Gwen, we love you – and we want more of you!
Now that the moderators for the 2008 Presidential debates have been chosen, including 53-year-old Gwen Ifill, Maggie at Second Innocence discusses the reasons why, unlike in earlier eras, only one of the moderators is female:

Part of the change may be due to the fact that from 1988 on, all
debates were sponsored by the Commission itself. Before 1988, the
League of Women Voters hosted the first debate in 1984, 1980 and 1976,
adding a stronger female presence. But that’s not all of it. Nearly
every debate featured women from 1976 to 1992, not just the ones the
League hosted. Another change came in 1996 when panelists were removed
from the format. The previous debates often featured a number of
panelists who would give questions to the candidates, and many of them
were women.

I also wonder if this is more of an issue than
just a change in the rules or format of the debates. Do we have a
smaller presence of strong female reporters these days? So many like
Katie Couric and other women on cable news don’t have as strong a
journalism background as the women who participated in these debates.
Many of them have backgrounds in softer programming, like Couric’s
previous job on Today .  (Couric briefly did a stint covering the Pentagon for NBC, but quickly moved to Today.)
When I did a google search for “female news anchors” nearly every
result contained the word “sexy” in the title somewhere, maybe that’s
part of our problem.

The women involved in the debates include
Helen Thomas, the most famous White House correspondent; Ann Compton,
the first female television news reporter to cover the White House full
time; Jane Bryant Quinn, a contributing editor for Newsweek,
the author of a column that ran for 27 years, and a co-developer of
Quicken software; and Pauline Frederick, a correspondent for NBC and
the first female recipient of the Peabody Award for excellence in
broadcasting. Many of them were the Chief Correspondent for their news
organization covering issues like Foreign Affairs, the United Nations,
and the White House. Where are the serious newswomen of today? And why
are they so conspicuously absent from a large forum such as the

Over at Feministing, Ann argues that the trouble is not with a lack of deep journalistic talent, but with male execs’ search for babes,  “what Samantha Bee [of ‘The Daily Show’] calls the “N.I.L.F.”
factor in network news”:

I’d argue there are just as many accomplished, serious women in
broadcast news today as there were in the ’70s and ’80s…There are also a lot of female political
correspondents and analysts who are just as qualified to query the
presidential candidates as the white-haired old men who were chosen for
the job. For one, I nominate Candy Crowley.
And, for the love of god, please give Gwen Ifill one of the
presidential debates next time around. Don’t relegate her to the VP

Anything but that NILF, anyway.

Breaking that Microfiber Ceiling
: Tonight, at 6:00 p.m. at the offices  of Oracle in Redwood Shores, CA, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will address members of the Forum for Women Entrepeneurs and Executives, which sees itself as “the center of leadership excellence for accomplished women from a wide
range of disciplines and industries who build meaningful relationships,
exchange ideas, and openly share their collective wisdom with each

Pelosi’s new book
discusses leadership issues including: determining what is most
important, not allowing others to hold you back , maintaining a sense
of humor, and– maybe the most important thing for women to
know—recognizing and leveraging personal power.

Speaker Pelosi will be introduced by Safra A. Catz, President and CFO
of Oracle Corporation followed by Nancy “in conversation” with our
Master of Ceremonies for the evening, Sydnie Kohara, anchor at CBS 5.

She speaks for the trees: In case you always suspected that Dr. Seuss’ beloved Lorax really was female, this week’s profile of Diana Beresford Kroger may offer some support to that belief — right down to the chorus of skeptics asking for more proof:

Ms. Beresford-Kroeger, 63, is a native of Ireland who has bachelor’s
degrees in medical biochemistry and botany, and has worked as a
Ph.D.-level researcher at the University of Ottawa school of medicine,
where she published several papers on the chemistry of artificial
blood. She calls herself a renegade scientist, however, because she
tries to bring together aboriginal healing, Western medicine and botany
to advocate an unusual role for trees.

She favors what she terms a bioplan, reforesting cities and rural
areas with trees according to the medicinal, environmental,
nutritional, pesticidal and herbicidal properties she claims for them,
which she calls ecofunctions.

Wafer ash, for example, could be used in organic farming, she said,
planted in hedgerows to attract butterflies away from crops. Black
walnut and honey locusts could be planted along roads to absorb
pollutants, she said.

“Her ideas are a rare, if not entirely new approach to natural
history,” said Edward O. Wilson, a Harvard biologist who wrote the
foreword for her 2003 book, “Arboretum America” (University of Michigan
Press). “The science of selecting trees for different uses around the
world has not been well studied.”

Miriam Rothschild, the British naturalist who died in 2005, wrote
glowingly of Ms. Beresford-Kroeger’s idea of bioplanning and called it
“one answer to ‘Silent Spring’ ” because it uses natural chemicals
rather than synthetic ones.

But some of Ms. Beresford-Kroeger’s claims for the health effects of
trees reach far outside the mainstream. Although some compounds found
in trees do have medicinal properties and are the subject of research
and treatment, she jumps beyond the evidence to say they also affect
human health in their natural forms. The black walnut, for example,
contains limonene, which is found in citrus fruit and elsewhere and has
been shown to have anticancer effects in some studies of laboratory
animals. Ms. Beresford-Kroeger has suggested, without evidence, that
limonene inhaled in aerosol form by humans will help prevent cancer.

David Lemkay, the general manager of the Canadian Forestry
Association, a nonprofit group that promotes the sustainable use of
Canada’s forests, is familiar with her work. “She holds fast to the
notion that if you are in the aura of a black walnut tree there’s a
healing effect,” Mr. Lemkay said. “It needs more science to be able to
say that.”

Join the conversation

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  • Chris August 14, 2008 at 8:20 am

    Hey, thank *you* for bringing up the issue. Too bad they still haven’t resolved the whole issue of how women can look authoritative without scaring the pants off … well, everyone.

  • Habladora August 13, 2008 at 10:55 am

    That Sam Bee clip cracks me up every time. I think she’s my nomination for Obama’s VP.
    Thanks for including us in your discussion of the presidential moderators. We really do need more Gwen Ifills. One thing the Sam Bee clip points out is that there is a trend with the large networks to promote male anchors who look authoritative (like Wolf), but female anchors that look… sexy.