Calling a Pulitzer Winner “Barbie-doll fit?” Howl!

The Daily News is proud of its Pulitzer Prize winners, Barbara Laker and Wendy Ruderman. Proud enough to dedicate three stories and an ad page in last Tuesday’s paper to congratulating them.

And rightfully so.

The Pulitzer Prize is just about the most prestigious accolade a journalist can get, and the reporters’ series on police corruption had all the makings of a great, classic, old-fashioned newspaper investigation.

Unfortunately, Ronnie Polaneczky’s page 2 article, “In a league of their own,” has echoes of a less noble old-fashioned newspaper tradition. Halfway down the first column of her article, before getting into the reasons why the Pulitzer Prize was awarded, Polaneczky gives a description of the lauded reporters:

Barb is Barbie-doll fit, blond and gorgeous in a way that would make women hate her, if she weren’t also smart, kind, hardworking and so nurturing that cub reporters call her “Mama Laker.”

Wendy, a 4-foot-10, 90-pound sparkplug, is so adorable and funny, she routinely makes fools of stuffed shirts who learn—after they read her aggressively reported exposes—that they stupidly mistook her for an easy mark.

Now maybe I’ve been spending too much time with the AP Stylebook, but this struck me as strangely sexist. I was surprised that the writer, a woman herself, chose to include physical descriptions of the two reporters so close to the front of the newspaper, as though that information is eminently important to understanding the story. Would the same story include physical descriptions in the fifth and sixth paragraphs if male reporters had won the prize? I doubt it.

The reporters’ work speaks for itself, and the picture of them on the same page speaks for what they look like.

And “Barbie-doll fit”? That alone is worth a HOWL.

– Jared Brey

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