Posts Tagged ‘Katie Hawkins-Gaar’


Lessons from Katie

Katie Hawkins-Gaar’s contributions to journalism go beyond The Cohort newsletter. (Photo via LinkedIn)

The newsletter appeared near the top of my inbox, as it always does, on a Thursday every couple of weeks. Yet, the particular edition of this newsletter was special, as it signaled the passing of the baton, and allowed for an opportunity to pause and to reflect on the important work by its author.

I refer to The Cohort, the newsletter written by Katie Hawkins-Gaar of The Poynter Institute. Katie announced this week that she is leaving Poynter on December 15, and that edition of The Cohort, the 42nd one, was the last she would write.

While Katie isn’t going too far (she is going to continue the Leadership Academy for Women in Digital Media, under contract with Poynter among many things), her contributions to journalism and understanding its future has been quintessential, not just for the general industry, but for the people who work in it.

The idea for The Cohort came during the review of applications for the second Academy initiative, according to Kristen Hare, her colleague and editor of The Cohort. Katie wanted to do something for the women that weren’t selected to the Academy.

It was clear straight away that the Academy initiative was in good hands, Hare says, as it was a perfect fit for her skills and talent. Yet, Katie wanted it to be more than that, and wanted everyone to benefit, whether or not they were selected.

“She wanted to bring as many people to the party as possible,” Hare said in a telephone interview. “It was meant to be a way to share what was learned at [the Academy] and it very quickly transformed into this ongoing conversation and support group for women on how to thrive and survive in digital media.”

Samantha Ragland, Manager of Digital Entertainment Strategy for the Palm Beach Post in Florida, was part of the 2016 Women in Leadership Academy class, and says that while Katie knew The Cohort was going to be big, her focus was on one-on-one – making it feel like it was just you and her.

“That woman is a light,” Ragland said in a telephone interview. “It is a light that does not intimidate other people, but inspires. She’s bright. She’s humble.”

Katie’s work however goes beyond The Cohort. In addition to her work as Digital Innovation Faculty she also was one of the people behind the 40 Better Hours initiative, in order to create a better working environment in newsrooms. Hare says that a key lesson from her was about process.

“She is really good at not just building but how to do it – this whole idea that anyone can work smart if you follow a process,” Hare said. “She’s really devoted to helping people figure out processes that make work and life better.”

Hare says that transparency and integrity also stand out with Katie – things that have fit in with the recent conversations surrounding sexual harassment allegations against prominent men in journalism, and how newsrooms respond to it.

When the news of her departure emerged, there were many in the industry (this writer included) that were shocked to hear this. Hare said she had three reactions.

“As editor of The Cohort, I am devastated for that audience because I know that she has a voice that will be impossible to replace,” Hare said. “As a co-worker, I’m lost because she is one of those people who just makes the place better and brighter. As a friend, I’m confident that she is doing the right thing. Her intuition is never wrong. I get the added bonus of having her in my life.”

Despite the concerns, Hare knows Katie’s work at Poynter will be a part of the legacy that she has in enhancing journalism – letting voices be heard.

“Her impact is giving a voice to The Cohort – her lasting legacy still will be amazing,” Hare said.

Ragland says involving as many people as possible and her impact on a number of women in journalism will also be a part of it.

“She reaches behind and brings people up with her,” Ragland said. “Katie set a standard for women in leadership. More and more women are going to feel an opportunity and see opportunities to mobilize and to uplift other women in media. That is going to be an important part of her legacy. The last thing is for us to go backwards. We want to go forward.”

Katie has helped journalism go forward in abundance, but also has given us a necessary reminder of why we need voices like Katie in order for the industry to survive. For Elite Truong, a product manager at Vox Media, Katie’s work is about connecting journalists and making them feel welcome. She makes people feel that they aren’t alone, be it through her writing and otherwise, and Truong says helping people to be better is a part of her legacy.

“It wouldn’t be what it is without Katie,” Truong said.

Katie had one goal in mind with all of this work – to help people to be at their best. That remains a necessary goal in an age where journalism continues to evolve, and how we make sense of its evolution. This was emphasized not just in the work she has done at Poynter, but a message she emphasized in interviews, including one she gave to me for Twin Cities PBS earlier this year. She cares about journalism and its people, and knows how much of a difference it can make, and is not afraid to make that known.

Last year, I argued that Debussy’s Reflets dans l’eau (Reflections in the Water in English) was an analogy for journalism. The composition, written based on the speed of ocean water, was a metaphor for the changes journalism was going through, but no matter how far those changes went, journalism would still be a constant.

Based on the conversations I had today and what I’ve heard, I’ll argue that the analogy applies to Katie’s work, in that no matter the changes that are ahead, or the answers that come from the debate on what journalism will be like – her support and her work will always remain a constant to continue to make journalism stronger.

So, here’s to you Katie. Thank you for being the supporter journalism needs more than ever. Thank you for being an idol, showing us that authentic and meaningful things can be done. Yet, most of all, thank you for being journalism’s friend.

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 unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Digital Community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

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.

