Archive for October, 2017

A need to champion

Helen Thomas, one of the first women members of the White House press corps, as seen during a 1976 news conference with President Gerald Ford. (Photo: Marion S. Trikosko/LOC/Wikimedia Commons/CC license)

This is something I’ll freely own up to. I am a subscriber to The Cohort, the newsletter from the Poynter Institute curated by Katie Hawkins-Gaar. The newsletter aims to celebrate and promote women kicking ass in digital media. I read it not because of its look at the impact of journalism in the digital age, but to serve as a reminder for me about the challenges that are abound, and how I can help avert those challenges.

Today is International Day of the Girl. The UN declared October 11th to be that day five years ago in order to celebrate the importance of women and girls and to advance their opportunities.

Though industries beyond this one struggle with how to promote women, there is a special case with journalism. In this age where clicks versus authenticity is a daily debate, where news of layoffs are a daily occurrence and the blunt, excessive criticism of President Trump and his administration with the words fake news, it is essential that we champion our colleagues who work to help the public be at their best – especially women.

Yet, at the same time, it is more than that. As more women are studying journalism in still a male-dominated industry, there is still work to be done – from giving them opportunities and championing their voices in our newsrooms to defending them amidst attacks on social media because of who they are.

That case is evident with Laura Kuenssberg, the British political journalist who has been subjected to abuse online and who reportedly had to be accompanied by a security guard during a major political party conference. It is also evident with Jourdan Rodrigue, a sports reporter with the Charlotte Observer in North Carolina, who was the subject of a joke by Charlotte Panthers player Cam Newton. Newton has since apologized for the remark, but Scott Fowler, Rodrigue’s colleague, wrote that it was inexcusable.

Collaboration in journalism is more important than competition. It is necessary for us to survive – a point emphasized at the Online News Association’s conference last week in Washington.

As it is necessary for us to survive, it is important that we champion all those who work to help the public do what is at the core of SPJ’s Code of Ethics – seek truth and report it.

We need people like Hawkins-Gaar, Rodrigue and Kuenssberg. We are a better industry because of people like Lauren Gustus at the Fort-Worth Star Telegram and Tory Starr at WGBH in Boston. We know journalism’s future is bright because of the work of people like SPJ president Rebecca Baker, the Minnesota Newspaper Association’s Sarah Bauer Jackson, the Minneapolis Star Tribune (and SPJ Minnesota president) Jenna Ross, Andrea Swensson at The Current at Minnesota Public Radio, and freelance journalist (and SPJ International Community co-chair) Elle Toussi.

If I am limited to giving only one reason for why being a feminist is important, let it be this. To borrow The Cohort’s quote, women kick ass in journalism, and are needed in journalism, period. They inspire me to do what I can for this field. I’m proud to work with them, and I value what they do.

After all, when journalism is at its best, by evolving everyone, irrespective of race, gender, nationality or sexual orientation, the public is too.

Alex Veeneman is a freelance journalist in Minneapolis and a member of SPJ’s Ethics and FOI Committees. You can interact with him on Twitter @alex_veeneman.

The views expressed are that of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Committee, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.


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