In the beginning, God created heaven and earth, and also news rooms that were populated almost entirely by males.
Most of the males thought God had planned it that way and wanted it kept that way. They had difficulty visualizing a reporter as anything except male. t
In those ancient times, women were suitable for "society" news, church news and certain types of human interest ("sob sister") stories, but little else. Goodness gracious, how times have changed!
Today's newspaper covers lifestyles rather than society, and many of its best reporters -- and photographers -- are women.
Women cover Congress, women cover night police, women write columns, women write editorials, women edit, women supervise. It would take more than my allotted column of space to list the women who have done distinguished work for The Washington Post during my stopover here.
If you read the Sunday Washington Post, you very likely saw the eye-catching front page of yesterday's Metro section. It was dominated by the latest example of the things that women contribute to The Post.
As you may have noticed, the words and music were both by Linda Wheeler. She covered the cops-and-robbers story about auto thefts, and she took the pictures of policemen with guns drawn as they made "stops" and arrests.
It was a story to which my first city editor would not have assigned a woman. The thought would never have entered his mind. Too dangerous. Automobiles are stolen by drug addicts, irresponsible juveniles and others who can be extremely dangerous when cornered. Catching auto thieves and putting them under arrest can be harmful to the health of anybody who attempts it or is in the vicinity of such activity.
But women have moved into this kind of reporting just as they have into every other phase of journalism, including locker room interviews with male athletes. And I'm just delighted to have been privileged to see the change.
Many years ago, when the National Press Club voted overwhelmingly to admit women journalists to membership, some of the club's members predicted dire consequences. If memory serves, one man actually resigned in protest.
Fortunately, the National Press Building did not fall down when the first women joined the club, and it is generally agreed that we now have a better and stronger National Press Club than we had before. It should also be noted that there is a good representation of women on the board of the National Press Foundation, and that their dedication to the profession of journalism is as sincere as that of their male colleagues.
I particularly liked Wheeler's story about the thousands of autos that are stolen in Washington every year because it focused attention on the policemen who are specially trained to find the cars and catch the crooks. Police work, like newspaper work, has changed over the years. The old-style cop was a man who turned on his siren and chased the bad guys through crowded streets, endangering innocent people. The new-style cop is either male or female, works with sophisticated computers and uses two-way radio to outmaneuver the enemy.
The thief is boxed in by police cars and forced to stop. The one of the officers walks up to the driver and says, "Hello, May I see your driver's license and registration?"
Wheeler tells us that, these days, the driver of the stolen car is often a woman -- so apparently things have changed in the car stealing business as well as in other lines of endeavor.
What a pity! We reporters have written miles of stories about cops and robbers, and in almost all of them the cops win and the robbers lose. If this lesson was lost on dropouts who couldn't read, TV came along and created series of make believe stories about cops and robbers. These stories were based on real life but dramatized to make the message even more emphatic: In the long run, crime does not pay.
How effective have we been in communicating this simple truth to our youth? Not very.
A few decades ago, the kid who "went bad" was male, as was the reporter who wrote about his crime. Today, girls steal cars and rob banks and deal dope, and women with microphones and cameras and video display terminals report on what bad kids do.