Women in Media & News
Last spring the mainstream media was filled with laments over the lack of women’s voices on the nation’s op-ed pages. Editors say they’d love to run more editorials by women if they could only find knowledgeable writers, especially those with expertise outside the area of “women’s issues.”
So Jennifer Pozner, director of the media monitoring group Women in Media & News, decided to put together a daily forum of women writing about media coverage of a broad range of cultural, social, political, and international issues. The result is the newly launched “WIMN’s Voices: A Group Blog on Women, Media AND…” featuring 50 women writers from the progressive feminist community.
The idea is to bring together leading advocates, journalists and scholars like Altnet.org editor Monica Mehta, Bitch cofounder Andi Zeisler and Lakshmi Chaudhry of In These Times to analyze the day’s pressing issues.
“Since the mission is to amplify women’s voices in the public debate, we want the forum to have as diverse a voice as possible,” said Pozner. Forty-five percent of the participants are women of color. The bloggers range in age from 19 to 64 and represent a broad range of economic status, sexual orientations, and religious affiliations.
Mainstream media tends to take a narrow view of what constitutes women’s issues. Pozner says reporting as if women’s issues are just abortion or rape, and leaving out universal issues as war, terrorism or economics is inappropriate.
“Ninety percent of the world’s sweat shop workers are women and girls, yet the media rarely if ever cover global trade and economics as if those are women’s issues, ” said Pozner. “Traditionally media has played this role in helping us define what we should all care about and what is our place. The woman’s place [in media] is dealing with issues around the body, children, domesticity, and of course style. Lifestyle, fashion and all those types of stories are still the primary areas where women are quoted as experts. Men by default are invested in everything else in terms of coverage, which implies that the public sphere is male.”
By focusing on topics ranging from race, immigration and war to sports, sex and music, as well as traditional women’s issues, Pozner says the blog proves there is no shortage of smart, provocative women who could and should be snapped up as contributors by mainstream and independent media, which she points out hasn’t been immune to the shortage of commentary by women and people of color.
Lately mainsteam media has discovered blogs, mostly featuring those written by men. Ironically, says Pozner, women account for 43 percent of bloggers, giving them better representation online than in any other media category except local news anchors. The group blog Feministing.com gives voices to young women who are rarely given a platform to speak out on issues. Last summer Blogher, a feminist group that evangelizes blogging by, for and to women held its first national conference and a second one is planned for 2006.
That’s not to say women’s blogs are read as widely as men’s. “The blogshere is not this vast untamed terrain that is totally independent, owned by and operated by citizen journalists,” Pozner said. “The leading blogs and Internet media sites are controlled by corporate parents. There is definitely the danger of the problems we see with corporate media ownership of news outlets in general spilling over into the blogsphere.”
Blog popularity is driven by links, as well as advertising and corporate budgets, Pozner adds. The more links to your blog, the more likely it is to show up on search engines. There has been some anecdotal evidence that while women link to whatever material they find interesting regardless of the author’s gender, men tend to link primarily to materials written by other men.
For Pozner, the goal is not only to reach the grassroots audience through WIMN’s Voice, but also to position the women writing for the blog as opinion leaders. “We are showing there is a tremendous available talent pool of women–and particular women of color–who write effectively and in a cutting-edge way about all the pressing issues through the lens of media,” she says, “so we’ll be able to say [to editors], there’s no dearth of female voices, no dearth of impressive writers of color. They’re here. No more excuses.”
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