Women journalists tell their "herstory"

Only one-third of the bloggers in the world are women.

Less than 20 percent of op-eds or newspaper opinion pieces are written by women, according to The OpEd Project.

It wasn't until 1971 that women journalists were allowed equal access into the National Press Club.

These are just a few of the things that I learned this weekend at the Journalism & Women Symposium held in Snowbird, Utah.


Dawn Garcia

"I am standing on the shoulders of other women," said outgoing JAWS president Dawn Garcia, also the deputy director John S. Knight Fellowships and former assistant managing editor at the San Jose Mercury News.

Garcia recognized all the battles that women have gone through to forge careers in the media.

Among JAWS members are some of the women who sued the Associated Press and the New York Times to gain equality for women in the newsrooms in the 1970s. The lawsuit against the Times is told in a book called "The Girls in the Balcony."

At this year's JAWS conference, different panels showcased women who are leaders in the field in the United States and abroad, including bloggers and international reporters.

(For the the record, I became a member of JAWS last year and I was just elected to their board of directors.) Each year the conference is held in a different location and this year the group celebrated its 25th anniversary.

Veronica Villafañe, who writes a blog called Media Moves about Latinos and the media, spoke on a panel about blogging. She is the former president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.

She said she isn't making a living writing the blog but she started it to keep herself sane after she was laid off.

"I just got my first $100 check from Google (ads) in March," added Villafañe, a freelance journalist and Emmy award-winner.

One of the country's top political bloggers, Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun-Times and the Daily Flotus blog about Michelle Obama on Politics Daily, told the women at JAWS that a blog can help a reporter further develop a beat.

"It helped me be a player in the campaign," Sweet said.
She also uploads primary source documents, speeches and even President Obama's daily guidance in addition to news stories on her blog.

"The blog works when it's your passion, it's your vision," Sweet said.

Celina Ottaway, a contributing editor to Martha Stewart's Body + Soul Magazine, said starting her food blog "is probably the smartest thing I've ever done in my career."

On another panel called "Women in Danger" journalists spoke about the risks they take covering the news internationally.

Patricia Mercado Sanchez, a journalist with Imagen de Zacatecas, a newspaper in Mexico, said reporters in Mexico are often killed when they investigate the drug cartels.

"Journalism in Mexico has become one of the most dangerous jobs," Mercado said. "Reporters turn to self-censorship to protect themselves."

They also face pressure, especially from local government, who want to control the news content. Her newspaper, however, stopped taking government funding, a common practice in Mexico, so they can maintain editorial independence.

Nadia Trinidad, a television journalist at ABS-CBN in the Philippines, described how a crowd turned on her on her cameraman because they were angry at the media for exposing the corruption of a former president. They barely escaped a violent mob.

"To me everyday poses a challenge to stop the indifference," said Trinidad, who is a Knight Fellow at Stanford this year.

Tara Mahtafar, an Iranian-American journalist, who lived in Iran and covered the elections this summer described how the government tried to control the media.

But citizen journalists using video, cell phones and Twitter helped spread news of the anti-government protests.

"It exemplified the emerging role of new media," Mahtafar said. "Women played a definitive role in it."

These women journalists are profiles in courage and breaking new ground. They show us that women can do it.

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