International Women’s Day: 5 Lessons from Media Entrepreneurs to #BalanceforBetter

women in media

It’s no secret the media landscape has been in a constant state of change.

But thanks to journalists like Jen Poyant and Jen Sabella, who both have built their own media organizations, media is becoming a better, more empowering, and diverse space.

Poyant is a former executive producer with WNYC Public Radio. She oversaw editorial content of the Note to Self, 2 Dope Queens, and Sooo Many White Guys podcasts. She co-founded Stable Genius Productions — along with Manoush Zomorodi — a media company with a mission to help people navigate personal and global change. The duo also co-hosts ZigZag, a business and tech podcast that allows them to document their experiences as entrepreneurs, women in media, and women participating in the tech space.

Sabella formerly served as deputy editor of the much beloved and now-defunct community news site DNAInfo ChicagoShe also served as Chicago editor with The Huffington Post and former breaking news reporter with the Chicago Sun-Times. She is the co-founder and director of strategy of Block Club Chicago, a non-profit media organization dedicated to neighborhood news. Finally, she co-hosts The Girl Talk, a monthly conversation series and podcast featuring influential Chicago women.

Celebrating International Women’s Day, Poyant and Sabella recently sat on a panel to discuss the changing media landscape. The event was held at 1871 Chicago.

Here are five takeaways from that fireside chat.

1. Don’t be afraid to own your work and future.

The success of producing the podcasts A Note to Self and 2 Dope Queens was the catalyst for Poyant and her business partner to launch their  media company.

“Seeing that our work was really successful and taking off got us excited and we decided to do this on our own,” she said. “We decided that we wanted to own our work and own our future.”

For Sabella, launching Block Club Chicago was all about passion, belief in community news, and the fact that DNAInfo Chicago was shut down in late 2017.

“We didn’t get into the news business to get rich,” Sabella said. “We do it because we believe in it. And we want to be able to pay our reporters better wages. … Our goal is to create a pipeline for reporters to really grow and create a footprint in Chicago and give more equitable coverage to the neighborhoods that have been ignored.”

2. Be a good journalist, with good values and look for a space to grow.

Stable Genius Productions and the ZigZag podcast were created to change capitalism, journalism, and women’s lives. Similarly, Block Club Chicago is dedicated to community journalism because regular, every day people are the beneficiaries of it.

Both Sabella and Poyant were rooted in good, quality journalism early in their careers and wanted to explore their abilities by launching media organizations.

Stable Genius uses podcasts as a lab to test new ways journalists can educate, entertain, and inspire through narrative. Block Club Chicago highlights the core of journalism — local communities.

3. Hard work pays off.

This may sound cliché, but it’s true.

Both Poyant and Sabella have gone through the 14-hour rookie reporter days, deadlines, questioning of their confidence all those years when they didn’t know what they were doing. But showing up to all pitch meetings, defending their pitches, honing in on those early skill sets — it adds up. It builds tenacity and resilience; this is crucial for entrepreneurs.

4. Keep showing up.

You must keep showing up. Even if you’re terrified.

Show up to pitch meetings and events, whether they’re in journalism or entrepreneurship. Every day you learn something new. Build up a sense of persistence, and you are going to reach the next level.

5. #BalanceforBetter as female entrepreneurs is challenging, but rewarding.

The work never stops. Finding the right work/life balance always will be a challenge.

“We as women like to nurture our reporters and give them guidance and give them the time for those conversations,” Sabella said. “But it is hard to do that when you are also the owner and the boss because you have invoices to pay, but we have found the balance because we are three partners at Block Club Chicago, so we each have a different side of the business.”

Things are somewhat different for Poyant and her business partner. She says: “Manoush and I are both creatives, we are striving for different aspects of creativity … but we also have to be businesswomen. It’s my job to get the books right and get the invoices paid; it’s her job to often do the heavy-lifting of the business development, taking meetings, securing grants. These sorts of meetings when you are also trying to be creative and think about the artistry of how to make a good show can be challenging.”

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Anna Marevska is an editor and writer for Cision Blog. She writes media updates, media influencer, and industry features. She also is manager of content and research at Cision’s research department, and the editor of Find her on Twitter at @Anna_Mar3.

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