Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

Why we need women journalists on the front lines

By Frida Ghitis
updated 7:51 AM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
Associated Press photographer Anja Niedringhaus, an internationally acclaimed, Pulitzer Prize-winning German photographer, was fatally shot in Afghanistan, the AP said Friday, April 4. She was 48. Click through the gallery to see some of her photos from over the years. Associated Press photographer Anja Niedringhaus, an internationally acclaimed, Pulitzer Prize-winning German photographer, was fatally shot in Afghanistan, the AP said Friday, April 4. She was 48. Click through the gallery to see some of her photos from over the years.
HIDE CAPTION
From the lens of Anja Niedringhaus
From the lens of Anja Niedringhaus
From the lens of Anja Niedringhaus
From the lens of Anja Niedringhaus
From the lens of Anja Niedringhaus
From the lens of Anja Niedringhaus
From the lens of Anja Niedringhaus
From the lens of Anja Niedringhaus
From the lens of Anja Niedringhaus
From the lens of Anja Niedringhaus
From the lens of Anja Niedringhaus
From the lens of Anja Niedringhaus
From the lens of Anja Niedringhaus
From the lens of Anja Niedringhaus
From the lens of Anja Niedringhaus
From the lens of Anja Niedringhaus
From the lens of Anja Niedringhaus
From the lens of Anja Niedringhaus
From the lens of Anja Niedringhaus
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • AP photographer was killed and reporter shot last week in Afghanistan
  • Frida Ghitis says the two women provided compelling angles on key world stories
  • She says women belong on front lines, have an ability to highlight human concerns
  • Ghitis: We are still seeing the world mostly through the eyes of male journalists

Editor's note: Frida Ghitis is a world affairs columnist for The Miami Herald and World Politics Review. A former CNN producer and correspondent, she is the author of "The End of Revolution: A Changing World in the Age of Live Television." Follow her on Twitter @FridaGhitis. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN) -- Do we need women in the front lines of journalism? Don't doubt it for a second. We all suffered a terrible loss when an Afghan policeman shot and killed the extraordinarily talented AP photographer Anja Niedringhaus last week.

We lost the ability to see the world through Niedringhaus' compelling lens. We lost her insight, and we lost what would have come from her commitment to helping us understand the complexities of our world. Most of all, we lost the benefits of her unique ability to show us the connection between historical events and individual human beings.

Niedringhaus and her close friend, AP correspondent Kathy Gannon, were covering the run-up to elections when an Afghan policeman walked toward their car, shouted "Allahu akbar" and shot them both. Gannon, also a veteran journalist with vast experience covering the world's most dangerous places, was injured.

Frida Ghitis
Frida Ghitis

The shooting, as it happens, came shortly after the Women's Media Center released its report, "The Status of Women in the U.S. Media 2014."

The snapshot taken in the last quarter of 2013 found men still had almost two-thirds of all bylines and on-camera appearances in the major newspapers, television networks, newswire services and online news sites. We have seen notable improvements over the years, but the report points to "a troubling status quo and, in some places, a slipping back in time."

Women journalists remain concentrated in "women's" subjects such as family, style and health.

That means we are looking and trying to understand the world mostly through men's eyes when it comes to foreign affairs, justice and politics.

This is not just a matter of concern to women journalists. We are all shortchanged when women are subtly edged out of reporting on major world news.

2 AP journalists shot in Afghanistan

Is there a difference in men and women's reporting?

Despite the gender bias, there are hundreds of female journalists around the world, many covering -- some dying -- in conflict zones. Women give us the hard news, the politics, the strategy, the conflict.

I won't argue here whether women are more sensitive in their coverage. But I will tell you this: Women listen to other women much more closely, and they pay much greater attention to how political and military developments affect individuals, particularly other women.

Consider this: Long before 9/11, Afghanistan had turned into a hell-on-Earth for women under the ultraextremist, hypermisogynistic Taliban, who made even the sound of women's laughter a crime. A CDC study found Afghan women suffered among the highest levels of depression anywhere in the world -- levels that were, not surprisingly, much higher than for Afghan men.

Now that the U.S. is about to leave Afghanistan, the prospect that hard-won gains will be reversed creates enormous fears for Afghan women.

To see how this is covered, I googled three words: "Afghan Women Fear." The first six news stories on the subject were all written by women.

Read the six stories: Rights slipping away / Peace talk plans / Silenced by fear / More backsliding / Hope and fear / The future

Niedringhaus once wrote, "For me it is about showing the struggle and survival of the individual."

You can see that clearly in her stunning pictures, especially on Afghanistan; in the image of a little girl struggling to see through her face-covering burqa, or a boy riding a merry-go-round while brandishing a toy machine gun, or in the gallery of portraits of the women in Afghanistan's parliament, the ones who have beaten the odds in a place where men's grip on power has been so hard to loosen.

Gannon, too, has shown she can write about the hard edge of fighting and politics. But it's no coincidence that Gannon, a woman, is the one who took us to Malala's old school in Pakistan to show us how, despite the growing fame of the girl who was nearly killed for advocating education for girls, her former classmates are even more frightened than before.

We are still seeing the world mostly through men's eyes. We are still hearing it explained to us mostly by men.
Frida Ghitis

It's not all about the subject matter or the byline. The Women's Media Center found that men were quoted in The New York Times 3.4 times more often than women, but the number dropped when women wrote the story.

To be sure, a number of women journalists have strong and respected voices. CNN's Christiane Amanpour is a major figure in international journalism, and both ABC News and the "PBS NewsHour" are anchored by distinguished women journalists.

