Judy Woodruff speaks about equality and integrity in journalism


Zoe Malin/The Daily Northwestern

PBS NewsHour anchor Judy Woodruff. Woodruff discussed issues of gender equality in the newsroom at her Tuesday event.

Maddy Daum , Reporter

Anchor and managing editor of PBS NewsHour Judy Woodruff urged women in journalism to strive for management positions during a Tuesday event at the McCormick Foundation Center.

During the panel, hosted by WTTW, PBS NewsHour and the Medill School of Journalism, Integrated Marketing and Communications, Woodruff addressed the challenges she faces as a woman in the broadcast industry and how she was able to take on leadership roles at networks like NBC, CNN and PBS. Medill Prof. Ava Thompson Greenwell and WTTW Chicago Tonight reporter Amanda Vinicky were also on the panel.

Early in her career, she said, she could only be a secretary at a news network, putting her at a disadvantage with limited experience behind the camera. Now that times have changed, however, women have the ability to speak up about injustice, she added.

Woodruff also mentioned the importance of the #MeToo movement in the journalism industry, where positions of power have traditionally been held by men.

“Our society has changed, the expectations of behavior has changed, things that people could get away with decades ago, even ten to five years ago, are not tolerated anymore,” Woodruff said. “We live in a different time. Women are rightly finally expecting, demanding, insisting on being treated with respect.”

Although Woodruff didn’t speak about it extensively, the movement gained household recognition following sexual abuse allegations against former film producer Harvey Weinstein last year — and has continued to gain prominence.

“What you have to talk about when you talk about #MeToo is the power relationship,” Woodruff said. “Many of the situations we have seen are about power imbalance. Today as women rise in journalism and have positions of power I think it puts them in a position to speak up for themselves and for other women.”

Medill freshman Lauren Loeffler said she benefited from being able to hear about the developing equality in the industry and gained more from the panel than she expected.

“I’m glad that the position of women in news has changed, otherwise I would not be here,” Loeffler said. “I think it is an important discussion to have because if we are going to be dealing with stuff like the #MeToo movement that has been affecting even the news outlets.”

Medill freshman Jennifer Zhan attended the event because of her interest in Judy Woodruff’s opinions on the state of journalism.

The range of topics — from diversity in the news and the importance of women in management positions to journalism in today’s world — were impressive Zhan said, as they’re all “really relevant” in the field today.

While acknowledging the positive changes, Woodruff also commented on the impact of the Trump presidency on journalism. Woodruff said there is a “night and day” difference between this administration and the others she has covered including the Reagan administration.

“(Trump) talks about we reporters being the enemy of the people which makes my blood boil,” Woodruff said. “The journalists I know are people who have spent their adult lives dedicated [trying] to get to the truth.”

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