NORTH SALEM, N.Y. – Journalists Stephen Shepard and his wife, Lynn Povich, have more in common than a North Salem residence, two children and careers at major news magazines. Both are also publishing their latest books this week.
Shepard’s “Deadlines and Disruption” is part memoir, part insight into the current complex state of journalism. Povich's "The Good Girls Revolt" discusses a 1970s gender discrimination suit brought by her and female colleagues at Newsweek.
Shepard, the former editor-in-chief of BusinessWeek, is now dean of the City University of New York’s School of Journalism (CUNY).
“Journalism has become a hybrid. Journalists used to gather information, analyze it and put it in context for you. It was a very professional role," he said. “Now, people formerly known as ‘the audience’ can talk back. It’s a two-way street, a conversation. Anybody can join in.”
Cub reporters used to learn on the job. “Today, no one has time to teach you. And there’s so much to learn," he said. "It’s a 24/7 job and you do everything: blog, podcast, video, interview, write. There’s no down-time and much more pressure.”
Povich tells of a different type of transition in the media.
“Women were assigned to research and fact-checking, men were the reporters,” Povich recalled. There was practically no opportunity for a woman to move up.
“Some things have changed, but others haven’t,” she said. She advised women to get experience before they start a family so they do not compete at entry level when they return to the work force.
“When I had my children, I’d already been working full-time for a long time, so I could take a leave and work part-time. When I went back, the next generation was in line for the promotions. It didn’t matter to me, because I became editor-in-chief of Working Woman, and I work for MSNBC. But you always have to be ready for a compromise. Women are still mostly responsible for the home.”
Shepard pointed out that the country’s demographics have also changed.
“You have to understand the needs of a community if you want to reach it. Sometimes you even need a different language. Forty percent of our students at CUNY are people of color,” he said.
Women account for 58 percent of college graduates, Povich added.
“They’re the most educated and best-trained segment of the work force, yet they usually only get to middle management,” she said. “The problem hasn’t been completely solved. It’s got to come from the top. Companies have got to become more flexible.”
Povich said she works strictly on a computer, and Shepard finally converted from using a pen and a legal pad. They work privately, but get together to edit each other’s work. Their skills complement each other. He is faster, she is more meticulous. Sometimes they think they ought to collaborate.
They agree that North Salem is a wonderful place to live.
“The Good Girls Revolt,” (PublicAffairs) and “Deadlines and Disruption” (McGraw Hill) are available at Amazon in hardcover and Kindle editions, and also on iBooks.