On the other side of the lens, you might be surprised to find countless talented and courageous women. When I was a CNN staffer, many of the network's top videographers were women. I still count many women friends among the people risking their lives covering conflict around the world.

But international journalism remains firmly dominated by men, even though women are taking enormous risks in the field. As Kimberly Dozier -- also injured in a war zone -- explained, "Anja and Kathy ... took risks almost no else covering the war was willing to take." But they did it carefully, and "only when they saw a story they thought needed to be told."

When it comes to news analysis and opinion -- a topic of particular interest to me -- the situation is just as bad, if not worse. Men opinion writers, according to the new report, outnumber women 4-to-1.

That's barely an improvement over 2011, when the OpEd Project found women wrote just 20% of op-eds in the country's top newspapers, and were "practically absent in the debate" on hard news topics, writing just 13% of opinions on international politics and 11% of opinions on the economy. Women wrote about half of all commentary on food, recreation, family and style.

We have made a lot of progress since the days when Eleanor Roosevelt started her weekly press conference open only to female journalists, partly as an effort to force newspapers to hire at least one woman. But there is a long way to go.

We are still seeing the world mostly through men's eyes. We are still hearing it explained to us mostly by men. And for the one-third of stories that come from women, from the pictures we were fortunate to have thanks to Anja Niedringhaus, from the stories we've read thanks to Kathy Gannon, we know what a difference it makes to have women in the front lines of journalism.

Don't doubt it for a second.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 12:26 PM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
The death of Douglas McAuthur McCain, the first American killed fighting for ISIS, highlights the pull of Syria's war for Western jihadists, writes Peter Bergen.
updated 6:42 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Former ambassador to Syria Robert Ford says the West should be helping moderates in the Syrian armed opposition end the al-Assad regime and form a government to focus on driving ISIS out
updated 9:21 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says a great country does not deport thousands of vulnerable, unaccompanied minors who fled in fear for their lives
updated 9:19 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Robert McIntyre says Congress is the culprit for letting Burger King pay lower taxes after merging with Tim Hortons.
updated 7:35 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Wesley Clark says the U.S. can offer support to its Islamic friends in the region most threatened by ISIS, but it can't fight their war
updated 7:26 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Jeff Yang says the tech sector's diversity numbers are embarrassing and the big players need to do more.
updated 4:53 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
America's painful struggle with racism has often brought great satisfaction to the country's rivals, critics, and foes. The killing of Michael Brown and its tumultuous aftermath has been a bonanza.
updated 4:19 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Ed Bark says in this Emmy year, broadcasters CBS, ABC and PBS can all say they matched or exceeded HBO. These days that's no small feat
updated 3:19 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Rick Martin says the death of Robin Williams brought back memories of his own battle facing down depression as a young man
updated 11:58 AM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
David Perry asks: What's the best way for police officers to handle people with psychiatric disabilities?
updated 3:50 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Julian Zelizer says it's not crazy to think Mitt Romney would be able to end up at the top of the GOP ticket in 2016
updated 4:52 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Roxanne Jones and her girlfriends would cheer from the sidelines for the boys playing Little League. But they really wanted to play. Now Mo'ne Davis shows the world that girls really can throw.
updated 12:29 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider say a YouTube video apparently posted by ISIS seems to show that the group has a surveillance drone, highlighting a new reality: Terrorist groups have technology once only used by states
updated 5:04 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Kimberly Norwood is a black mom who lives in an affluent neighborhood not far from Ferguson, but she has the same fears for her children as people in that troubled town do
updated 5:45 PM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
It apparently has worked for France, say Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider, but carries uncomfortable risks. When it comes to kidnappings, nations face grim options.
updated 1:27 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
John Bare says the Ice Bucket Challenge signals a new kind of activism and peer-to-peer fund-raising.
updated 8:31 AM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
James Dawes says calling ISIS evil over and over again could very well make it harder to stop them.
updated 9:05 PM EDT, Sat August 23, 2014
As the inquiry into the shooting of Michael Brown continues, critics question the prosecutor's impartiality.
updated 6:47 PM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
Newt Gingrich says it's troubling that a vicious group like ISIS can recruit so many young men from Britain.
updated 10:50 AM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
David Weinberger says Twitter and other social networks have been vested with a responsibility, and a trust, they did not ask for.
updated 7:03 AM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
John Inazu says the slogan "We are Ferguson" is meant to express empathy and solidarity. It's not true: Not all of us live in those circumstances. But we all made them.
updated 8:23 AM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
Retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling says he learned that the territory ISIS wants to control is amazingly complex.
updated 3:51 PM EDT, Wed August 20, 2014
Cerue Garlo says Liberia is desperate for help amid a Ebola outbreak that has touched every aspect of life.
updated 1:42 PM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
Eric Liu says Republicans who want to restrict voting may win now, but the party will suffer in the long term.
updated 11:38 AM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
Jay Parini: Jesus, Pope and now researchers agree: Wealth decreases our ability to sympathize with the poor.
updated 8:00 AM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
Judy Melinek offers a medical examiner's perspective on what happens when police kill people like Michael Brown.
updated 6:03 PM EDT, Tue August 19, 2014
It used to be billy clubs, fire hoses and snarling German shepherds. Now it's armored personnel carriers and flash-bang grenades, writes Kara Dansky.
updated 1:27 PM EDT, Wed August 20, 2014
Maria Haberfeld: People who are unfamiliar with police work can reasonably ask, why was an unarmed man shot so many times, and why was deadly force used at all?
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT