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Dec
2014
Wednesday 24th
posted by Morning Star in Features

There are some outstanding women in the world of journalism – but why are they never given due credit, asks Michelle Stanistreet


So the most powerful woman in the British media is Taylor Swift.

That’s according to the Guardian’s list of the top 100 people in the world of journalism and news.

Was she chosen for her insightful or brave reporting or for her exciting, new digital start-up?

No, it was because she stood up to Spotify, the music streaming service.

Swift, the US singer-songwriter, made number 10 in the list. The next woman to feature, at number 17, was the BBC Trust’s new chair Rona Fairhead, and at 19 was Sophie Turner Laing, chief executive of Endemol/Shine/Core, maker of such shows as Masterchef and Broadchurch.

The next woman, at 25, was Charlotte Moore, controller of BBC1. The YouTube star and vlogger of make-up hints Zoella was 90 on the list, making her almost as important as Jeremy Paxman and more important than Piers Morgan.

It is an interesting list. It shows that the white, male-dominated days of old media have been replaced by the white men who dominate the new media — Google’s Larry Page, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Apple’s Tim Cook.

Swift was a daft choice, but the Guardian’s top 100 clearly shows that women are well behind in terms of their influence and position in the top media jobs.

There is plenty to celebrate in terms of women’s journalism. Laura Poitras was one of the reporters who exposed the level of mass surveillance after the revelations of whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Lyse Doucet, Lindsey Hilsum and Caroline Wyatt bring us news and comment from the most dangerous parts of the globe.

Mishal Husain slipped seamlessly into Radio 4’s flagship Today programme, despite a former editor saying it was too tough for women.

Clare Balding is a great all-rounder even in the male redoubt of sports reporting, Caitlin Moran is a popular columnist and Fatuma Noor’s three-part series on Somalia-based militant Islamist group al-Shabaab was an excellent piece of investigative journalism.

But, as I told peers while giving evidence to the Lords communications committee’s inquiry into women and broadcasting, unless women are better represented and are in positions where decisions are made, we will continue to see news and the news agenda through a male prism.

At the BBC the proportion of women in the highest grades fell to 37.4 per cent and of the 27 service controllers, only four are women. There are very few women on the boards of ITV and Sky.

When Fairhead was announced as chair of the BBC Trust, the headline in the Sunday Telegraph was: “Mother of three poised to lead the BBC.”

We got a glimpse of that male prism when No More Page 3 campaigner Kate Hardie and volunteers cut out every picture of a man and of a woman in the Sun newspaper, over a six-month period, and created a collage.

Men were predominately shown in action shots or celebrating achievement.

Women were pictured looking passive and had far fewer clothes on. The Queen was about the only older woman featured on the pages.

The media is obsessed by the way women look. The Mail Online’s hugely popular “sidebar of shame” pictures women in various stages of undress, celebrity cellulite and the likes of Jessica Ennis-Hill who manage to shed weight quickly after having a baby.

You can be the most powerful woman in the western hemisphere, but Angela Merkel cannot escape having her wardrobe commented on. Nice suit Jean-Claude Juncker?

But it’s only a bit of fun, they say. The problem is that this objectification of women in the media does affect the lives of women and girls, who are expected to conform to these stereotypes and most of all be thin, even two weeks after giving birth.

Women who do not conform are vilified quicker than you can say the word troll.

As a union, the National Union of Journalists campaigns for a fairer and more representative press.

We are working with our women members to find out why they are still being paid less than their male counterparts, don’t achieve the same promotions and, after a certain age, disappear from the profession.

Figures gathered by Labour’s commission on older women showed 30 per cent of on-screen presenters were over the age of 50 and 82 per cent of them were men.

But it isn’t just that wrinkles on men are tolerated and not on women — older women disappear from radio too.

We believe the regulator Ofcom should set the standard for the diversity monitoring required of all broadcasting organisations.

It should set targets on the employment policies of broadcasting organisations and levy penalties if they are not met.

We need to understand why the old-boys’ club culture prevalent in newspapers and broadcasting is changing into the new-boys’ club culture in digital news organisations and media.

Women outnumber men on journalism courses, but find it is their male colleagues who get better jobs, quicker.

We are all losers when this happens. The media has a huge influence on our culture and how we see the world — we need lots of different eyes offering perspectives from all sectors of the community.

Michelle Stanistreet is general secretary of the National Union of Journalists.




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