Journalism’s secret sexism

On the front page of today’s Sydney Morning Herald is a beautiful example of the sexism inherent in journalistic writing: Maternity leave can still lead to sacking

WOMEN are being sacked for taking maternity leave and told to quit if they cannot juggle family and the work roster, the Fair Work Ombudsman’s office has found.

Those doing the wrong thing aren’t even mentioned. It should read something like: Some employers are sacking women for taking maternity leave.

Ninemsn ran the story yesterday and got it right:

Some employers are unlawfully sacking pregnant women while they are on maternity leave, the workplace watchdog says.

The way the SMH presents the story is a problem because it influences how people read it. It says women are the helpless victims who have things done to them, rather than being about arsehole bosses doing the wrong thing.

It happens again on page 2, with Brimble tried ecstasy at ball, court hears:

DIANNE BRIMBLE had allegedly said she had tried ecstasy with her sister at a B&S ball months before going on the cruise on which she died, according to telephone conversations played in a Sydney court yesterday.

The second paragraph says where this information has come from:

In one conversation Mark Wilhelm and his friend Ryan Kuchel discussed versions of a conversation about drugs between Mrs Brimble and Mr Wilhelm in their cabin shortly before her death, including the suggestion she had said that she had tried ecstasy earlier that year.

So, a recorded conversation between a man accused of manslaughter and his mate who was also investigated, discussing “versions of a conversation” – which sounds dodgy as all fuck – leads to a lead paragraph (and headline) in which the reputation of a dead woman is further smeared. The first paragraph should be something like: The man accused of Dianne Brimble’s manslaughter claims she told him she had tried ecstasy several months before going on the cruise on which she died.

It’s not hard.

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