Posts Tagged ‘Whitney Ashton’


The future of women studying journalism

The School of Journalism at the University of Missouri. Indiana University's main campus in Bloomington, considered to be one of the most prestigious journalism schools in the US. Research shows an increase of women studying journalism compared to men. Photo - mojourcomm / Wikimedia Commons (CC)

The School of Journalism at the University of Missouri. Research shows an increase of women studying journalism compared to men.
Photo – mojourcomm / Wikimedia Commons (CC)

One of the items in modern journalism education that has been examined as of late is the rise of women studying journalism, and that despite more women studying the subject than their male counterparts, more of the jobs are going to men.

A recent blog post detailed research from Oxford University in the UK which indicated more women studied journalism compared to men in multiple countries, including the United States, yet most of the jobs were going to men.

More research had been done particularly on the angle of education in the US, and recent research from the University of Georgia, known as the Annual Survey of Journalism and Mass Communication Enrollment, indicated that approximately two-thirds of the student body pursuing undergraduate or graduate degrees in the field were women.

Yet with the concerns still out there on employment ratios and gender gaps, what does the future hold for women studying journalism, and what would the educational research indicate when transitioning to employment?

In an earlier blog post, Whitney Ashton, a senior at Pepperdine University, based outside Los Angeles, said there had been some changes in the digital age.

“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.”

Indiana University's flagship campus in Bloomington, considered to be one of the most prestigious journalism programs in the US. (Photo: McAnt/Wikimedia Commons under CC license)

Indiana University’s flagship campus in Bloomington, considered to be home to one of the most prestigious journalism programs in the US. (Photo: McAnt/Wikimedia Commons under CC license)

At Indiana University‘s flagship campus in Bloomington, senior journalism student Abby Llorico says the research from UGA is not surprising, and that you could walk down most hallways at Ernie Pyle Hall and not spot a single male student.

Llorico, reached by email, says something is missing.

“My honors program started with a few guys in it, but now it’s dwindled down to only 8 girls,” Llorico said. “It’s unfortunate in a learning environment because there’s definitely a perspective we’re missing.”

For the industry, Llorico says, many people associate the digital industry with social media, and perceptions are different.

“The digital world is seen by many people as a “social media” term, and many people think of social media as more of a ‘girl-thing,'” Llorico said. “I have never heard of a guy wanting to make a career out of social media. And while of course they do use the platform, for young people I would say that it’s more common for girls to keep up with their feeds and timelines than guys.”

Yet, on the subject of equality, Llorico says, gender is the easiest hurdle.

“I really think that’s the easiest hurdle we have to face in society, and I am a woman,” Llorico said. “We’ve cleared a lot of hurdles when it comes to how people think and now it’s just about making policy that catches up. As far as religion, race, nationality, and the like, I think that journalism is one sphere in which the generally more liberal mindset would help make equality more possible than in other fields.”

Llorico, who wants to be a TV news anchor when she finishes her studies, says it is imperative to understand the world and its various perspectives.

“There’s nothing more crucial in this world than understanding it,” Llorico said. “We owe it to one another to hear each other out and listen to voices, stories, and problems that are different than ours.”

For the moment, however, concerns about a gender gap are vast and appear in many schools in the US. In an interview with the USA Today College publication, Victoria Messina, a journalism major at the University of Florida, it may lead to concerns of employment down the road.

“If I put in the same amount of effort, and went to a really great journalism school, and did all of the same work as him and he got the job or the better story than me, then that would suck.”

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.

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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