News Release

Return to Home Page

The facts, in a nutshell

The Knight Foundation has announced a $140,000 grant to a women's research group to study the status of women and minorities in journalism and mass communications education. Ramona R. Rush, professor of Communications at the University of Kentucky, and Carol E. Oukrop, professor of Journalism and Mass Communications at Kansas State University, are principal investigators on a project that will replicate, update, and expand a study they did 30 years ago about women in the field.

The Freedom Forum also has awarded the group two separate awards of $10,000 each.

Also working with the project are 23 other scholars conducting complementary studies. They are: Jo-Ann Huff Albers, Western Kentucky; Martha Leslie Allen, Women's Institute for Freedom of the Press in Washington, D.C.; Julie Andsager, Washington State University; Chandra Arts, Pikeville College in Kentucky; Maureen Beasley, University of Maryland; Lori Bergen, Kansas State University; Diane Borden, San Diego State University; Christy Bulkeley, retired newspaper publisher; Carolyn Byerly, Ithaca College; Judith Cramer, Long Island University; Pamela Creedon, Kent State University; Jan Dates, Howard University.

Susan Henry, California State at Northridge; Sue Kaufman, Eastern Illinois; Marilyn Kern-Foxworth, consultant, Silver Spring, Maryland; Therese Lueck, University of Akron; Sue Lafky, University of Iowa; Kate Peirce, Southwest Texas State; Barbara Reed, Rutgers; Kandice Salomone, University of Rhode Island; Katharine Sarikakis, Coventry (England) University; and Leslie Steeves, University of Oregon.

The results will be reported out at a special pre-conference symposium before the annual meeting of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication in Washington, D.C. in August, 2001.

Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation makes national grants in journalism, education and arts and culture. Its fourth program, community initiatives, is concentrated in 26 communities where the Knight brothers published newspapers, but the Foundation is wholly separate from and independent of those newspapers.

How it started . . .

In the summer of 1999, Ramona Rush, University of Kentucky, called Carol Oukrop, Kansas State University, and said, "Carol, it was 30 years ago that we did our study. Should we replicate it?"

Ramona then held the phone away from her ear so that it might not be subjected to any particular abuse like an expletive explosion from the party at the other end of the phone, and waited.

It was only a half-pregnant pause: "Yep," Rush heard.

After a hearty, appreciative chuckle, Ramona said to her former Kansas State officemate, "You're as crazy as ever!"

The two were newly-minted Ph.Ds from the Universities of Wisconsin and Iowa in 1969 when they decided to plunge into a new dark and deep ocean called discrimination, against the advice of some trusted male major professors and friends. No one even knew how to write questions about discrimination and the other side of the coin, equality. They borrowed some ideas from sociology and rural sociology and took the plunge.

The rest, as they say (more than they used to), is herstory.

The study, presented as a paper called, "(More than you ever wanted to know) About Women in Journalism Education" to the Association for Education in Journalism (AEJ) in 1972, was both damned and praised. And so were its tenure-track, assistant professor authors.

It can fairly and accurately be said that the results, recommendations, impact, and influence of that study changed the demographic structure and leadership within the organization then known as the Association for Education. This occurred primarily because the recommendation for the creation for an ad hoc committee on the status of women in AEJ was accepted and acted upon. This group later became the Committee on the Status of Women and then the Commission on the Status of Women.

According to Rush, the study had far less impact and influence in changing those academic units across the country which were members of AEJ (later changed to AEJMC to formally acknowledge the mass communication process). The units were headed by white males and the senior, tenured faculty reflected this gender and racial pattern.

The current study . . .

About 25 women scholars and professionals also have agreed to contribute to the updated study with research topics including:
  • a 10-year analysis of AEJMC publications to assess the presence of women and minorites, as well as other important association statistics

  • women and minority administrators in journalism and mass communication

  • a survey of women who are part-time employees in journalism and mass communication education

  • a history of women and minorities in journalism and mass communication education and the profession.

  • a history of AEJMC's Commission on the Status of Women and Commission on the Status of Minorities.

  • a meta-analysis of the professional and academic literature about women in the professions of journalism and mass communications in order to project and correlate career outlet possibilities in the mass communication specialties for the high percentage of women in undergraduate and graduate programs.

  • the mentoring of women in the mass media

  • women in the international sphere of mainstream and women-controlled news media, including employment and news content, theoretical and empirical research, multicultural journalism education and pedagogy

  • issues of stress, the constant barrage of new technology, and the same old, same old issues of the glass ceiling, hostile work environments that women face in the media workforce and in the academy, workers who are journalists who focus on the media (including stringers and part-time) academics who are journalists

  • tributes to Dr. Donna Allen, her visions, writing, and activism -- founder of the Women's Institute for Freedom of the Press and a member of this research project group -- who unexpectedly died in July, 1999. Allen's assessment of and visions for the status of women in professional and academic journalism through the pages of Media Report to Women will be included

Preliminary results . . .

Early data runs indicate that there are major areas of discrimination perceived by respondents to this study about women and minorities in journalism and mass communication in higher education. Four major areas include salary, advancement into leadership positions, promotion, and tenure.

If these data persist in such findings when all analyses are done, then women in this discipline within universities in the United States may have come a long way, baby, in terms of numbers, but they also may well be pressing their collective faces against a sturdy glass ceiling, or glued in place with what Rush saw in early research as a "flooring" effect.



Return to Home Page
top of page

last updated 8/01/01