I had the privilege to co-moderate with Carolina Hidalgo-McCabe an all-star panel of seriously talented journalists at my alma mater Tufts University. Nichole Sobecki, Vivian S., Molly Ferrill and Elisa Lees Munoz, the president of The International Women's Media Foundation, all participated. The panel was on women in journalism as part of the Institute for Global Leadership’s conference on Press Freedom.
Whilst being a woman in journalism can be extremely dangerous, sometimes being a woman in journalism gives you access that a man may not have. One panelist described the sensation almost of being a third gender, being able to float between men and women. Some may feel more comfortable opening up to a woman, and in very restrictive societies, male journalists may not be able to speak to local women.
In terms of producing really sound journalism, I loved Molly Ferrill’s reflection on “slow storytelling,” that whether you are taking photographs of animals in the wild or writing a story about people, it is necessary to spend time with them and build trust in order to really know what is going on. (Obviously for narrative pieces, not necessarily a breaking story)
In mainstream media, most editors, owners, publishers, and decision makers are men, which affects the gender disparity that we see in reporting – I was shocked to learn that women only represent 15% of photo journalists, 37% of reporters, and 27% of op-eds. We need more women as owners of media brands, as publishers, as producers.
That being said, with regard to letters to the editor and op-ed submissions – the onus is on us too as women – according to the NYT men still make up the preponderance of submissions, especially with regard to politics, the economy and foreign affairs.
(Want to write an op-ed? Check out https://www.theopedproject.org/.)
There has also been an uptick in new media to represent different types of voices – @the19th, Ethnic Media Services, Global Press and of course my show Samanthropolitics, which highlights women's voices in foreign policy and national security. With regard to the latter, it is easier than ever to produce your own media and podcasts and put your voice out there. I am lucky to have had Stream Inspectors as my partner in producing my show professionally – highly recommend them as producers. (To support our work at Samanthropolitics, become a member for only $3/mth at www.patreon.com/samanthropolitics1)
Also, if you are a reporter, follow your vision, look for stories that aren't being covered, highlight women's voices and find producers and publishers who believe in you. Women also make up less than 30 percent of those quoted in media, hence why I started my show Samanthropolitics. I am so proud of The Women's Leadership Challenge alum Christina Pascucci, who will be anchoring her own show on Fox highlighting global conflicts.
Lastly, women journalists have to deal with an absurd amount of both online and offline abuse and violence. Intimidation techniques and violence against female journalists must be stopped, and news media must stand behind female journalists and do everything possible to protect them.
Journalism is a central mechanism on society to hold decision makers accountable, address corruption, bring light to important issues and create a well informed populace capable of upholding systems that respect human rights, the rule of law, etc. Yet female journalists are often underpaid, protected inadequately, and subject to shocking levels of online and offline violence. Without these journalists we would be in a dark place.
We often thank military members for their service, as we should. But journalists are also critical to protecting our democracy. We must not forget to thank them for their service in putting themselves in the line of fire, getting arrested, and being victimized, in order to get us the real story of what’s happening on the ground and keep our democracy afloat. Thank you!