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    Boot camp for dads boots 2 women

    Two female journalists covering a seminar for new dads are forced to leave. Male journalists were allowed to stay.

    By LISA GREENE, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published August 20, 2002

    The hospital seminar was designed to help dads become more involved with their children.

    Ordinarily, it's just the kind of new-dad, feel-good training that feminists would praise for challenging traditional gender roles.

    But the challenge to gender roles didn't turn out quite the way officials at Morton Plant Hospital, Clearwater, intended.

    The seminar's leader, a freelance facilitator, kicked out the two female journalists who arrived to cover the event -- and allowed male journalists to stay.

    "It harkens back to the days when women were trying to get in the locker rooms" to write about athletes, said Susy Schultz, president-elect of the Journalism & Women Symposium, a national support and advocacy group for female journalists and journalism educators. "It's a fight we already fought and won. It seems like a throwback."

    An official at Morton Plant Hospital, Clearwater, apologized Monday and said the incident doesn't reflect hospital policies.

    "This was an error in judgment," said Amy Lovett, director of public relations for BayCare Health System, which includes Morton Plant. "We can't tell you how badly we feel. We understand reporting is genderless."

    Terri D. Reeves, a correspondent for the St. Petersburg Times, was allowed to witness parts of the seminar. But she was booted from the room for hours, she said.

    The seminar leader, Jim Gary, told Reeves that the event was for men only and that allowing women inside could keep the male participants from asking sensitive questions.

    But two male videographers from TV stations were allowed inside to videotape the seminar and potentially broadcast those same questions.

    "I wasn't there as a woman; I was there as a journalist. And I would think in this day and time, people would recognize that," Reeves said.

    Cheryl Keck, a freelance reporter for Bay News 9, also was barred.

    "Maybe our reporter could have taught them something," said Julie Booth, assistant news director for the station. "She's raised two kids of her own."

    Booth said Keck's banishment wasn't a big concern for the station, as their photographer was able to shoot video.

    "I think it's a little strange," Booth said.

    Gary, a 43-year-old computer services business owner, would not discuss the issue Monday. He referred comments to Morton Plant.

    Gary had read about the Boot Camp for New Dads course and suggested that Morton Plant sponsor a class. The program began in California in 1990 and since has spread around the nation.

    Lovett said the national program doesn't bar female journalists.

    "I think he took the program itself very literally when it says it's for men only," she said.

    Hospital officials have not yet decided whether Gary will work for them again, she said.

    Two of Lovett's staffers were at the seminar Saturday and didn't stop Gary from barring the women. Lovett said that they had suggested to Gary that the women be allowed back in but that because the seminar was set up by the Sarah Walker Women's Center, her staffers couldn't order him to change.

    Schultz, a former Chicago Sun-Times reporter who also is the new editor of Chicago Parent magazine, said Gary's rationale didn't make much sense to her.

    "I couldn't see how explaining how to be a good father is something a woman can't overhear," she said.

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