newspaper bias against mom bloggersThe latest New York Times article on mom bloggers, Honey, Don’t Bother Mommy. I’m Too Busy Building My Brand,  is yet another of many from the Times that attempts to marginalize our industry. Liz Gumbinner has an amazing post about the snarky New York Times article, and the comments there are outstanding. Be sure to read it.

We are not simply complaining about that article. There is a pattern heavily in the New York Times, but also in other major newspapers, of condescending to and insulting mom bloggers. I am here to say that it is time we take a stand against it.

Here are but a few snippets from the latest New York Times article about the Bloggy Bootcamp conference in Baltimore:

ON a brisk Saturday morning this month, a dedicated crew of about 90 women, most in their 30s or thereabouts, arrived at a waterfront hotel here, prepared for a daylong conference that offered to school them in the latest must-have skill set for the minivan crowd.

Teaching your baby to read? Please. How to hide vegetables in your children’s food? Oh, that’s so 2008.

And this is in reference to my friend Tara’s session on SEO (something, incidentally, many companies have budgets for in the thousands annually):

Heed the speaker’s advice, and you, too, might get 28,549 views of your tutu-making tutorial! Whereas so-called mommy blogs were once little more than glorified electronic scrapbooks, a place to share the latest pictures of little Aidan and Ava with Great-Aunt Sylvia in Omaha, they have more recently evolved into a cultural force to be reckoned with.

Why is it so shocking that moms would discuss something besides parenting? How ridiculous. Why was this even in the Style section? If it were a tech conference for men the tone would be entirely different. It would go in business. It would not mention minivans. And I won’t even get into “glorified electronic scrapbooks.” I know many moms who have blogged about topics such as business and social media and politics for years that go well beyond that little dig.

Yes, mom blogging is an industry. It isn’t something cute we adorable widdle mommies do to share diaper stories. Whether we’re making money or not (mostly not), it is an industry. There are plenty of industries in which many workers in it make little or no money, such as writing, fine art and acting.

We get marginalized for a few reasons, including:

  • We are women who are, perhaps for one of the first times, far better at something than men in many cases and far better in an industry that is making a major impact. I should explain that I know many, many men who are talented, brilliant bloggers, but that isn’t surprising. For women to stand out in an industry that major corporations are clamoring to get involved with just sits wrong with some people.
  • We are excelling in the media landscape, which doesn’t sit well with traditional media.
  • We are turning our backs on the mold that has been created for us.
  • We are threatening to traditional publishers, mostly old white men who couldn’t write a blog or use Twitter if you put a gun to their heads.
  • Newspaper circulation keeps declining, while blog readership and authorship keeps growing.
  • Writing snarky articles about mom bloggers encourages mom bloggers to share links and drive readers to the newspaper’s web site. (Here’s a hint, New York Times… we would share positive coverage just as much, if not more).

We are trying to make a living by creating content, and for that we get demeaned, criticized, talked down to, made fun of, and stereotyped as unethical money and swag grabbing whores.

I know of a few other organizations that make their money creating content. Namely, mainstream media.

Mom blogging is a new media revolution.

Many moms blog because we have found the current establishment unacceptable in many cases. How many mom bloggers were once career women? How many have a day job but hope to one day make enough from their blog to leave it? How many found it difficult to balance career and family? How many found it even more difficult to convince their employer to give an inch to make it easier: allow working from home, allow flex time, allow job sharing?

In the midst of this down economy, how many blogging moms kept food on their children’s tables or a roof over their heads?

Mom bias begins in the newsroom.

I left newspapers after 15 years, despite loving my work and being a third-generation journalist raised by two journalists because the field was so family-unfriendly. In fact, another layer of this bias against mom bloggers in media is that the same bias exists in many newsrooms against moms who work there.

Newspapers want employees who place their job above all else in their lives. Moms just won’t do that, and that is a problem. There is this sense that moms, who can’t be on call 24-7 because they have children they need to care for, have it easier than childless reporters. Anyone who thinks being a reporter and a parent is an easily life is a fool.

Women blogging is a revolution, a rejection of the status quo. We have been forced into a box for centuries, and we refuse to accept it. We refuse to be told we have to choose between success and motherhood. We refuse to follow the unbending rules of corporate jobs that in many cases make you prioritize job over family. Most of all, we refuse to accept that mainstream media, with its quality decline and clear bias, should be the only source of information.

It is getting to the point that I am frankly embarrassed for the traditional media. They are making fools of themselves. They are abandoning all of their allegedly dear principles, such as bias, fair reporting and serving readers, in their need to belittle moms and women, in their desperation to remain viable and profitable. They could devote that energy instead to pursuing real journalism, investigative journalism, interacting and hearing their readers, and learning the social media landscape so they could cease the deterioration of their industry.

