Friday, February 9, 2007
Mother Jones, founded in 1976, brings a decidedly West Coast flavor to the small constellation of progressive political magazines. Named after labor activist Mary Harris
, the magazine has traditionally emphasized investigative reporting on the misdeeds of governments and corporations. In 1993, Mother Jones became the first general-interest magazine to launch a website. Its most recent innovation is the promotion of two veteran female staffers to share the magazine’s top post. Monika Bauerlein and Clara Jeffery are now some of the only women overseeing American political magazines. Before joining Mother Jones as features editor in 2000, Bauerlein was a freelance writer in Washington, D.C., and New York, as well as an editor of the alt-weekly City Pages in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minn. Jeffery has a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and was formerly senior editor at Harper’s. Their first issue as editors-in-chief is on newsstands now, and features a cover story analyzing the sometimes contradictory stereotypes the American public holds about Hillary Clinton, and how they demonstrate cultural anxieties about women and feminism. And the magazine’s timeline of Bush administration lies about the war in Iraq has been a hit on the blogosphere. Here, Bauerlein and Jeffery talk about the under-representation of women in political journalism, the importance of reporting, and the nexus between culture and politics.
Campus Progress: Research has shown that male writers have about three times as many bylines in “thought-leader” magazines as female writers do. It’s well-known that women haven’t achieved parity in progressive journalism. But Mother Jones is regarded as somewhat of an exception to that rule. Do you think Mother Jones has more female contributors because of specific hiring decisions made by female editors like yourselves? Or do you think the magazine’s format of featuring more reporting and less opining, relative to its competitors, is more favorable to women writers?
I’m sure some of it has to do with the fact that there has been, for a long time, two women here doing a lot of the story assigning, and it’s obviously something we care about. I do think that the issue of why women don’t get bylines at major magazines is a complicated one. It’s a combination of actual sexism with real issues having to do with women leaving the workforce for awhile to raise their kids. When they’re writers, they come back and write about those issues, and perhaps not others. All we know is that we want more women, not just at our magazine, but in every magazine.