Contributed by Anmol Sheraz, Nazish Muzaffar and Qurat-ul-Ain
Journalism has always been man-commanded in many countries and Australian media is one of them. Female journalists in Australia happily work in media industry but at times they feel inferior to opposite gender, professionally. Editors prefer male journalists on particular beats and pre-judge the abilities of female reporters. Women mostly face discrimination on their physical appearances, social ill-perception mostly by middle aged/old men and public behaviors towards them are discouraging.
The world of journalism can be a boys club, especially when it comes to news. Samantha Dick a court reporter for Wangaratta Chronicle said, “Being a woman in Australian media is fantastic for the most part. Sexism exists in varying degrees but I think it is worse for women in TV journalism because so much of their job is centred on their appearance. How many older women do we see on TV? A handful.” Over the past few years and specifically past few months, anger about the portrayal of women in terms of visibility, sexualisation and humiliation, has grown at hyperactive pace. It leads to a culture in which women’s confidence is undermined, ambitions narrowed and experiences of harassment, rape and violence disbelieved whereas men don’t suffer from all this.
In most of the articles the names referred in the news coverage are men. The media focus on the highest strata of individuals; and two, the lack of women in these positions. Also female journalists don’t back their stories as men do. Ebony Bowden, journalist at The Age said, “I tend to find female journalists don’t back their stories as much as men. If you have a great idea that an editor says no to, female reporters don’t tend to fight as hard for it as men do.” An influx of women into all-male industries doesn’t change the coverage unless women take over the key positions.
As journalists’ ventures bravely into new places, some find they have to be braver than others. Female reporters face new forms of harassment, comments or worse from men in public. The abuse is unfortunate, both for its personal toll and its hindrance to the noble goal of engaging the broader public in their reporting. Women too often face an additional layer of spite, insult and objectification. Samantha Dick said, “Some people in male-dominated fields don’t always respond well to a woman interviewing them instead of a man. E.g. when I conducted some interviews at a cattle sale yard I got a lot of up-and-down stares and even a few cheeky comments from men attempting to undermine my authority as a professional. I’ve been called ‘girl’, ‘sweetheart’ and ‘press lady’ several times when I’ve been working”
It’s not that Australian media is full of negativities; women are at times privileged and honored to cover issues of victims of crimes, young people, women and LGBTI. As Ebony Bowden said, “Victims of crime, young people, women and LGBTI contacts may like being interviewed more by a female reporter than a man and this is something women in journalism should use to their advantage.” A reporter becomes familiar with the insinuation of certain types of eye contact and non-verbal communication. Oftentimes, the interviewee’s body language and eye contact are just signs of attentiveness to the questions. The thing a journalist loves most is meeting and speaking with people who have a variety of opinions and aspirations.
There is no doubt that woman have made great strides into the once-male bastion of the newsroom. Yet the presence of some high-profile women in the print media almost certainly contributes to a gulf between perception and reality. The same applies to the broader news media, including broadcast journalism, as is demonstrated in the most recent statistical data included in a 2011 global report from the US-based International Women’s Media Foundation. This provides data to show that the glass ceiling for Australian women journalists, print and broadcast, is found at the senior professional level (senior writers, editors and anchors, among other experienced reporting staff), where women have inched toward parity with men at 40.4 per cent.
Women’s participation is higher (46 per cent) in the junior professional level. At the top levels, however, the Australian media remains heavily male dominated. The reality remains that, while there has been some improvement in recent years, female journalists are still employed in masse in low-status, low-income positions, struggling to attain real influence in editorial decision-making roles. Media managers are aware that they have long excluded women from leadership positions. In 2004 the then editor-in-chief of the Age, Andrew Jaspan, acknowledged the problem saying, “Quite often newspapers are run by men with very much a male-oriented agenda.” Nevertheless, media managers still privilege particular ways of doing journalism that work to underplay women’s talents and hold them back from attaining leadership positions.
Reported with the assistance of Bethan Yeoman and Ainsley Koch from RMIT.
Photo courtesy: Rambling Reflections & Miki Perkins