newspaperDid you read the title of this article, “Should Only Parents Be Allowed to Serve as Editors of Newspapers,” and think – what a ridiculous question! Did it sound to you like a parody of the prejudice and discrimination I discuss so often under the title of singlism, or singlism’s cousin, the stereotyping, stigmatizing, and discrimination against adults who have no children?

Well, it is not a parody. Disappointingly, the Columbia Journalism Review is at it again. (See this article for a description of some previous singlism in that otherwise respectable publication.) In the September/October 2013 issue, there is an exit interview with Rob Dean, who, at 59, at just stepped down as the editor of the newspaper, The Santa Fe New Mexican. In response to the question, “Why did you decide to leave now,” Dean said this:

“It just felt like it was the right time. It’s never difficult to serve the interests of the older, richer, whiter part of a community. I represent that. A news organization should be led by an editor who lives the experience of what it is to educate his or her kids, find healthcare for his or her family, or face the challenge of buying a home.”

It is nice that Dean thinks newspapers should not serve only the interests of old, rich, white people like himself. But wow, it is just stunning that someone who had been an editor of a newspaper for decades could be so clueless about the changing demographics of the nation and the evolving profile of Americans’ desires and aspirations, and so insensitive and exclusionary toward vast swaths of the population.

I wonder, too, about the person who conducted the interview, and about all of the editors at CJR who may have read the interview before it went to press. Did any of them feel a shudder of shame?

In the US today, there are about 92 million adults who are not married and do not have children (103 million divorced, widowed, or always-single adults minus 11 million single parents). That’s close to 40% of the adult population. Yet Rob Dean wants us to post “only parents need apply” signs on the doors of the offices of newspaper editors around the country? He actually means to be even more restrictive – only young parents need apply.

Dean thinks editors should be living the experience of finding healthcare for their families, but those family-types who are married actually have a less daunting task than do the adults who are single. The married people have twice the potential of finding healthcare – maybe they are covered at their own jobs, and maybe they can find coverage under their spouse’s plan. Not so for most of the 103 million unmarried Americans.

Dean also seems to assume that all Americans want to buy a house. In key demographics, though, there is a growing demand for rentals. Surely, some of that is a matter of economic constraints. But homeownership dreams are not what they once were, and genuine shifts in preferences may be part of the dynamics. Something a newspaper editor should find intriguing, don’t you think?

Man holding newspaper image available from Shutterstock.