Gossip in the Women’s Pages: Legitimizing the Work of Female Journalists in the 1950s and 1960s



“Journalism,” Oscar Wilde once said, is “organized gossip.”1 Indeed, the foundation of newsgathering can be found in rumor, gossip, and innuendo. In journalism school students are taught to seek out gossip, because, with the right verification, whispered information can become the heart of a front-page news story. Gossip has been part of American journalism from the colonial days.2 Yet, because gossip is a form of communication most commonly associated with women and typically understood to be of little value, its importance was often overlooked by both journalists and historians of journalism. The dichotomy of “hard” news versus “soft” news contributed to this situation, as gossip fell into the category of “soft news.” This dichotomy defined what topics were newsworthy.3 Traditionally, the newspaper industry gave more value to hard news: news based on institutions in the public sphere, such as the government, economy, and law. Soft news was what remained—feature stories about home and private life.


Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Married Mother Letter Writer Advice Column American Journalism 
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© Kathleen A. Feeley and Jennifer Frost 2014

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