Read All About It! NPR Discovers Age Discrimination

A recent tweet from NPR’s reporter on aging, Ina Jaffe:

“Age discrimination is real.”

Isn’t it great that NPR has finally discovered that age discrimination is real?

I’m an attorney and former judge who wrote a book about age discrimination in 2014 called, Betrayed: The Legalization of Age Discrimination in the Workplace.  In it, I analyze, in great detail, the failings of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967. I show indisputably that older workers are second class citizens under federal law and thus vulnerable to age discrimination in employment. I also document the complete failure of all three branches of government to counteract the predictable and overwhelming wave of age discrimination against older workers during and since the Great Recession.

I sent a courtesy copy of the book to NPR, which ignored it (as it has the problem of age discrimination in employment generally).

Hallelujah, after all these years, NPR and Ina Jaffe acknowledge age discrimination in employment.

The problem with writing about age discrimination is that many media organizations ignore the topic because they don’t think older workers are important or cool.  Hence, a national radio network that claims to be a major news outlet has little interest in or understanding of a problem that condemns millions of older workers – mostly women – to poverty in their old age. [Read more…]

NPR’s Diversity Problem: Why So Few Women Sources?

The high-tech industry in Silicon Valley isn’t the only American industry with serious diversity problems.

National Public Radio this week reported that male sources outnumber female sources on the network’s two largest weekday newsmagazines by two-to-one.  Sources include on-air personalities and  subject matter experts, Only about 30 percent of all  sources on Morning Edition and All Things Considered were female in the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2015. There has been no improvement for the past three years.

Women, who comprise 50.45 percent of the U.S. population, are under-represented along all racial classes.

NPRDiversity

Here are the percentage  of male/female sources broken down by race:

  • Asian : Males, 76%; Females 24%.
  • Whites: Males, 70%; Females 30%.
  • Latino: Males, 71%; Females 29%.
  • Blacks: Males 62%; Females 39%.

Women and Latinos are severely under-represented as NPR sources.

The percentage of NPR sources who are Latino remained flat at six percent for each of the three years. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that Latinos make up 17.4 percent of the U.S. population.

Here is the breakdown of sources by race from the NPR report:

  • There was a decline in the overall percentage of white sources, from 80 percent in 2013 to 73 percent in 2015.   Whites make up 77.4 percent of the U.S. population in 2014.
  • African-American voices rose from 5 percent in 2013 to 11 percent in 2015. African-Americans comprise 13.2 percent of the U.S. population.
  • The share of Asian sources rose to eight percent in 2015, compared to five percent in 2013.  Asians comprise 5.4 percent of the U.S. population.

Asians as a group are actually over-represented but Asian women lag the farthest behind in any racial group.

Of course, the U.S. population is not the same as NPR’s listener-ship. NPR listeners are 85 percent white, eight percent Latino and seven percent black.

Keith Woods, NPR’s vice president for diversity in news and operations, is quoted as stating he is “generally pleased with the direction that this is going,” noting the increases in the share of black on-air sources, as well as the percentage of “subject matter experts” who are people of color. He said he had “hoped for better news on our coverage of women, on our inclusion of women.”

Note: Two protected classes were not surveyed by NPR, age and disability.

Ageism, Mitt Romney and National Public Radio

Age discrimination normally is the one type of discrimination that is so prevalent that it  goes unnoticed.

But I couldn’t help but notice it this week.

First, Republican Mitt Romney, 67, claimed that he decided not to stage a third run for the presidency because it is time to pass the reigns to a “new generation:”  Romney, of course, didn’t mention that his backers have fled because he proved on two occasions that he is hopelessly out of touch with the American public and surprisingly inept at being a politician.  Romney’s ageist stab at Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton, 67, and Republican Jeb Bush, 61, shows he is just as clueless about aging as he is about the lives of ordinary Americans.

This morning, I was taken aback by a segment on the National Public Radio program, “Wait, Wait … Don’t Tell Me!”   A panel spent several minutes joking about Bob Dylan’s appearance on the cover of “AARP The Magazine.” Host Peter Sagel, 50, compared Dylan, who is 73, to a “strange withered troll.” He goes on to say, “If you’ve seen the cover, I know you’re thinking, ‘Aww, that’s too bad’ … but no, Bob Dylan is still alive …  He’s updating his songs, like, Lay Lady Lay, lay across my adjustable hospital bed … His real name is Bob Zimmerman. He’s an old Jewish man now.”

Is it completely humorless to note that Sagel’s jokes are really about age?  His comments perpetuate mean-spirited, dehumanizing and false stereotypes about aging.  It is almost as if Sagel feels that Dylan has  forfeited his brilliance and talent and suffered the final humiliation by becoming an “old Jewish man.”   This type of humor is on the same spectrum as tasteless jokes about blondes and minorities, which presumably would not be allowed on NPR.

The mission of NPR is to “to create a more informed public — one challenged and invigorated by a deeper understanding and appreciation of events, ideas and cultures.”  NPR is informing the public but what it is telling the public is that ageism is acceptable, entertaining and doesn’t hurt older people.

In my book, Betrayed: The Legalization of Age Discrimination in the Workplace, I argue that older workers are subject to epidemic discrimination because of deep-seated animus against aging and false stereotypes about older Americans.  I cite a 2002 study of 68,144 participants of diverse ages that found that age bias “remains in our experience … among the largest negative implicit attitudes we have observed … consistently larger than the anti-black attitude among white Americans.”

The Secret Service’s Locker Room Mentality

This is a story about two kinds of “employees.”

One is a Colombian woman, 24, who considers herself to be a high-class prostitute – an “escort” – who can command more than a street prostitute because she can dress up and go out to dinner without embarrassing her clients.

The other is a highly-paid  member of the U.S. Secret Service who was in Columbia as part of an advance team prepping for a visit by President Barack Obama to attend the Summit of the Americas. He allegedly agreed to pay the woman $800 one evening but only anted-up $28 the next morning, inciting a fracas of international proportions.

According to the New York Times, the “escort” was eventually paid about $225 – though she told them that she has to pay her pimp $250. If this is true, she lost money on the deal.

Three members of the Secret Service fared even worse. They lost their jobs, which reportedly paid salaries in excess of  $75,000 a year.  One was fired; one retired; and one resigned.  Eight employees remain under investigation and may follow their former co-workers out the door.

The real importance of this scandal involves the negative impact it will surely have on the re-election campaign of President Barack Obama, and the light that it sheds on the seemingly troubled culture of the Secret Service.

Jeffrey Robinson, co-author of “Standing Next to History: An Agent’s Life Inside the Secret Service,” told NPR this week that the agency prefers to hire ex-football players because “they understand how to play their positions in situations where teamwork is essential.”

Of course, football players are not particularly noted for their diplomatic skills or their sensitivity to women.

It all goes to show that sometimes working as a team is not such a good thing – like when testosterone-infused peer pressure kicks in and the team gets drunk, carouses with prostitutes, and then treats them with disdain and disrespect.

That may be what got them in the end – this “escort” thought she was better than that. She was insulted by the pittance proffered in payment.   She also claims to have been offended when the agent allegedly became aggressive and angry with her when she sought more money.

It’s time for the Secret Service to rethink the team concept. It’s 2012, not 1950. That “boys will be boys” locker room mentality is no longer acceptable.

And, while prostitutes may be the most exploited and reviled workers on the face of the earth, it is still wise to still treat them with  dignity and respect. They are being hired to perform a service for money, not unlike the members of the U.S. Secret Service.