Where are the women?

Geneva Overholser

Photo Courtesy of USC Annenberg

Geneva Overholser

Former editor, The Des Moines Register

There’s a welcome, thought-provoking look at the paucity of women in leadership in media in the new Nieman Reports, Why so few women in media leadership?  The American Society of News Editors and Associated Press Managing Editors will be mulling the same question next week at a panel I’ll moderate at their joint convention in Chicago.

I’ve long felt that one change, among many, that newsrooms will have to make is to reframe their pinched notion of “diversity.”  Here are my thoughts from the Nieman article:

The newsroom culture desperately needs to shift from the old “We journalists know news, and it looks like this, and that’s what the public has to get” to a new ethos: The public is no longer just sitting there receiving the “wisdom” produced by our narrow conventional definitions of news. We need to figure out how to serve the myriad interests of our fast-changing communities. The best allies in this new ethos are people who themselves have had varied and differing life experiences. When this new ethos takes hold, then people of different economic and educational backgrounds, different ages, genders, ethnicities, become the “experts.” To date, we’ve dutifully sought to hire “different” folks but then forced them to conform to the reigning ethos. This isn’t comfortable for anyone. If men are forcing themselves to speak less but really don’t believe that others have more to say, it won’t work. Everyone needs to believe that LISTENING to people who have views other than their own is more important to the newsroom than ensuring that their own wisdom prevails. Newsrooms are allergic to cultural conversations like this, but they really are essential. Folks have to quit thinking of diversity as a wearisome duty and start understanding it as a key to success, an exciting prospect, the only way to win in the future. And it turns out that, for most people, it’s a lot more fun to work with a wider assortment of folks.

 

 

 

 

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