can be extended to more people, and informs women
who have a special interest in media of new
developments in the field.
One of the Institute's contributions
to research is Women in Media: A Documentary Source Book by Maurine Beasley
and Sheila Silver. The book, published in
August of this year and distributed by the
Institute, is a historical anthology beginning with Mary Katherine Goddard's 1970
"Petition to U.S. Senate," and ending with
"Satellite Communication: Women in
Media of the Future."
Allen is not alone in her advocacy
of press rights for women. Associates in
the Institute include Passages author Gail
Sheehy; Gloria Steinem and Patricia Carbine, founders of Ms. magazine; Women
and Madness author Phyllis Chesler;
Susan Brownmiller, author of Against
Our Will; Robin Morgan, Sisterhood is
Powerful author; also Janice Blue, Gabrielle Cosgriff and Gertrude Barnstone,
founders of Houston Breakthrough.
From Donna Allen's original idea,
the Institute has grown to a network of
approximately 400 associates around the
country, all of them committed to non-"
discriminatory employment of women in
media and better coverage of women's
issues. Media Report expands the network
even further with some 1,000 individual
subscriptions and about 500 more to libraries, journalism schools, editors and
To subscribe or share ideas, write
Dr. Donna Allen, Women's Institute for
Freedom of the Press, 3306 Ross Place
N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008.
1 MIDLIFE ... the newsletter for young women over 35
In a complex world, MIDLIFE searches out the influences and events
that affect the lives of its readers, recounts the information in simple,
everyday language, and suggests appropriate action to effect change.
MIDLIFE is easy to read, objective, practical, and strives to expand,
enrich, and improve the direction and scope of your life.
To subscribe, or to request a sample copy of MIDLIFE, clip on
the dotted line below, fill out form, and send to:
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MAGAZINE CONGRATULATES THE WOMEN WHO HAVE COME TO HOUSTON
TO MOVE HISTORY FORWARD
IN THE NOVEMBER ISSUE:
COUNTDOWN TO HOUSTON: MEMO FOR THE FIRST NATIONAL WOMEN'S CONFERENCE
COMING UP IN DECEMBER:
SPECIAL ISSUE: THE ARTS EXPLOSION WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE!
Ms. Magazine. A good place to find yourself.
DAILY BREAKTHROUGH NOVEMBER 19, 1977 PAGE 15