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 1:33 AM EST, Thu December 25, 2014
Danny Cevallos says the legislature didn't have to get involved in regulating how people greet each other
updated 6:12 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Marc Harrold suggests a way to move forward after the deaths of NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos.
updated 8:36 AM EST, Wed December 24, 2014
Simon Moya-Smith says Mah-hi-vist Goodblanket, who was killed by law enforcement officers, deserves justice.
updated 2:14 PM EST, Wed December 24, 2014
Val Lauder says that for 1,700 years, people have been debating when, and how, to celebrate Christmas
updated 3:27 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Raphael Sperry says architects should change their ethics code to ban involvement in designing torture chambers
updated 10:35 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Paul Callan says Sony is right to call for blocking the tweeting of private emails stolen by hackers
updated 7:57 AM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
As Christmas arrives, eyes turn naturally toward Bethlehem. But have we got our history of Christmas right? Jay Parini explores.
updated 11:29 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
The late Joe Cocker somehow found himself among the rock 'n' roll aristocracy who showed up in Woodstock to help administer a collective blessing upon a generation.
updated 4:15 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
History may not judge Obama kindly on Syria or even Iraq. But for a lame duck president, he seems to have quacking left to do, says Aaron Miller.
updated 1:11 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Terrorism and WMD -- it's easy to understand why these consistently make the headlines. But small arms can be devastating too, says Rachel Stohl.
updated 1:08 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
Ever since "Bridge-gate" threatened to derail Chris Christie's chances for 2016, Jeb Bush has been hinting he might run. Julian Zelizer looks at why he could win.
updated 1:53 PM EST, Sat December 20, 2014
New York's decision to ban hydraulic fracturing was more about politics than good environmental policy, argues Jeremy Carl.
updated 3:19 PM EST, Sat December 20, 2014
On perhaps this year's most compelling drama, the credits have yet to roll. But we still need to learn some cyber lessons to protect America, suggest John McCain.
updated 5:39 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
Conservatives know easing the trade embargo with Cuba is good for America. They should just admit it, says Fareed Zakaria.
updated 8:12 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
We're a world away from Pakistan in geography, but not in sentiment, writes Donna Brazile.
updated 12:09 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
How about a world where we have murderers but no murders? The police still chase down criminals who commit murder, we have trials and justice is handed out...but no one dies.
updated 6:45 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
The U.S. must respond to North Korea's alleged hacking of Sony, says Christian Whiton. Failing to do so will only embolden it.
updated 4:34 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
President Obama has been flexing his executive muscles lately despite Democrat's losses, writes Gloria Borger
updated 2:51 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Jeff Yang says the film industry's surrender will have lasting implications.
updated 4:13 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Newt Gingrich: No one should underestimate the historic importance of the collapse of American defenses in the Sony Pictures attack.
updated 7:55 AM EST, Wed December 10, 2014
Dean Obeidallah asks how the genuine Stephen Colbert will do, compared to "Stephen Colbert"
updated 12:34 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Some GOP politicians want drug tests for welfare recipients; Eric Liu says bailed-out execs should get equal treatment
updated 8:42 AM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Louis Perez: Obama introduced a long-absent element of lucidity into U.S. policy on Cuba.
updated 12:40 PM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
The slaughter of more than 130 children by the Pakistani Taliban may prove as pivotal to Pakistan's security policy as the 9/11 attacks were for the U.S., says Peter Bergen.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT