In honor of Women’s History Month, this is the second in a two-part series featuring women in media, and the personal and professional challenges they face. See part 1 here.
Of the changes and advancements that have occurred in the media industry over the past decade, sadly, one has remained steadfast: The number of women in newsrooms. A survey by the American Society of News Editors found women in newsrooms has hovered at approximately 37 percent since 1999.
Some of that imbalance can be blamed perhaps on industry layoffs and cutbacks. But might it possible that news women face unique challenges as they balance family responsibilities with the unpredictability of the job?
“As a woman, I think that we need to constantly work hard to prove ourselves, and sometimes maybe just a little bit more than everybody else,” says Christina Joseph Robinson, an assignment editor at The Record, one of New Jersey’s largest dailies and the paper that broke the Bridgegate story.
Robinson, a married mother of two, oversees municipal and diversity news with six people reporting to her. She chose a career in newspapers nearly 20 years ago and has stuck with it despite the industry shift from print to digital. This has caused her to adapt and accept new reporting methods.
Robinson explains the newspaper now functions a lot like a wire service, similar to AP, with posting updates and generating content on an ongoing basis.
“It’s literally seconds between you and the competition trying to post something on the web or tweet it out,” she said. “Everybody’s grabbing on to all of this information so it’s really made everyone more aware that we need to think fast and act fast. It leaves you thinking forward as well because you’re posting so much stuff on the web during the course of reporting your story that by the time the paper comes out next day, it’s old. You have to make decisions about what you’re going to hold back and how you’re going to spin the story forward.”
For Robinson, it also means her day begins early, working with her team of reporters to develop their stories and often ends as late as 9 p.m. or 10 p.m. to make final edits. Like many working mothers, it’s a constant juggling act of work and family and finding effective ways to meet the needs of both.
“You want to be supermom,” she said. “You want to be there for every bake sale, the school play, all the conferences and trying to balance that with the crazy, unpredictable career in media journalism that’s ever evolving and constantly changing and non-stop is difficult.”
Even with the strong family support from her husband and their nearby parents as well as an understanding, supportive manager, the pressure came to a head after she had her first child.
Prior to maternity leave, Robinson was promoted and put in charge of local county coverage – a position that required longer hours and focus that Robinson, now a new mom, didn’t feel she could devote to it.
Robinson found herself at a crossroads and knew she would have to sacrifice something. After much reflection, she reluctantly gave up the position. Though it was the right move for her family, she wondered how her decision would affect her professional future.
“I had been on this trajectory,” she said. “And I had gone off course so what am I going to do? Am I ever going to be able to get back on?”
She doesn’t have all the answers, and she honestly has little time to think about it. She has to job to do. A job that she takes great pride in and thrives in.
“I love my job and what we do and the possibility of what we can do, like the Bridgegate story, or poking holes in the budget, or exposing a corrupt politician – things that are really important,” Robinson said. “Being a part of that is just so significant.”
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Brett Savage-Simon is PR Newswire’s former director of audience relations and was a television reporter in her former life.