How to Talk to a Female Journalist

Working in journalism is, like life, harder for women than it is for men, what with the patriarchy and all. This point was driven home this week by Marin Cogan's New Republic story on the various sexual harassment-themed indignities of being a female reporter in Washington, and by the "Said to Lady Journos" Tumblr, which chronicles fun on-the-job remarks like, "Are you lost, little girl?"

Perhaps, as a generous interpretation, a lot of men out there—powerful men, important men, men who are frequently interviewed by members of the media—just don't know how to talk to female journalists. They know what women are, yes, and they know what journalists are, but a woman journalist? Their brain goes off the rails. For the sake of etiquette and dignity, we offer these male sources a quick and easy guide on How to Talk to a Lady Journalist.

  • 1) Listen carefully to the question she asks you: The words coming out of the female reporter's mouth—what are they? Think of their common meanings. Now reflect upon their collective meaning, in the form of a question. What is that question? Once you understand the question, proceed to step two.
  • 2) Do not read anything into the question: She just asked you about your job. Is she impressed by it? She just asked you for your thoughts on a subject. Does that mean she's "into you?" She just asked you a question. Does this little gal here need a big strong man like you to set her on the right path?
    The answer to all of the aforementioned questions is "no." Lemme talk to the fellas here. Fellas—fellas? Fellas. Don't you hate it when you say something to a woman and she's all, "What did he mean by that?" And you're all, "I mean what I said, girl, come on." Fellas—the fellas out there know what I'm talking about. Shit is crazy, right?
    So don't do that.
  • 3) Do not read anything into any other characteristics or actions of the female reporter including but not limited to her clothing, her appearance, her body language, or her tone of voice: It's not that that female reporter came right out and said she was hot for you. It's how she didn't say it. Right?
    No.
  • 4) Answer her question: Let's review. In step one, you determined what her question actually meant. In steps two and three, you expressly did not add in additional layers of subtextual meaning to her question. Now you're ready to answer the question.
  • 5) Repeat this process for each of her questions.
  • 6) Do not sexually harass her on the way out: "Well, now that the interview's over, how about we have a drink and go somewhere a little more..." Ah, ah, ah. Instead of doing this, do not do it.
  • 7) God damn, your mama would be proud of you now.
These guidelines should not be confused with the guidelines governing How to Talk to Women in a Nonprofessional Setting, which are very different.

[Photo: AP]