Why we must support women in journalism

At a meeting at the United Nations in New York earlier this year on gender equality, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau declared to the world that he was a proud feminist, and would keep repeating it “until it was met with a shrug.”

Trudeau, who had only been in office for a few months, had already received global attention for his appointment of a gender-neutral cabinet – 50 percent women, 50 percent men. His declaration went viral, circulating through global Facebook and Twitter feeds, and made headlines in publications internationally.

I, like many, saw the clip through YouTube. I then opened up the Word Processor on my computer and began typing. The final article for Kettle Magazine in the UK had this declaration.

“My name is Alex Veeneman. I’m a journalist, and I’m a feminist.”

I had not said publicly that I was a feminist – a few of my close friends and family members knew of my thoughts, but it was not public knowledge until I had submitted that article for publication.

Indeed, there was another reason why that article was written – to show support for women in journalism, whether they were working in the industry, or studying it at university.

A study from the University of Oxford showed more women studying journalism than men. Above: University College, Oxford. (Image: Ozeye/Wikimedia Commons)

A study from the University of Oxford showed more women studying journalism than men. Above: University College, Oxford. (Image: Ozeye/Wikimedia Commons)

Recent studies, most notably from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford, have shown that there are more women studying journalism at university.

Yet, this was not just the case in the US and Britain. Indeed, the trend was prevalent in other countries, including Australia and Germany. However, despite this, there is still difficulty for women to advance in the industry, as it continues to be heavily male-dominated.

As journalism continues to evolve in the digital age, thanks to the rise of social media platforms and consumption on mobiles, it is trying to reinvent itself to ensure it remains viable. At the core of this is women, for their ideas are detrimental to the future of this industry.

Many of my colleagues at Kettle are women. The majority of our section editors are women, and the number of women who have recently written for the site outnumber men.

Indeed, of the four managing editors currently working at Kettle, I am the only male managing editor, something that I welcome and champion. They got to where they were today because of the work they put in, the time they invested, and the shared goal of quality work.

At SPJ, where in addition to writing these blogs I work on their network of communities, all but one of the five active communities have women as a chair or co-chair. In its 9 active committees, 6 of them have women as a chair or co-chair.

In addition, more women than men hold positions on the Board of Directors. Of the 23 positions on the Board, 14 of them are held by women.

I want to support my friends and colleagues and see them advance in the industry, and have them not be deterred by the systematic treatment and oppression based on their gender.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who says we should embrace equality. (Image: Alex Guibord/Flickr)

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who says we should embrace equality. (Image: Alex Guibord/Flickr)

We collectively must champion women in journalism, encourage them to raise their voices and share their ideas, and support their efforts by mentoring them and helping them excel towards their career goals. We must support the women who are leading the evolution in digital media, and whose ideas will help shape journalism’s future.

We must also especially champion the women who want to have careers in this industry by supporting them in their work, encouraging them in their studies at universities, mentor them, and to instill confidence in them amid current industry trends.

As Trudeau himself put it in an article for Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper, feminism is a word we should not be afraid of, but embrace.

“Feminism is about equal rights and opportunities for men and women, about everyone having the same choices without facing discrimination based on gender,” Trudeau wrote. “Equality is not a threat, it is an opportunity.”

Women must be equal in journalism, and though the equality issues currently at hand will not be solved overnight, we must champion their role in this industry.

After all, especially as journalism continues to evolve, what remains key are the ideas that come to help make it stronger, no matter who they are or what their background is.

It is something we all must embrace, today and every day, now and in the years ahead.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributing blogger to Net Worked on social media’s role in the future of journalism. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is a Managing Editor and contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

Celebrating women in journalism

Today is International Women’s Day — a day to celebrate and recognize the contributions women have made to the world. As journalism evolves, ideas and contributions by women have allowed to make the industry stronger for the future.

International Women’s Day occurs amid interesting roles for gender equity in the industry. Recent studies, notably from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford University in Britain, showed that more women are studying journalism compared to men in multiple countries, including the United States. However, there is still difficulty when it comes to representation of women when you enter the industry.

Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff anchoring the PBS Newshour during the election of 2012. (Photo: Newshour/Flickr under CC)

Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff anchoring the PBS Newshour during the election of 2012. (Photo: Newshour/Flickr under CC)

Data from the non-profit Women’s Media Center, showcased in their State of Women in the US Media in 2015, showcased that within newspapers, the Chicago Sun-Times had 55 percent of women having bylines, and both The Wall Street Journal and the LA Times had 40 percent of women with bylines. The New York Times had only 32 percent of women with bylines, USA Today had 33 percent and The Washington Post had 39 percent. More men were on the paper’s editorial boards compared to women.

On the major television networks, consisting of PBS, ABC, CBS and NBC, PBS had the most female reporters of the four with 44 percent. In addition, Judy Woodruff and Gwen Ifill co-anchor the PBS Newshour program, weeknights. At ABC, 30 percent of the reporters were women, with 29 percent at CBS and 43 percent at NBC. Men anchor the main evening newscasts on those networks (David Muir, Scott Pelley and Lester Holt, respectively). Specific data for cable networks (Fox, CNN, MSNBC) were not available, however the Center’s data indicates there is a larger amount of men working in TV news (58.8 percent) compared to women (41.2 percent).

