July 20, 2023
Exceptional women are no strangers to American journalism going back almost two centuries. The problem is that they were almost always seen as exceptions, not indicators of what many of their gender could actually do.
Of course, journalism, being part of the society it serves, cannot totally escape sharing — as well as reporting — that society’s consciousness, conventions, and prejudices, despite a frequent parallel mission to spotlight injustices and potential corrections. But as women prompted society to broaden its view of their role in work, citizenship, sex, and marriage, journalism too entered a process of change still ongoing.
Women’s increasing numbers in, and influence on, American journalism — the recent elevation of two female execs at CNN meant that women now direct or co-direct every major U.S. news network — is the whole point of “Undaunted,” by the veteran correspondent, editor, and journalism professor Brooke Kroeger.
So your question now might well be: Why isn’t a woman writing this review?
Of course, assignment by gender is one of the traps that women of my profession have so long struggled against. But for whatever reason, I am delighted with the opportunity to celebrate them — especially those I have worked for (primarily Katharine Graham at The Washington Post and Newsweek), worked with (Nora Ephron at old New York Post, Lynn Povich and Liz Peer at Newsweek, Anna Quindlen for the Newsweek radio show), and befriended over six decades (Gail Sheehy, a longtime tennis pal, among others), all of whom who figure in the many tales Ms. Kroeger tells of sexist obstacles overcome even before the usual hurdles in creating that “first, rough draft of history,” as Boss Lady Graham’s late husband defined our calling.
Also I was a not-so-innocent (some might say) bystander to the Great Turning Point on March 16, 1970, when young women researchers at Newsweek filed suit for assignments, pay, titles, and respect equal to what was enjoyed by young male journalists there (like me, then). The settlement helped accelerate equity and womanpower throughout print, broadcast, and subsequent online platforms.
But Ms. Kroeger starts with dense details about those earliest “exceptionals,” many of whom were at least as much activists as journalists, digging deeply to expose conditions of inequality and oppression along race, wealth, and gender lines.
Read the full review on the East Hampton Star site at this link or from the print version below.
David Alpern also posted this related video on YouTube, with actuality from interviews with Katharine Graham of the The Washington Post and Jill Abramson of The New York Times: