Sexist media coverage this morning from CBC

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Sean in Ottawa
Sexist media coverage this morning from CBC

I heard the news this morning about the tragic plane crash in Buffalo on CBC radio 2 this morning at 8 am. What shocked me was that they referenced the gender of the pilot-- the "female pilot"  lost control of the plane.

I could not help but wonder why they thought gender was relevant-- did they mean to imply that this was a factor in the crash or that it was newsworthy that the pilot was female?

Here is the letter I sent to the CBC:

"This morning I heard your coverage of the plane crash in the US on CBC radio 2 in Ottawa. The coverage was condensed so every word counted.

In the story there was a reference to the pilot as the "female pilot"
I have to ask-- did you think the pilot's gender was a factor in the crash?
Would you have pointed out the gender if the pilot had been male?
Do you think it is newsworthy in 2009 that women hold these positions?
Why did your coverage include this?

The Pilot died as did all the passengers - we are hearing that the reason is likely a mechanical malfunction.

I can't express in words my reaction to your need to attach a gender to the story in such a gratuitous way.

Can you explain this to me?"
Sean

 If you want to ask a question yourself here is the email address:

radnews@ottawa.cbc.ca

If you think I am way off base please tell me. I'd rather be told I am wrong than what I am thinking right now.

Sean in Ottawa

By the way-- they did not include things like the name of the pilot, her age, her experience etc.   Just her gender. That is the only thing they thought relevant to tell us about her.

Michelle

Are you even fucking kidding me?  Good lord!  I'm glad you complained!

P.S. The comments section after the CBC article is, unsurprisingly, filled with dumbasses who have shouted down the exact same criticism raised there.

P.P.S. I also remember listening to the newscast this morning as I was waking up and wondering why they kept saying over and over again that it was a "Canadian-made plane".  I suppose that's slightly more relevant than the fact that one of the pilots was a woman.

Reminds me of an ironic joke I heard last night on a podcast, which I'll modify a bit...

Q. What do you call a woman who flies a plane?

A. A PILOT, you chauvanist pig!

Star Spangled C...

LOL, one of the doctors i work with (who is black) always likes to make people squirm with "what do you call a black guy who gradauted medical school? a doctor, you racist bastard!"

Sean in Ottawa

I was shocked when I heard it and then I thought of the way these stories are done-- they are written and then edited for air with the goal of tightening and shortening the message-- that fact that soemone could write that is truly incredible- that it could get through editing speaks to a culture there that is so completely out of touch. As I thought of the editing process I became more and more angry as the day went on until I had to send the email or blow a gasket.

Did they hire a bunch of shock jocks from private radio?

A generation ago we could have said well that's the product of someone who needs to complete their retirement process but the people of retirement age today know better than this- this has been decades since this kind of garbage was considered acceptable. My 80 some year old father knows better than this.

 

Sean in Ottawa

Yikes-- I had not seen the CBC online story-- I was only responding to the actual broadcast this morning.

It is not unusual that these viewer comments are offensive.

Michelle

One thing that they were saying in the comments of the CBC article is that the news report mentioned both a male and female pilot when talking about the recordings of their conversations with the control tower.  Is it possible that's what they were saying?  "The female pilot indicated blah blah, then the male pilot responded blah blah" just to differentiate the two?

Even so, still really stupid - they could have just said "one pilot" and "the other pilot".  But if that was the full quote, then that would be more understandable than simply mentioning the pilot's gender out of nowhere.

Michelle

P.S. Oh, never mind, they were talking about this sidebar in the written article:

Quote:

In a recording from the Buffalo air traffic control tower, captured by users on the Live Air Traffic Control website, controllers are heard talking to a female pilot in the cockpit of the plane.

During a brief exchange, the controller instructs the plane to come in to the airport at 2,300 feet. There is no indication that anything is out of the ordinary.

The controller then tries to get in touch with the flight again and there is no response, after which he asks a nearby Delta Air Lines flight whether they can see the plane.

The male Delta pilot responds "negative."

"There was an aircraft over the mark and we're not talking to 'em," the controller says.

"We have a Dash-8 over the markers that didn't make the airport. It appears to be about five miles [eight kilometres] away from the airport."

The controller then says to send out the state police to look for anything on the ground. The plane crashed about 11 kilometres from the airport.

Sean in Ottawa

Absolutely not-- maybe on an in-depth version but the news story I heard this morning was before any audio was available and there was no distinction to make. In that first story there was not even a reference that there were two pilots. Perhaps due to initial complaints they added the detail to retroactively explain but the initial mention was totally gratuitous.

-=+=-

There is actually nothing sinister about the media highlighting women in what are traditionally male occupations, in and of itself.  In fact, these sorts of articles are routine and are used to highlight gains women have made towards equality.  

 

For example, here's a [url=">http://www.thestar.com/News/GTA/article/586359]story[/url][/u] from yesterday's Toronto Star about a woman becoming head of the Homicide Squad.  The headline is "take's over men's world."

 

Also, when female soldiers are killed in combat, their deaths are currently given a higher media profile than the deaths of male soldiers (which are more common by virtue of their numbers).  Again, rarity of the event aside, this is to support women's gains.

 

It is problematic to assign a sinister motive to this CBC report,  when it could be a matter of the CBC highlighting a woman in a traditionally male job making the ultimate sacrifice.  Of course, it could be a matter of denigrating the capablity of female pilots; but this not clear from the report.

Unionist

Before this thread totally fizzled, we managed to be treated to some funny jokes about women and blacks and some comments about seniors.

Sean in Ottawa

I think what I heard was a heavily edited version of the quote you copied above. When the piece was edited the gender reference stuck out even more. that said it is still poorly written as they could ahve said the first pilot and the second pilot.

Michelle

Sean in Ottawa wrote:
Absolutely not-- maybe on an in-depth version but the news story I heard this morning was before any audio was available and there was no distinction to make. In that first story there was not even a reference that there were two pilots. Perhaps due to initial complaints they added the detail to retroactively explain but the initial mention was totally gratuitous.

That's weird, because the report I heard when I woke up this morning (at 6 a.m.) was complete with recordings from the tower of one of the pilots - who sounded male, actually - just before the crash.  But that wasn't a black box recording, that was a recording from the tower before they lost contact.

And I don't remember them mentioning a "female pilot" because I definitely would've remembered that, I think.  Even half-awake. :D

Sean in Ottawa

Unionist the reference to seniors is an acknowledgment that in previous generations sexist commentary was the norm-- I don't think people are offended to recognize this fact.

My point about seniors is that this better standard has been in place so long that there are simply no people left from a time when this might have been thought to be acceptable. This is an indication of just how regressive such reporting is. I hardly think that my father would think I made a joke either about him or seniors in general and I certainly doubt he woudl be offended by what I said.

Michelle

-+=+-, there's a difference between an article whose subject is specifically about the gains women are making in traditionally male professions, and an article that has absolutely nothing to do with that, but in which "female" is added as an irrelevant qualifier to "pilot" or "doctor" or whatever.

Sean in Ottawa

Michelle wrote:

Sean in Ottawa wrote:
Absolutely not-- maybe on an in-depth version but the news story I heard this morning was before any audio was available and there was no distinction to make. In that first story there was not even a reference that there were two pilots. Perhaps due to initial complaints they added the detail to retroactively explain but the initial mention was totally gratuitous.

That's weird, because the report I heard when I woke up this morning (at 6 a.m.) was complete with recordings from the tower of one of the pilots - who sounded male, actually - just before the crash.  But that wasn't a black box recording, that was a recording from the tower before they lost contact.

And I don't remember them mentioning a "female pilot" because I definitely would've remembered that, I think.  Even half-awake. :D

I heard it at the 8:00 am news headline- when all the news was treated in a couple minutes before the next radio show. So if more information was available I did not know it but the story was condensed and quite brief-- but the female reference was there-- this is why it jumped out to me.

Michelle

Yeah, that's how I heard it - on the "World Report" on the hour, as well as the local news on the half-hour, both of which last about 10-12 minutes. 

I totally believe you that it was there!  Why would you have noticed it otherwise?  I just wondered whether it was in the context that I mentioned above, since I didn't hear it on the 6:00 or 6:30 or 7:00 news this morning.

Sean in Ottawa

I really believe what I heard was an edited version of the exact context you mentionned.

I feel there is an extra need to edit with care by the media. Editors need to be reading in the context that there is a lot of sexism out there- the public comments and pop culture we have is quite sexist.This should have raised a flag. Someone should have said why do we need this?

 

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

If a story is accompanied by a recording of voice communications between pilots and air traffic controllers, one of whom is female, it makes sense to mention that the "pilot" was female, as an aid in identifying who is who on the recording.

The pilot of the aircraft was actually a man, and the woman who was on the radio was apparently the first officer (co-pilot):

Quote:
Airline officials identified the crew as Capt. Marvin Renslow, pilot; first officer Rebecca Shaw; and flight attendants Matilda Quintero and Donna Prisco. The off-duty crew member was Capt. Joseph Zuffoletto. - [url=Source[/url]
">http://news.guelphmercury.com/News/article/439566][=mediumblue][u]S...

Michelle

I totally agree.  In fact, I don't see any need to mention the gender of either pilot even in that context.  I mean, what if one of them had a southern accent and the other had a New York accent?  Would they have mentioned that?  It's just as irrelevant as the fact that one voice was female and one was male.

Lou Arab Lou Arab's picture

Years ago a speaker at a convention I was at (I think it was Maude Barlow) opened by telling the crowd that on her flight that day, there was an announcement by the pilot letting the passengers know that they were on the first Canadian commercial flight to be both piloted and co-piloted by women. 

Barlow called over the Flight Attendant and asked if she could visit the cockpit to congratulate the pilots.  The Attendant said "sure, but we don't call it that anymore."

laine lowe laine lowe's picture

The CBC Radio 1 report I heard early in the a.m. only mentioned one pilot and identified her gender. I was sleepy but I remember thinking why are they mentioning that it's a female pilot? It certainly jumped out as a WTF moment.

Michelle

You've just got to wonder what century this is, don't you?

RevolutionPlease RevolutionPlease's picture

M. Spector wrote:

If a story is accompanied by a recording of voice communications between pilots and air traffic controllers, one of whom is female, it makes sense to mention that the "pilot" was female, as an aid in identifying who is who on the recording.

 

Aren't male and females voices quite ambiguous and identifications prone to error?

Loretta

Besides, when both pilots are male, which is usually the case, it's usual to to distinguish them by name, isn't it?

jacki-mo

This Toronto Star article mentions that a female pilot can be heard and that the plane was built in Toronto. So the CBC is not the only culprit here.

 

http://www.thestar.com/article/586985