Jan 25, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Women take press lead in Biden era

Illustration of a woman in a suit standing with her hands on her hips in front of rows of typewriters.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Women will overwhelmingly guide coverage of the White House and politics during the Biden administration, propelled by a slew of newly appointed leaders at major TV and radio networks, newspapers and digital outlets.

Why it matters: While female representation in the Washington press corps has steadily grown, what's changed most recently is the number of women in front of and behind cameras and bylines.

The trend was in full view Sunday, when Abby Phillip and Dana Bash debuted back-to-back as anchors of two CNN morning shows. Margaret Brennan, host of CBS' "Face the Nation," also had a high-profile interview with Dr. Deborah Birx.

Driving the news: For the first time, the chief White House correspondents from ABC, CBS, NBC, and CNN are all women. They'll be working with an all-female communications team at the White House — the first time in history such a dynamic has existed.

  • The Washington Post's newest White House bureau chief is Ashley Parker. Half of the Post's White House team also is female.
  • NPR's White House editor is Roberta Rampton. She'll lead coverage for six White House correspondents, four of them women. Almost all of NPR's congressional team are women.
  • PBS' White House correspondent is Yamiche Alcindor. Its congressional correspondent is Lisa Desjardins. Francesca Chambers is McClatchy's chief White House correspondent. Lisa Mascaro is AP’s chief congressional correspondent.
  • Half of Politico's White House press team are women. And Politico recently named two women, Rachel Bade and Tara Palmeri, to help continue its Playbook franchise.

Leadership within major newsrooms is overwhelmingly being turned over to women and women of color.

  • In television, MSNBC vet Rashida Jones will be the first woman of color to lead a major cable news company when she becomes president of MSNBC in February. Suzanne Scott was named Fox News' first female CEO in 2018. Susan Zirinsky became the first female president of CBS News in 2019.
  • In print, USA Today is led by Nicole Carroll as editor-in-chief and Maribel Perez Wadsworth as publisher. Kristin Roberts was named McClatchy's first-ever female vice president of news in 2019. Meredith Kopit Levien was named CEO of the New York Times last year. Julie Pace is Washington bureau chief for the Associated Press.

Yes, but: Despite these milestones, women and minorities are still underrepresented in most newsrooms around the country. This is especially true at the highest levels of most news organizations, for roles such as bureau chief and president.

  • Many newsroom leaders have pledged to address this imbalance in the coming years.
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