What is the future for women in digital journalism?

Whitney Ashton of Pepperdine University says digital journalism can change the gender gap in the industry. (Photo courtesy of her Twitter profile)

Whitney Ashton of Pepperdine University says digital journalism can change the gender gap in the industry.
(Photo courtesy of her Twitter profile)

Recent research from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford University in the UK indicated that there were more women studying journalism compared to men in multiple countries, including the United States. Yet, despite that, a majority of the jobs in journalism still go to men.

Yet, in spite of all of that, the digital advances in journalism, according to research from Suzanne Franks, a former BBC producer, now professor at City University in London, has allowed a new perspective, from remote editing and brands on social media to covering beats and contributing from technology. There were problems however when going into existing structures, Franks noted.

But what does this mean for women and journalism, especially female students looking to go into an industry that is increasingly becoming digital first?

Whitney Ashton, a senior at Pepperdine University, based outside of Los Angeles, whose student body is 59 percent female and 41 percent male, said there is a shift ongoing.

“Currently, there are more women studying journalism at Pepperdine than men,” Ashton said when reached by email. “However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that women (in general) are working in the top jobs in their industry. We’ve made great strides in regard to having the same opportunities as men and having the same influence, but I still believe there is a gender gap. We’re just not there yet.”

Indeed, Ashton says, the new digital outlook in the industry has created ways of seeing media and industry solutions, including issues of gender.

“It’s easy to look through the gendered lens that is sometimes presented on TV or get discouraged by the ratio of male to female bylines in newspapers, but online journalism and social media are new territory,” Ashton said. “The digital age has disrupted traditional journalism in many ways, and I think it also has the potential to change gender attitudes for women looking to break into the industry.”

Further, Ashton says, these changes have allowed more people to have a voice.

“Traditional journalism was a traditionally white and male-dominated field,” Ashton said. “The digital age brought about by the Internet disrupted traditional media. The rise of blogging and new media companies has allowed those who were previously marginalized (i.e., women, minorities, etc.) by traditional journalism to have a voice and tell the untold stories. The new model allows for a full range of human perspectives to be discussed and displayed.”

Ashton, who hopes to go into online journalism once she graduates, is confident the gender gap can be closed in spite of the statistics. However, a lot of work must be done.

“It will take time and a concerted effort from both parties,” Ashton said.

Alex Veeneman is a Chicago based SPJ member who is chairman of SPJ Digital and the community coordinator for SPJ. Veeneman serves as Deputy Editor, Media Editor and contributing writer to Kettle Magazine, an online publication based in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

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