I recently got a rare opportunity to be part of an audience addressed by the Director of the International Media Programs with the National Endowment for Democracy – Margaret Sullivan. She described an era when she was a young journalist in the 70s, when women journalists were generally looked down upon, and had to work four times as hard as their male counterparts in order to get any semblance of recognition. She described being allocated a desk at the back of the newsroom, like it was a deliberate attempt to stifle and obliterate both her face and voice. Men generally considered themselves superior to women journalists and would hoot and whistle each time a woman walked into the newsroom. Ms Sullivan also described a sad tale of how very good women journalists found themselves relegated to fluffy feature stories of nothing consequential, or ‘easy beats’ like courts and health reporting while their male counterparts got to do politics and other ‘hard stuff’.
Being of a completely different, albeit improved era, it was shocking to even imagine that such a time existed. Nevertheless, as much as conditions for women have improved significantly over the years - a lot of prejudices still exist.
Today the Web 2.0provides opportunities for women to redefine their audiences and be heard through alternative media not necessarily considered mainstream. You would think that women in media have a certain advantage in terms of getting their view points across – but the nature of patriarchy which dominates most of our newsrooms has ensured that they either hold themselves back for fear of criticism or are just denied either the opportunity or sufficient recognition to freely express themselves.
Many a journalist has found the value of self-publishing through blogging and harnessing the potential of online publication. By these means, women have started to define themselves outside editorial policy, making people start to question the assumptions they previously held without questioning.
The ability that comes with Web 2.0 to publish in near real time is something that cannot be overlooked. A lot more female journalists are the first to break some really hard hitting stories to reach wider audiences.
Social networking tools like Facebook and Twitter have allowed an unprecedented level of networking across professions, which can be highly enriching for a journalist. I have found that by cultivating the right audiences online, I can discuss or blog about the issues I care about, and there will be an interested group of followers. I also like the fact that much as blogging platforms allow one to self publish; your audiences are both your critic and editor – praising you when you write an excellent piece or break a pertinent issue and fiercely criticising and reproaching you when you get your facts or as much as a spelling wrong.
Most importantly, for the unconventional journalist who still wants to write but no longer operates within the confines of the newsroom – Web 2.0 is a platform to keep both a passion and profession alive