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Five tips for creating a more gender-balanced newsroom

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Five tips for creating a more gender-balanced newsroom

Jessica Weiss | July 04, 2014

Across the world, news organizations still have a lot of work to do to achieve gender equality.

Equal pay, work-life balance and the role of women in media and media leadership were examined at the recent event “Closing Journalism’s Gender Gap," hosted by the National Press Club and Poynter.

At the panel event, representatives from the Women’s Media Center presented findings from a report that sheds new light on the presence and absence of women in various roles across the United States media sector. The “Status of Women in the U.S. Media 2014” report says 64 percent of bylines and on-camera appearances went to men at the nation’s top 20 TV networks, newspapers, online news sites and news wire services” in the last quarter of 2013.

Though times have changed since males overwhelmingly dominated all media sectors, the report shows that U.S. media “have exceedingly more distance to travel on the road to gender-blind parity.”

“Overall, this research is about much more than just one woman in an anchor seat, it is about making sure that who defines the story, who tells the story, and what the story is about, represents women and men equally," said Julie Burton, president of the Women’s Media Center.

The report offers pointers for news outlets that want better gender balance. Among them:

"A Practical Path Towards Parity"

  1. Staff with intention: The Women’s Media Center recommends that outlets “hire reporters, editors and producers who show proof and capacity for reporting accurately.” Those people should also be “mindful of gender, class and ethnic diversity and how different groups, ideals, etc. intersect.”

  2. Diversify the source list: Are your reporters interviewing mostly men? If so, encourage them to reach out to women, and make a list of expert women sources available for quick access. For inspiration: The Women’s Media Center’s SheSource.org resource is a database of women experts on diverse topics, explicitly designed to serve journalists, bookers and producers seeking on-air guests and other sources of news and/or commentary.

  3. Avoid biased or coded language and imagery: "Just as good journalists examine their words for correct spelling, punctuation, grammar, usage and style, they should guard against biased language that could unfairly depict issues and people in the news," according to the report. And that should happen at all levels of the news delivery process, says the Center.

  4. Establish standards and mechanisms for meeting goals: Journalists should have a clear understanding of their news organization's definition of sexism, as well as racism and other forms of discrimination. Federal, state and local anti-discrimination laws should also be clearly highlighted, as well as the organization’s system of ensuring they don’t creep into the workplace.

  5. Monitor audience comments: Responses to news coverage that are posted on a site can shape the perception of your news organization’s viewpoints, even if they aren't representative. The Women’s Media Center recommends that organizations “make sure reader/viewer feedback is neither needlessly inflammatory, maliciously racist or provocatively sexist, or a vehicle for spreading disinformation.”

To access the full report online, click here.

Jessica Weiss is a freelance journalist based in Bogotá

Image courtesy of Flickr user Just Ard under a Creative Commons license.

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