It amazes me how many commented at Liz’s post that mom bloggers should just be happy to be getting coverage. We don’t need coverage. We are far better masters at building buzz and engaging with readers than newspapers are. Thanks, but no thanks.

When I was a reporter, even covering controversial beats (which is really all I did cover), I always balanced reporting even of cops, courts, politics and business with a mix of positive and negative articles. That, my friends, is lacking bias. You should cover the whole picture, and represent the beat comprehensively.

Liz did a fabulous job of listing the many amazing stories from the mom blogosphere that are being missed, so I won’t try to replicate that. Major newspapers missed the entire story of Jaeli, where mom bloggers joined forces to save the life of a baby. Apparently, that isn’t newsworthy. Most missed the amazing and inspirational story of Anissa Mayhew, a fellow mom blogger whose stroke motivated an entire community of hundreds of bloggers to rally in her support.

If you think this post is about one snarky article, or even just one snarky article by the New York Times, I would like to offer a collective of their so-called fair and balanced reporting of the mom blogosphere. (I use so-called because I find it amusing, considering how many times news articles have referred to us as “so-called mom bloggers,” like it’s some sort of scam).

Here is just a small sampling of mainstream media coverage of mom bloggers. I’ll start with New York Times:

There was Drinking in the Land of Mommy Blogdom (and yes, it’s about what you think it is).

Then there was Approval by a Blogger May Please a Sponsor, which goes so far as to insinuate that moms get kickbacks:

The proliferation of paid sponsorships online has not been without controversy. Some in the online world deride the actions as kickbacks. Others also question the legitimacy of bloggers’ opinions, even when the commercial relationships are clearly outlined to readers.

And the Federal Trade Commission is taking a hard look at such practices and may soon require online media to comply with disclosure rules under its truth-in-advertising guidelines.

A short two months later, the New York Times writes about dad bloggers getting in on this action. You can read the two articles for yourself to compare tones, but this one has but a brief mention of FTC guidelines. Instead, this is mentioned:

Sony emphasizes that the products it is sending daddy bloggers are on loan, not gifts, and bloggers are not being pressured to write positive reviews. “We expect the reviews to be very honest,” said Marcy Cohen, a Sony spokeswoman.

I believe the title of this one speaks for itself: Beauty Blogs Come of Age: Swag Please!

Ah, and he is an oldie but a goodie. Mom’s Mad. And She’s Organized. Noteworthy quote:

A BABY was passed around like the hors d’oeuvres.

Nice. Clearly, this was an article about something cute and trite, right? Not so much. It was about MomsRising, an organization to empower and give political might to moms.

The only nugget of wisdom about moms I found on New York Times has such irony, especially when you consider their coverage of an industry of women bloggers. The Anti-Mommy Bias isn’t specific to mom bloggers (that must be how it slipped past editors), but it sure is enlightening on this topic. Just replace employers with journalists for a snicker.

Employers sometimes assume that women with care responsibilities will be, and should be, less committed to their jobs. Such assumptions and beliefs can influence employment outcomes even when caregivers work just as long and hard as everybody else…

In one experiment, about 200 undergraduates were asked to rate paired applications for an imaginary midlevel managerial job. Both female and male students rated mothers lower on competence and commitment, recommended lower salaries for them, and judged them less worthy of promotion than childless women.

In an even more convincing audit study, fictional résumés and cover letters were sent to employers advertising midlevel marketing and business job openings at a large Northeastern city newspaper. Childless women received 2.1 times as many callbacks as mothers. Fathers, however, were not penalized.

What did I say about bias against moms in the newsroom? Yeah.

To be fair, New York Times is not the only newspaper to show bias against moms who blog. Here is a sampling of some of the oh-so flattering coverage in other major newspapers:

I know this is a long post and I know these are a lot of links. But I have a reason for that. This is not an isolated incident. This isn’t even just one major newspaper. This is a pattern.

I would say that we should boycott newspapers, but are we even reading them? I mean, except when they write this drivel? And we are forced to either ignore it or drive readers their way by criticizing it.

We need to take a stand. So what are we going to do about it?

Edited to add: I think we are all at a loss as to what to do about this. I wrote a letter to the editor of the New York Times, and I highly recommend you also write one. There are instructions here. I would also recommend emailing the Times’ ombudsman at public@nytimes.com. His name is Clark Hoyt, and this is the paper’s description of his role: “The public editor works outside of the reporting and editing structure of the newspaper and receives and answers questions or comments from readers and the public, principally about articles published in the paper.” We may not be a big corporation, but our voices are our might.

Photo of man with newspaper and woman with laptop, © FaceMePLS on Flickr.