This past week, two audience engagement colleagues posed a question for the Twittersphere and a Slack channel for which I’m a participant. Who in engagement journalism inspires you? How do you remind yourself that the work you do matters?
After some thought, I had my answer. I told of the two women who worked in public media who, despite being in different parts of the country, reinforced the need for this work. They also came to mind as I try to navigate the uncertain waters that is journalism’s ultimate freak out about its future — for they are there too to give me a reminder of why I wanted to do this work in the first place.
I was reminded of those interactions when I thought about an article in The Atlantic that entered my Twitter feed the other day about why female journalists are leaving the profession. Julie Beck’s article went into detail about one reason in particular — the amount of trolling and hate filled messages to journalists that have emerged in this age of social media.
The stories of those subjected to vitriolic hatred, chronicled in Beck’s article and through other instances, as well as the stories of sexual harassment — stories that either I have seen, or ones especially stemming from the recent allegations against CBS chief executive Les Moonves, 60 Minutes executive producer Jeff Fager, and the allegations of other prominent men in media and elsewhere — make me ask the same question.
Why? Why did this happen? Why did these actions go without being checked? Yet, most of all, why do men subject women to these heinous, cruel, vile, despicable, repulsive acts all in the means to express their superiority among others, and get away with it for all these years?
I was angry. I was bewildered. I was upset. I knew that enough was enough.
In my previous journalism life, I wrote an essay which included this declaration: “My name is Alex Veeneman. I’m a journalist and I’m a feminist.”
In a time where those who are early in their careers, it has become necessary to embrace an all for one and one for all approach.
Indeed, as I attempt to navigate the “oh, fuck” moment that journalism is having, the people whose ideas and work I have benefited from the most in my professional and personal life are women.
From my mom, who despite journalism’s moment encouraged me despite the odds, to the women in journalism here in the Twin Cities and beyond who went to bat for me and encouraged me in the midst of burnout, challenged my thinking about the industry and my role in it, and most of all, reinforced why journalism is still worth pursuing — they are the ones I draw inspiration from as I assess my own future in this industry.
Women enter the industry for the same reason as men — to inform, engage, educate and stimulate audiences about the world around them, and to do the most good, whether you’re a political reporter for CNN covering the White House or disseminating news from the perch of a newsroom in the Twin Cities. They are doing what all good journalists do, and are necessary to ensure journalism thrives in the 21st century.
Journalism should not fear the concept or idea of feminism. Indeed, in this new age for journalism, it is more than ensuring that women are equal in the ability to make a difference in journalism. It is about amplifying their voices and their ideas, doing more collaborations with women and creating a working environment in which women thrive.
It is about championing them in our newsrooms and organizations, giving them more leadership roles — and most of all, to shut up and let their ideas be front and center — for one of those ideas can be the one that journalism needs in order to survive.
Equality in journalism cannot happen overnight, nor the attempt to make journalism equal can be done by one single person. It is something that must be done collectively together, and something that we can make time to do as the dynamics of journalism continue to be challenged.
We can do it and must do it, for our sake and for journalism’s, because contrary to what is believed by some in the depth of the distorted echo chamber that is Twitter, women and their ideas matter.