Journalism Funders Confidential #001: The Gender-Media Relationship

[Cross-posted from the Journalism Funders Forum website, where you can sign up for this newsletter.]

Our goal is to take you on a journey through some of the major forces currently shaping philanthropy and journalism in Europe. 

Each month we’ll take a deep dive into a key issue of common interest to both fields. We’ll include a selection of insights, expertise and links in the newsletter, but we’ll also publish the underlying resources we used in a public Google doc as a springboard to help build up collective momentum around each issue. We hope that you’ll share your own knowledge and questions in this document, but if you prefer to send your thoughts by email, that’s fine too! 

For this first edition, we could think of no more crucial topic of interest to both journalists and funders than the status of women in the journalism field. We hope you’ll enjoy the reading and are keen to get your feedback.

Breaking the silence

Imagine starting every day knowing that there is a chance you’ll be sexually harassed at work, but that the person who harasses you won’t face any consequences; that when you contribute your ideas, they’ll likely be dismissed or appropriated, perhaps by someone less qualified than you; that you will do the same amount as or more work than another colleague, but get paid less, sometimes much less; that when you publish a piece, you’ll be subjected to abuse, harassment and even threats, often publicly or on social media. 

Far too many women working in journalism and media around the world don’t have to imagine such challenges. 

Many of us – women and men – in journalism and philanthropy have sat in meetings, been at conferences, conducted job interviews where someone has crossed a line – everyday-sexist comments, inappropriate physical behaviour, questions about pregnancy or maternity leave. Maybe we exchanged glances or eye-rolls with colleagues or looked away, occasionally we might have had a quiet word, or comforted an upset colleague, but too often we didn’t risk our own positions to challenge and dismantle it. 

But since the 2017 movie industry ‘silence-breakers’, something has changed – the cost of inaction, of turning a blind eye, has gone up enormously, and this is true in journalism and increasingly in philanthropy too. 

Journalism sets out to discover and tell the truth about our increasingly complex world – but if who works in journalism, what journalism reports on, whose voices and perspectives it includes, who funds it doesn’t properly, deliberately represent the diversity of that world, how accurate can that truth really be?

#MeToo and journalism

With #MeToo and #TimesUp, a long-overdue shockwave has swept around the world, forcing sector after sector to listen to, acknowledge, respond to the testimony and demands of hundreds of thousands, millions of women.

The donor field, including philanthropy, has vast experience of supporting the empowerment of women and girls. It’s widely acknowledged as the key to all sorts of development and democratic challenges and increasingly, to information challenges. It has prompted the field to think about more proactive steps to “help to ensure that grantees have proper policies, procedures, and practices in place to try and prevent sexual harassment in the workplace, and to promptly and thoroughly address problems when they arise.” And perhaps there is even an end in sight – as this Open Society paper argued – to ‘manels’.

Report after report, handbook after handbook, agenda after agenda addressing gender inequality in the media – the UN’s Gender Equality Media Compact, for example – have emerged from platforms and networks and organisations in media development, press freedom, freedom of expression, digital rights and other sectors. There’s a wealth of academic analysis too. Research centres have compiled evidence to “make the business case” for gender balance and other forms of diversity – what’s the business case for homogeneity?

But with #MeToo, something has changed. An avalanche of women media workers – in Europe, IndiaRussiaChinaJapanEgypt, the USA and elsewhere – finally felt able not only to share, but to actually have heard, believed, acknowledged, their stories of discrimination, harassment, assault, and rape, and the in many cases lifelong impact, both personal and professional, that they have suffered. There is renewed focus and determination on a European level to highlight and tackle these systemic issues, including the European Parliament’s research and resolution on Gender Equality in the Media Sector. As the #MeToo movement has dragged the systemic discrimination against women – as media workers, as legitimate voices in the public sphere, as leaders – into the sunlight, journalism has been forced to turn the lens on its own practices. From the BBC Gender Pay Gap to initiatives like News Mavens (a service where women journalists and editors from across Europe choose the news), the pressure for change, and the demonstration that other ways are possible is intensifying day by day. In the context of journalism, research shows that: 

Here are five examples of doing things differently: 

1. #FemFacts is a new fact-checking initiative from NewsMavens focused on debunking stories that are false, misleading or inaccurate specifically in relation to women. Founder Zuzanna Ziomecka explains more (and watch out for her wonderfully exasperated “Just” about 10 seconds in). 

2. Women’sfunds and advocates have been working for decades from grassroots to the global level to redress the systemic discrimination, exclusion, violence that women and girls face around the world – and continue to work and exchange in collaborativecreativegenerous ways. These recommendations from women’s funds in 21 countries have potential relevance for European grantmakers thinking about how to engage with journalism in the context of #MeToo: 

  • Involve community members in a participatory grantmaking process.
  • Engage in listening tours and engagement with your community.
  • Engage in advocacy and network with others to seek structural change.
  • Be intentional and explicit about diversity, inclusion and equity.

 3. In many countries, women in newsrooms have less access to technology, training and professional development opportunities than male colleagues. To address this, ex-Guardian interactive designer Mariana Moura Santos set up a network for women journalists in Latin America, as part of her ICFJ Fellowship, called Chicas Poderosas. From that idea, she and her growing network of collaborators have built a genuinely locally-driven international network (now including Spain), a media accelerator, and a fact-checking initiative

4. The 2018 edition of Women in News, part of WAN-IFRA’s World News Congress, took inspiration from #MeToo, launching a toolkit on combating sexual harassment in the newsroom. Attentive to gender balance on panels, they also had a range of prominent women speakers from across the globe. But these efforts were overshadowed by a display of on-stage sexism at the closing ceremony. A group of prominent journalists, researchers and civil society experts published an open letter, laying out a host of practical suggestions for media organisations, conference organisers, and funding organisations and intermediaries to help improve the status and treatment of women in the news and journalism sector.

5. In the wake of #MeToo and #TimesUp, many in both journalism and philanthropy are grappling with really fundamental questions about their own cultures, and how they can play a constructive, active role in addressing diversity, equity and inclusion. World Press Photo, for example, has not only promised to revise and publish all its policies dealing with harassment, but also offered to join together with others who want to “build on real opening of the #MeToo moment in photojournalism”. And as Luminate Group has become a standalone spin-out funder, it has published its own policies and commitments in this area, a must-read on how they plan to address this internally, with grantees and with other funders.

This newsletter represents just a selection of some of the major initiatives underway – but we’d really like to use this as a way of both directing attention towards other, important sources of expertise and support, both for women journalists and editors directly, and for those looking to make a change in the way they, their newsroom, their philanthropy, work.

Please, contribute to the open Google Doc we’ve started here!

What else we’re reading this month 

Beneficiaries in charge
A charitable fund set up to benefit women and girls in the UK is using participatory grantmaking to allocate its Justice and Equality Fund.
Read the full story

Diversity on the Philanthropic Agenda
There is a growing amount of research that addresses the lack of diversity and inclusion within philanthropy and supports strategies for change.
Read the full story

Apolitical’s 100 Most Influential People in Global Gender Policy
Drawn from nominations from Apolitical’s global networks of public servants, this list has a philanthropy section, and a smattering of media and journalism people too.
See the list here

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