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Doings and thinkings of gender - - routinized, ritualized and strategic interaction in the newsroom

Conference contribution
Authors Monica Löfgren Nilsson
Published in Presenterat vid IAMCRs (International Association for Media and Communication research) i Paris 16-22 juli, 2007
Publication year 2007
Published at Department of Journalism, Media and Communication (JMG)
Language en
Keywords news room cultures, gender
Subject categories Media and Communications


“It is mainly about the fact that male journalist are much better at grabbing opportunities and the girls are more like ”this is not going to be good enough” and then you’re supposed to persuade them. Male reporters just stand there, snorting, ready to get going.” “I definitely think that the news desk is a place where men take up more space and have more faith, both in others’ competence and their own.” In the quotes above, two television news journalists, in rather different ways, try to explain why gender typing still exists in the newsroom. The focus of this paper is on how gendered power relations are continuously produced and reproduced in everyday interaction. The empirical data consists of 45 in-depth interviews with female and male journalists, and two weeks of observations carried out in 2003 and 2004. The study is a part of a larger research project: Women in journalist culture – female journalists’ conditions and impact in Swedish television news 1958-2004. The paper starts with a brief description of gender typing in SVT news production during four periods: 1958-1965: Segregation & Hierarchy, 1965-1985: Fight & Conflict, 1985-1995 Almost equal?, 1995-2004: Backlash. Two theoretical concepts are used to analyze daily interactions, routinised acting and ritualized acting. Routinised acting is based on tacit knowledge; its gendered nature is an aspect that characterize both reporters’ and editors’ daily interaction. Although most journalists reject the existence of gender related differences on a general professional level, it is clear that such assumptions flourish. The dichotomy “male activity/prominent decision makers” as opposed to “female passivity/insecure hesitators” is clearly present in the newsroom. Ritualized actions are driven by the need to express and maintain shared values. The acting is symbolic and the rituals become powerful because they separate those who are part of the dominating value system from those who are not. The analysis stems from this aspect of the ritual – the including and excluding. Rituals are especially important in morning meetings and around the news desk. I argue that ritualized male homosociality – not a conscious strategy – plays a central part to exclude women. The gendered assumptions that characterize routinised action and male homosociality as a ritual work as forms of symbolic violence. An unintended consequence is that women are still partly left out in the SVT newsroom of the twenty-first century. Finally the paper discusses why some of the results from this research project have been used – both by individual female journalists and in the new strategic plans at SVT - while others have not.

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