Female Journalists Speak: How to Make It as a Woman in the Media Business

female journalists

In recent months, females have proliferated the news.

From national marches advocating for human rights to the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, women are making their voices heard.

Journalists are also speaking up about harassment in the newsroom and the gender pay gap, forcing media organizations to shine a light on internal operations.

Recently, Sixth & I in Washington, DC, hosted a timely talk called “Work in Progress: Women in Media,” where three women journalists shared their take on current events.

The panelists — CNN reporter Hadas Gold, Washington Post columnist Alexandra Petri, and NPR Morning Edition producer Ashley Westerman — divulged their experiences, insight, and advice for navigating the media industry as a female.

As I sat in the room, surrounded by dozens of women young and old, I felt inspired by their poignant and powerful discussion.

The panelists covered a range of subjects, but for women entering the publishing field, I took away five main points.

First Jobs Are No Indicator of the Road Ahead

When it comes to careers in media, the path to success isn’t always clear.

Each of the women’s early working years began like that of most people. They started at jobs that weren’t necessarily their first choice and eventually worked their way up.

The Post’s Petri studied at Harvard. She started as a cashier at Barnes & Noble.

NPR’s Westerman began in retail, at American Eagle.

CNN’s Gold — named ‘one of the most influential reporters’ by Mediaite in 2017 — worked as a babysitter, changing diapers.

Be Annoying, Be Irritating

Westerman said this is the one quality that truly helped her succeed in the business. She talked about her time as an intern, where she repeatedly asked her managers for articles to write.

When they finally relented, Westerman made sure not to waste the opportunity.

“Badger people,” she said, but with the caveat: “Bring back really good work. That’s what I always did, and it got me noticed.”

Have Dreams, but Be Flexible 

Sometimes the right jobs aren’t there, or you may not get the ones you want.

Gold suggests applying to everything you can, even if it doesn’t fit your education or experience.

“Have dreams, but be flexible,” Gold said. “Be open to what’s out there. You can learn a lot about yourself that way.”

You might be surprised at what you find enjoyable, she added, and what you learn by doing something unfamiliar or that requires a new skill set.

Put Irons in the Fire

Before CNN, Gold worked at Politico, where she began as a media tech. She would help writers with some of their reports, which ultimately paid off in bylines.

“Ask,” she said. “Try things. Don’t be constrained by what your current position is.”

The Post’s Petri emphasized enthusiasm — and volume.

“You want to have a lot of irons in the fire,” Petri said. “Not all of them are going to be useful, but there’s a greater chance of [success] happening, if you have more of them.”

#MeToo is Here to Stay

Surfacing #MeToo moments in the news can be difficult. There’s no real playbook.

Gold said it saddens her that some of the same stories she heard about two years ago are only getting out now.

“I’m glad they finally are,” she said. “Women and men are finally standing together and forcing their voices to be heard.”

It’s a tricky line to travel as a reporter, too, Gold added. There have been plenty of times she’s had to work or report on male figures, and there are gray areas with regard to how far you’re willing to go to get the information.

“If you flirt a little, will they tell you more?” she said. “How do you report on this in a fair way? The culture hasn’t changed yet.”

But, newsrooms and journalists are preparing for the long haul.

For example, CNN currently is creating a position to research and break these types of stories.

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Theresa Duncan is a PRWeb editor at Cision. She is currently pursuing a part-time Master’s in Creative Writing at the University of Cambridge and hopes to one day publish novels.

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