Where Are All the Young Female Pundits?

You're not the only one who wants to know

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It all started with Politico writer Michael Calderone's 1600-word story marveling at the sudden rise of twenty-something pundit prodigies. He named Ezra Klein and Chris Cillizza at the Washington Post, Marc Ambinder at The Atlantic, and Brian Stelter and Andrew Ross Sorkin at The New York Times as leading examples of this "new breed" of young, highly-sought journalists. This prompted a reaction from Salon's Sara Libby, who argued that by focusing on these wunderkinder's ages, Calderone missed the point: they're all male.

What bothered me about Calderone's ranting wasn't so much whether any of these young men deserved to break into these famously stodgy, old-school institutions--I find all their work refreshing and valuable; Cillizza, especially, is an incredibly tenacious reporter--but that they were simply younger versions of what has long been an old boys club. Is it really that much of a surprise that pages typically populated with old, white men are now also occasionally featuring young, white men?

Libby pulls out a couple more examples to prove her point: Ross Douthat, "the first under-30 writer to nab a regular Op-Ed column at The New York Times," Dave Weigel, recently hired to comment on conservative movements for the Washington Post, and Kevin Huffman, winner of the Post's "gimmicky contest" America's Next Great Pundit. She's irritated: "I find myself continually blown away by young female reporters like Dana Goldstein at the Daily Beast and Ann Friedman at the American Prospect. Combine that with the fact that journalism schools report overwhelmingly female enrollments, and you do have to wonder why no women are handed the big-time opportunities being doled out to the likes of Klein and Douthat."

Dave Weigel apparently took exception to the way his name was being thrown around, and immediately slashed back on Twitter. Liberal male bloggers Adam Serwer (of The American Prospect) and Matt Yglesias (of Think Progress) responded in turn, as did one M. LeBlanc, blogger on the feminist site Bitch Ph.D. Here's the discussion, lightly edited for readability.

  • Dave Weigel: "It's true, I look down women and want to oppress them. Would've gotten away with it, too!"
  • M. LeBlanc: "dude. piece is not about you. nothing wrong with being good at your job and succeeding."
  • Adam Serwer (to Weigel): "I don't know anyone who does what you do as well as you do, but your interpretation isn't even kind of fair"
  • Weigel, responding to Serwer: "The premise of that piece is flawed. Only Douthat is actually an op-ed writer."
  • Matt Yglesias, jumping in on the Weigel debate: "Congratulations on your nitpicking skills. But why so defensive? Libby called you 'refreshing and valuable.'"
  • Adam Serwer, to Weigel: "agreed that argument has serious flaws, @ktumulty's hiring among them, but she wasn't accusing you of oppressing women"
  • M. LeBlanc: "the fact is that young bloggers get famous when they find a niche. @ezraklein's health care reporting, @daveweigel's right reporting ... but when young women bloggers have a niche that's related to women/feminism (usually do), those niches simply aren't desired by the MSM"
  • Dave Weigel: "@m_leblanc Yeah, it was just silly to drag those reporters into this argument about editors/pundits ... It also assumes that Megan McArdle and Ana Marie Cox don't exit. It's just silly. I'm done with it."
  • M. LeBlanc: "i disagree, esp. when line b/t reporter and pundit is getting blurred. @ezraklein, for example, is both ... why is it silly to note that the industry is still dominated by men? you seem to accept that's true, mcardle/cox notwithstanding"
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