In online journalism, four news sites were surveyed — The Huffington Post, CNN, The Daily Beast, and Fox News. The Huffington Post had the most female reporters with 53 percent, compared to CNN’s 42 percent, Fox’s 39 percent and The Daily Beast’s 31 percent. Of the two wire services (AP and Reuters), Reuters had more women reporters than the AP (41 percent and 35 percent respectively).

When it came to beats however, there were significant differences. More men covered US and global politics, as well as business, technology, sports, culture and weather. There was an equal paring with lifestyle, and more women covered education and religion compared to men.

At the SPJ, research for this blog post indicated more women holding leadership positions compared to men. Of the 23 members of the Board of Directors, 14 of them are women. Within the 12 regions, the gender balance among directors is equally split.

In the 9 active committees, six of them have women either serving as chair or vice chair. In the network of five active communities, four of them have women serving as chair or co-chair of that community.

Frontline executive producer Raney Aronson-Rath (right), who took over the role after David Fanning (left) stepped down and became executive producer at-large. (Image: The Peabody Awards/Wikimedia Commons under CC)

Frontline executive producer Raney Aronson-Rath (right), who took over the role after David Fanning (left) stepped down and became executive producer at-large. (Image: The Peabody Awards/Wikimedia Commons under CC)

Women make significant contributions to the future of journalism every day, especially in digital journalism, including Laura Davis at the University of Southern California, Kim Bui at Reported.ly, Tory Starr at WGBH in Boston, Katie Hawkins-Gaar of the Poynter Institute, Millie Tran at BuzzFeed and Kat Chow at NPR.

While the issue of gender equity won’t be solved overnight, it is important that everyone recognizes the role they have in this ever changing industry. what matters is not the differences in gender, race or sexual orientation in someone, but the ideas they bring — ideas that are worth listening to now, and in the months and years ahead.

After all, that great idea will be the idea that keeps journalism continuing to be at its best, and its something that I celebrate not just on this day, but every day.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributing blogger to Net Worked on social media’s role in the future of journalism. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is Long Form Editor and a contributing writer on journalism and media issues for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

How can Twitter video help journalism?

Twitter unveiled its new video feature allowing 30 second videos to be uploaded. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons under CC license)

Twitter unveiled its new video feature allowing 30 second videos to be uploaded. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons under CC license)

Twitter unveiled January 27 two new features – the ability to send direct messages privately to groups, and the ability to upload 30 second video clips directly through the social networking site.

The features were unveiled amid uncertainty with the social network’s investors that user growth would be possible. In an interview quoted from Bloomberg, Twitter chief executive Dick Costolo said user growth remained a priority, as the social network reported its fourth quarter earnings last Friday.

Twitter had also announced that real time tweets would be appearing in Google searches, in a deal with the search engine. It is unclear when that feature would be made available to the public.

Yet, with the introduction of Twitter’s 30 second video feature, potential is introduced for journalists and newsrooms. Twitter’s video feature goes up against Vine’s 6 second videos and Facebook owned Instagram’s 15 second videos. The video feature is reported to be made available to users within the coming days.

In a telephone interview, Katie Hawkins-Gaar, Digital Innovation Faculty at the Poynter Institute, says this gives Twitter an advantage.

“Video is huge right now, both in social and digital news,” Hawkins-Gaar said. “Twitter recognizes that. The 30 second limit sets them apart.”

Hawkins-Gaar sees benefits for reporters working from the field for video to be uploaded to Twitter, but also sees benefits for the overall audience-newsroom relationship.

“Lots of journalists and newsrooms that use Twitter to look for breaking news and user generated content,” Hawkins-Gaar said. “It’s great for that. Those newsrooms are particularly excited about that content. Also those who use it use it for two way conversations with audience. I would like to see more people do that. I hope video enhances that.”

Hawkins-Gaar says that from a social standpoint, this could bring benefit to Twitter and alleviate concerns as it tries to grow.

“There is potential for it to save Twitter,” Hawkins-Gaar said. “It’s good for breaking news and things in the moment. The video feature seems to support that, especially in breaking news. People are looking for information.”

However, this feature also provides a risk, particularly for newsrooms, something that needs to be considered when looking at overall social strategy.

“If you’re a newsroom and want to focus on Twitter video, it’s time to talk about everything on social and look at where you should put your focus,” Hawkins-Gaar said.

Overall, Hawkins-Gaar appreciated the simplicity of the feature.

“One of the things that sets Twitter apart is how simple it is,” Hawkins-Gaar said. “I was happy to see how simple the video feature was. I hope they keep it that way. Focuses on short bursts of info and what’s happening in the moment. I hope it doesn’t change Twitter’s focus too much.”

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

This post was amended at 5:51 pm Central Time to reflect a correction in the last paragraph.

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