As Katie Couric leaves her pioneering role as the first women anchor of a nightly network news broadcast, it appears that she arrived just as what was once the flagship of end-of-the-day journalism was shrinking to not much more than a rowboat, and a sinking one at that. Where once Walter Cronkite united audiences and was seen as the most trusted man in the country, most people under age 30 cannot even name the network anchors — they get their news from “The Daily Show.” Is it a coincidence that John Stewart’s show has been sharply criticized for its overwhelmingly male staff? Or that Couric now reportedly will leave news for a talk show?
Perhaps I am especially concerned with these issues because of my recent participation in the International Women’s Media Foundation conference at George Washington University. The event opened with a Kalb Report interview of Diane Sawyer, who spoke about the impact of budget cuts and new media on the nightly news broadcast.
Women from all over the world shared their stories about the way women were treated as reporters, editors, and managers and as sources and subjects of news stories as well. Domestic violence stories at one paper were characterized as “a family tragedy,” until women in the newsroom insisted that they be described like any other homicide: murder. A paper in Norway made a commitment to have at least one photo of a woman on the front page every day — and not an actress. A German newspaper requires that one-half of its staff be female and makes an effort at parity in sources and stories as well.
The IWMF released a major new report, the first comprehensive global study of women in media, covering not just the roles and ranks of women working in the media but the way stories are selected and covered. Conducted over a two-year period, the report is based on data gathered by more than 150 researchers through interviews with executives at more than500 companies in 59 countries based on a 12-page questionnaire. The report found:
In the Asia and Oceana region, women are barely 13 percent of those in senior management, but in some individual nations women exceed men at that level, e.g., in South Africa women are 79.5 percent of those in senior management. In Lithuania women dominate the reporting ranks of junior and senior professional levels (78.5 percent and 70.6 percent, respectively), and their representation is nearing parity in the middle and top management ranks.
The global study identified glass ceilings for women in 20 of 59 nations studied. Most commonly these invisible barriers were found in middle and senior management levels. Slightly more than half of the companies surveyed have an established company-wide policy on gender equity. These ranged from 16 percent of companies surveyed in Eastern Europe to 69 percent in Western Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Only a little more than half of the news organizations have adopted a policy on gender discrimination.
Conference attendees used the report as a baseline to develop goals and strategies for improvement to take back to their publications. Panel members from around the world talked about the importance of a public commitment to specific benchmarks — without imposing counterproductive quotas — that will cover not just reporters, columnists, editors, and managers but choices of sources and stories.
As with all debates on gender issues, there was a conflict between arguments that women are the same as men and arguments that they are different. A discussion on putting journalists in danger included the “genderized” treatment of the attack on Lara Logan. Participants complained that Logan’s injuries led to sweeping statements that women should not be sent to cover the Middle East, while attacks on male journalists are seen on a case-by-case basis.
But there were also many discussions of the different perspective that women bring to sources and stories, the importance of making women’s points of view available to both male and female readers, and the impact of women as visible, credible role models for the next generation of journalists.
The limited data available from earlier studies show some progress for women in media, more as reporters than as managers. This report, while incomplete due to the refusal by some news organizations to cooperate, especially on issues relating to compensation, provides the first meaningful baseline for measuring future progress.
But the measure of success is a moving target. The conference presentations made it clear that the challenges of strengthening the presence of women in journalism are small in comparison to the transformational changes affecting the industry as a whole. U.S.-based print newspapers, which have relied in the past on advertising and classified ads for the majority of their revenue and are now losing readers to the web, are at a disadvantage over newspapers in other countries with less internet access (so far) and more subscription-based business models.
In a luncheon speech, Ambassador Melanne Verveer, President Obama’s appointee for Global Women’s Issues, spoke about the mobile phone as one of the most powerful factors in providing access to the crucial information that helps women achieve equality. The conference participants recognized that the greatest obstacle to keeping well-researched information available is not sexism but the Gresham’s law-impact of avalanches of free online content.
Here’s all you need to know about the stars: Jeff Bridges and Bruce Boxleitner return as Kevin and Alan and their avatar/doubles, CLU and Tron. They are joined by Garrett Hedlund as Kevin’s son, Sam, and Olivia Wilde as Quorra, a resident of the alternate universe on the other side of a portal called The Grid.
Here’s all you need to know about the plot: Sam goes into The Grid looking for his father, there are some fights and races and chases and discussions of meta-reality and the perfection of imperfection, and some more chases.
Now, let’s get to what we’re really here for — the eye candy.
Twenty-eight years ago Disney released “Tron,” a sci-fi saga about two men sucked into a computer game. The plot was murky but the design was sharp and the computer-generated effects were innovative, and later received an Oscar for technical achievement. It was a modest success on release, inspired future Pixar wizard John Lasseter and led to some popular computer games. Its effects now seem quaintly primitive, but it is still remembered fondly by fanboys, gamers, and Comic-Con attendees.
Time for a sequel, with another great leap forward, technically, at least. Actually, it is many leaps forward, even past “Avatar,” whose envelope-pushing cameras they used — after they tricked them up a little more. And the technical term for what they have produced is: Wowza.
Fasten your seatbelts.
