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US news giants put more women in the White House

Edward Helmore
·2-min read
<span>Photograph: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

US media organisations are taking steps to mirror Joe Biden’s gender-balanced cabinet appointments, with at least six major news networks assigning women to lead White House coverage.

Since Biden’s inauguration last week, CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC, the public television station PBS and the Washington Post have assigned chief reporting duties to women.

The list includes women of colour, including PBS’s Yamiche Alcindor and NBC’s Kristen Welker, who last October became the first black woman to moderate a general-election presidential debate in almost 30 years, and kept it on track in a fashion that eluded male debate moderators.

“It is clear that diversity in all forms including in gender and race is necessary to tell the stories of our generation in the most accurate and fair way,” Alcindor told CNN.

US political commentator Keli Goff told The Observer: “If the events of the last year have shown us anything‎, it’s that it is essential to have institutions of power that reflect our nation’s diversity, and for newsrooms that cover those institutions to reflect our nation’s diversity as well.”

“The increased diversity of the White House press corps is an important step forward for journalism and for ensuring our leaders are held accountable when it comes to blind spots they may have,” Goff added.

The selections mark a turnaround for the White House press corps, which has traditionally been dominated by men.

Rare exceptions include the trailblazing Helen Thomas, who served as White House correspondent for UPI and AP over 10 administrations before retiring aged 89 in 2010.

The makeup of the press corps reflects the new administration. Biden’s communications team is fully staffed by women, including his press secretary, Jen Psaki, who has promised consistent weekday briefings.

For the media, assigning more women to cover the White House comes at a pivotal moment. A report last week from the communications firm Edelman described a “raging infodemic” that has driven trust in all news sources to record lows.

The study found that trust in traditional media stands at just 53%, an eight percentage point drop globally since 2019. Trust in social media stands at 35%, a drop from 43% over the same period.

“Without a trusted leadership source to look to, people don’t know where or who to get reliable information from,” the report commented.

Related: Joe Biden announces all-female media team at his White House

At least in the cramped White House briefing room, the burden of correcting the decline in trust now falls largely on the shoulders of women.

“A generation ago, being the only woman was perhaps a blessing – I really stood out from the crowd,” Ann Compton, a former ABC News White House correspondent, told CNN.

“The day will come – should come – when it is not news that the majority in the public eye in any profession is female,” Compton added.