From the Annals of Irrelevancy

Exhibit 05092009, from The New York Times, a Sunday front-page profile of Margaret Chan, the director-general of the World Health Organization, who is being hailed for her authoritative response to the swine-flu pandemic. And, so the Times offered some glimpses into the life and personality of the woman at the helm (emphasis mine).

All of this authority is packed into a diminutive woman with large glasses who does not drive, type or cook, is fond of sharp suits and silver pins, and may be among the most qualified people in the world to lead the global response to the threat of a pandemic flu.

Really? And…

And it all started because her boyfriend decided to move to Canada.

Born in 1947, Dr. Chan grew up in Hong Kong and became a teacher. When David Chan, who would become her husband, left Hong Kong for college in Canada in 1969, she worried that the separation would end their relationship. So she consulted her mother, who told her to follow her heart to Canada.

Then, when he decided to become a doctor, she worried that his medical studies would leave him no time for her. So she decided to become a doctor with him. But first, she had to win over a dean at the University of Western Ontario who, in her admissions interview, told her that she should become a homemaker, not a doctor.

It’s clear that Dr. Chan is a woman who overcame all sorts of stereotypes to attain her position. And, it’s too bad that the Times turned to stereotypes to create this portrait.

Has America ever needed a media watchdog more than now? Help us by joining CJR today.

Katia Bachko is on staff at The New Yorker.