Kevin somehow lives in a preposterously zen apartment with a lot of gleaming surfaces and aerodynamic curves, everything in cool shades of gray, but on his shelves are old, high touch leather-bound books like Jules Verne’s The Mysterious Island with the jewel-like cover illustration by N.C. Wyeth. Then things really go over the top with a rave scene in a dementedly decadent disco, hosted by a flamboyant “Cabaret”-style emcee played by Michael Sheen with hat and cane. His eyes glitter and the curve of his nose is so impossibly perfect it might be another architectural flourish.
In IMAX 3D you will feel like you, too, have entered the grid, as the screen shifts from 2D to 3D when Sam crosses through the portal. And in a way, you have, to a world where the imperfect may not be perfect, but it is fun to watch.
A gallant warrior mouse and a dragon with a secret join the two youngest Pevensie children for a voyage and a quest in the third and best so far in the Narnia series. War has come to England and Edmund (Skandar Keynes) tries to enlist, protesting “I’ve fought wars and led armies,” when he is rejected for not being old enough to join. Peter (William Moseley) and Susan (Anna Popplewell) are on the brink of the adult world. But the younger children, Lucy (Georgie Henley) and Edmund are packed off to live with relatives, including their arrogant meanie of a cousin, Eustace (“Son of Rambow’s” Will Poulter), a young man who believes that he (with the help of science and logic) has all the answers. Time for a trip to Narnia, this time via a magic painting of a ship at sea, which suddenly floods the bedroom and washes them away.
They are picked up by a ship called the Dawn Treader, led by their old friend King Caspian (Ben Barnes). And soon they are on a quest to find seven banished lords and their seven swords.
They will face daunting challenges, some of the most terrifying coming from themselves, sometimes amplified by malevolent magic and sometimes just a reflection of their own youth, inexperience, and insecurities. They accuse each other of not being up to the tasks as they wonder themselves whether they are. They are drawn to worldly prizes. Lucy is so eager to be as pretty and grown up as her big sister that she steals a spell from a book of incantations. Eustace keeps stoutly insisting that he wants them to get the British consulate to sort things out and tries to stuff treasure into his pockets. Edmund sees a vision of the White Queen, still tempting him to betray the others. In one moment reminiscent of “Ghostbusters,” “Harry Potter,” and “1984,” an evil force brings into life whatever is most feared by the people it is attacking.
The movie succeeds most as a visual treat. The title vessel is genuinely enchanting, exactly what you would want a fairy tale ship to look like. The series moves smoothly into 3D, designed more to draw you into the world of Narnia than to make you swat away distracting objects seemingly suspended in front of your nose. It also achieves a nice balance, accessible to those who are not familiar with the books and the first two movies or interested in the Christian allegory but satisfying for those who are.
Now this is a pure movie magic. There has never been an on- and off-screen romance like the nine-movie pairing of Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn. When writer-director Joseph Mankiewicz introduced them, Hepburn, who was wearing special heels that added several inches to her slender frame, said, “I’m afraid I’m too tall for you, Mr. Tracy.” Mankiewicz said, “Don’t worry, he’ll soon cut you down to size.” And thus began a movie legend. She was never as natural and playful on screen with anyone else. And his love for her just shone from him, always.
Their first movie together was “Woman of the Year.” They work for the same newspaper. He’s a sportswriter and she’s an expert in international affairs who writes an influential political column. They meet when he she says something dismissive about sports on the radio and he writes a column telling her off. He’s called into the publisher’s office and as he walks in, the first thing he sees is her lovely leg as she leans over to adjust her stocking. He offers to take her to a baseball game and she goes, in a preposterous outfit, and completely charms everyone there. I’m not wild about the movie’s last half hour, but it is one of the great pleasures of movie history to watch these brilliant performers fall in love. Their best movie is probably “Adam’s Rib,” the story of married lawyers on opposite sides in a murder case. And their most heart-felt performances are probably in their last film, completed just before Tracy’s death, “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?” The speech Tracy makes about his love for his wife is clearly straight from his heart. Their weakest film is the all-but-forgotten “Sea of Grass,” understandably omitted from this new collection, which also leaves out “Keeper of the Flame,” a flawed but intriguing film about a reporter who visits the widow of a respected statesman to write about her late husband that raises some powerful issues about how and when certain information should be made public.
I am delighted that seven of their films are now available in the splendid Tracy & Hepburn: the Definitive Collection. It includes their best-loved and best-remembered films and some that may be new to fans. “State of the Union” is their only Frank Capra film, a surprisingly timely (if talky) story about an industrialist turned Presidential candidate and his estranged wife. Real-life actor-turned Presidential candidate Ronald Reagan borrowed one of his best lines on the campaign trail from this film. I especially love “Pat and Mike,” the story of a sheltered athlete (you can see Hepburn, a superb athlete herself, playing golf and tennis) who meets a street-smart promoter (look for a young Charles Bronson in a small role) and “Desk Set” (she runs the information resources division of a broadcast network and he comes in to install the first computer — it’s about the size of a dozen refrigerators). And I am very fond of “Without Love,” set in my home town of Washington DC during the World War II housing shortage. He’s a scientist and she is a young widow. They impulsively decide to get married “without love” so that they can work together and you can guess the rest. Lucille Ball in her pre-Lucy days appears as Hepburn’s sophisticated friend who has a way with a wisecrack.
I have one copy of this treasure to give to a lucky reader. Send me an email at email@example.com with “Tracy-Hepburn” in the subject line and tell me which is your favorite of their films and why. Don’t forget to include your address. A week from today I will pick one entry at random. Good luck!