the audit

Boy, Look Who National Journal’s Been Hiring

So far only 20% of high-profile hires are women; not good
September 8, 2010

The National Journal Group has been generating a lot of buzz lately with big-name hires like Major Garrett, Matt Cooper, Marc Ambinder and Michael Hirsh.

The latest addition to the team is Beth Reinhard, who’s leaving her job at The Miami Herald to become chief political correspondent.

It’s nice to see National Journal look outside the Beltway, as it has a couple of other times as it staffs up for a relaunch next month. And it’s nice to see another woman make the cut.

But here’s the rub: even with Reinhard, a whopping majority of those buzz-generating new names belong to men.

Since June, when the Atlantic Media Group hired Ron Fournier, the AP’s Washington bureau chief, to be editor in chief of the National Journal Group, I count just four women among 20 high-profile hires. Let’s see—quick back of the envelope calculation here. That looks like 20 percent to me. Not good.

In addition to Reinhard, they’ve hired Coral Davenport, who will cover energy and the environment (she came from Politico); Susan Davis, on the Congress beat (ex-WSJ); and Fawn Johnson (formerly of Dow Jones Newswire/WSJ), to do general assignment.

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Now, don’t worry. I’m not pulling a Jezebel and declaring National Journal “a boys’ club where women’s contributions are often ignored and dismissed.” Definitely not. (And, for those who haven’t been following along, that was a reference to The Daily Show, not National Journal.)

But lots of Washington journalism eyes are on National Journal, as Fournier builds a unified newsroom (including, National Journal magazine, CongressDaily, The Hotline, and the Almanac of American Politics) and prepares to do battle with Politico.

And it’s not just about fairness, though that’s probably enough. A wide range of views and perspectives is the lifeblood of a news organization and has a huge impact on how a story is reported.

National Journal types keep talking about their “nationwide talent search,” and they’ve taken the art of the fawning job announcement to new levels of ridiculousness. Check out this beauty, when political director Ron Brownstein was given the additional role of editorial director:

“Ron Brownstein is smarter than the human species was meant to be,” said David Bradley, owner and chairman of the Atlantic Media Company. “The power of his mind – an extraordinary analytic skill – is simply in a class by itself. The bet here is that pairing Ron Brownstein with Ron Fournier (faster than the human species) will create incomparable journalism for the nation’s capital. What’s better than that?”

Taylor West, communications director for National Journal Group, didn’t dispute my count of high-profile men and women that have been hired recently.

“I don’t think you’re missing specific hires,” she told me. “I don’t think we have the full picture fleshed out yet.”

She also pointed to a few other stats to help put recent National Journal changes in context.

Of about 45 new hires in the newsroom, about 20 have been women, West said, adding that right now, women hold 27 of the 90 writing, reporting, and editing jobs in the unified newsroom, with several slots still to be filled.

In an email, West wrote:

Once the newsroom is fully staffed out, we’re expecting approximately half of the most senior editing positions to be held by women.

Then she added this part, which I’ll let speak for itself:

Also, I’m not sure if you’re interested in the business side of National Journal Group, but it underwent a pretty big transformation recently as well and is a little more fully fleshed out at this point than the newsroom. On the new NJG leadership team, women head up the sales & marketing, events, audience development, finance, communications, and H.R. divisions.


In any case, while it’s distressing that just 20 percent of those big name hires were women, the total picture is a bit better, with women making up nearly one-third of the whole NJ newsroom, and about 45 percent of total new hires (though that also underscores the disparity in the big-name hires).

Sources near the Watergate (that fabled bit of real estate where NJ offices are located) say women are in the running for several of the senior-level jobs the group expects to fill in the next few weeks.

And National Journal surely isn’t alone in all of this. A quick look at the top jobs at Politico, its archenemy-in-waiting, shows that women hold just 12 of 40 senior editorial jobs there.

Remember back in the spring, when Politico had some explaining to do on this front? Here’s Mediaite, from March:

Politico’s John F. Harris is on the defensive over the diversity of his staff after CNN’s Reliable Sources showed an editorial meeting that featured an all-white crowd and few women.

But that doesn’t make me feel good about it. These newsrooms are well-funded forays into a new form of journalism, and I hope the future doesn’t look like they do.

It certainly doesn’t have to. The new crop of students at Columbia’s journalism school is promising:

This year, 59 percent of those admitted to the M.S. class are female, and 41 percent are male. In the Master of Arts class, 32 percent are male, and 68 percent are female, with 33 percent coming from outside the U.S. Of the four students admitted to the doctoral program in communications, two are male and two are female, and one comes from outside the U.S. In terms of racial diversity, 25 percent of the entire class identified themselves as African American, Asian, Latino or Native American.

Here’s hoping they hang on long enough to get one of those big-brain press releases from National Journal.

Holly Yeager is CJR’s Peterson Fellow, covering fiscal and economic policy. She is based in Washington and reachable at