Wanted: More Bylines For Women Journalists

So, you’ve come a long way, baby…or so an old ad campaign told women a couple of decades ago.  In journalism, women have made inroads into the profession in the past 20 years.   In fact, as noted at the “Who Makes The News In The Newsroom” panel discussion at St. John’s University in New York City earlier this week, almost 3/4 of journalism students in American universities  today are young women.

However, when it comes to getting to tell the news  stories in newspapers, television and radio around the world, do you think women journalists are the ones who get most often the assignments and the bylines?  Find out  by taking our Global Media Monitoring Project (GMMP) Question of the Day poll (click on your answer choice then check out the comment that follows the poll results to find out more)…

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3 thoughts on “Wanted: More Bylines For Women Journalists

  1. Only 37% of the world’s news is covered by female journalists, according to the findings of WACC’s GMMP 2010. The final report, entitled “Who Makes The News,” will be released on 29 September 2010 . Download a copy of the report and learn more at http://www.whomakesthenews.org

  2. ‘News media not caring enough about women’

    Lekan Otufodunrin

    How well does the media care about women? Research results of the 4th Global Media Monitoring Project (GMMP) coordinated by the World Association for Christians Communication (WACC), Canada indicate that it isn’t doing enough.

    Key findings of the research was the basis of a presentation on September 18 entitled God cares about women, why the media should by Betty Abah, Project Officer and Gender Focal Person of the Environmental Rights Action (ERA)/Friends of the Earth, Nigeria at the fellowship of Christian journalists ( Journalists for Christ) in Lagos, Nigeria.

    GMMP is the world’s largest and longest running research and advocacy initiative on gender in the news media which seeks to bring about fair and balanced gender representation in and through the media.

    Data for the 2010 GMMP was collected by volunteer media monitors in 108 countries, including Nigeria.

    Among other findings, preliminary outcome of the research indicated that 24 percent of the people interviewed, heard, seen or read in the mainstream broadcast and print news media are female.

    Though women have achieved near parity with men as givers of popular opinion in news stories, less than one out of every five experts interviewed is female.

    While God created human beings as equals and loves them equally, Abah, an awarding winning journalist who was former Senior Writer/ Health Correspondent with Tell Magazine noted that the level of disparity between male and female worldwide due to segregation, sentiments and stigmatization is amazing.

    “It is alarming that anti-women sentiments have actually seeped into the media, the sector which really is the last hope of the common man (and women)” Abah stated citing Bible verses including Deuteronomy 21:14 and Genesis 1: 27 as examples of how God cares for women.

    Like the GMMP outcome indicated, Abah, an Alfred Friendly Press Fellow lamented that women have remained largely underreported. In majority of cases where they are reported, she said the reports are laced with sentiments and stereotypes, while women journalists unlike their male counterparts are not assigned major beats.

    “In the newsroom, women, have continued to occupy the elegant backseat position as matrons and generalissimos of fashion, entertainment and kiddies desks while men generally steer the course of popular discourse as celebrated, cerebral and influential columnists,” she observed.

    Only about five percent of women, according to Abah, are editors of national newspapers in Nigeria. Women according to the GMMP result report only 37 percent of news stories in newspapers, on radio and television combined.

    “Where is the justice in our newsroom? Though we may be preaching against injustice, knowingly or unknowingly, we are promoting gender discrimination and what can be more unjust?”

    Almost one half (48%) of all news stories monitored during the project reinforce gender stereotypes, while 8 % challenged it. Women are five times as likely as men to be portrayed in their roles as wives, mothers, etc

    To redress the gender imbalance in the Nigeria media, Abah said there was need to set the record straight and portray women for their true worth.

    She called for a conscious policy of equally highlighting women in news coverage and getting balanced views of women in news reporting.

    “Every newsroom should embark on a soul search, an affirmative action, and ensure that their charity of justice starts from home. They should empower female journalists, ensure they are entrusted with so-called ‘manly’ jobs because women are capable, if they are not better” Abah stated.

    Instead of feeling inferior, Abah advised female reporters to believe they can handle every beat because “they truly can”.

    “Most of the jobs done by men do not require male’s genitals. It mostly entails brains, and since women also have brains, they can, they should be given a chance. God cares for women, let us do likewise”

    Participants at the fellowship agreed with most of the observations by Abah but urged women journalists to show more interest in taking up major roles in the newsroom.

    “The advocacy for better coverage of women in the media has to be championed by women.Men will not take up the battle to address their marginalization. Women should cooperate among themselves and take up the challenge” said Sanmi Falobi, Publisher of Gospel Tide Magazine.

    The global, regional and national reports for the 4th GMMP will be launched on September 29.

  3. Kehan, thanks for your post. Sounds like there was great discussion at your seminar. We also had strong feelings expressed by veteran female journalists and journalism professors at the WACC North America sponsored GMMP roundtable, ” Who Makes The News In The Newsroom?”, held 20 September 2010 at St. John’s University in New York City, htttp://bit.ly/WhoMakesTheNewsNewsroom.

    I think the challenge of women getting more bylines does certainly lie partly with female journalists who need to push their story ideas forward at editorial meetings and with the assignment desk. But there is also the other part: the media model that (at least in the U.S.) is very much driven by commerce.

    Assigning editors and publishers, be they male or female, are pressured to cover stories that will sell newspapers or will get viewer/listenershipship…sports, crime, etc. by their corporate owners – beats that are often assigned to the guys.

    I think where money drives media decisions, we need to make an argument that is makes good fiscal sense for media outlets to cover topics of human interest (of interest to both genders), but we need to back up those arguments…and we have to back up those arguments with numbers. Then I think we will see more bylines for women, as editors already assign women to human interest stories. Don’t get me wrong – I am not trying to keep women covering the same “soft” news stories. However, when the media model embraces human interest stories and values them like sports and crime, then the whole model has a chance of changing its thinking about who can write about what – and I think that will ultimately lead to female journalists getting assigned stories in all sections of the newspaper.

    Just like WACC’s Plan of Action in the GMMP 2010 report (find a preliminary report with an initial plan of action at http://www.whomakesthenews.org), this kind of sea change in journalism will only happen through partnerships – working with journalists, editors, publishers, media owners, activists and all other who care for representative and fair reporting – and talking and working together.

    This won’t happen overnight, butI believe WACC’s GMMP give us the stats so central to journalism that real discussions can begin.

    Cheers,
    Sheila

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