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Letter: Coverage of Cellino & Barnes breakup has been sexist

I have been an avid reader of The Buffalo News throughout my lifetime and have, for the most part, found the paper to present even-handed coverage of events. However, the paper’s reporting of the Cellino and Barnes breakup drips with sexism and has misogynist overtones, as evidenced recently in the article, “Barnes’ girlfriend sues Cellino law firm; seeks $3.7 million.”

It is true that Steve Barnes and Ellen B. Sturm have been together for more than a decade. That is not the issue. The issue is this: it is appalling that, in the year 2020, a newspaper of the caliber of The Buffalo News would reduce a woman of Sturm’s substance to someone whose identity and accomplishments are attached to Barnes.

I would like The News to set the record straight: Sturm – who has handled this entire episode with aplomb and grace – graduated summa cum laude (i.e., first in her class) from the University at Buffalo Law School; clerked for the Hon. Eugene F. Pigott, Jr. – one of the most esteemed judges to ever sit on the bench in New York State; and worked at the Skadden Arps law firm – one of the most prestigious firms in the world.

Refer to Sturm as Barnes’ “partner.” Refer to Sturm as his “significant other” if you must. But please stop using the term “girlfriend” and reducing her to an object in this breakup (as Ross Cellino’s lawyers have done for obvious strategic reasons). By doing so, not only does The News implicitly takes Cellino’s side in this litigation, but also reinforces sexist and misogynist views on the role of women in our society as only having merit or worth because of whom a woman dates or marries.

This is not 1850. Nor even 1950. In today’s day and age, this particular aspect of The News’ coverage is shocking and reprehensible. I expect more from The News – please rise to the occasion.

Kathryn Friedman


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