Leaders from different parts of the news media industry gathered at Wallis Annenberg Hall for the Media’s Gender Revolution panel on Wednesday to discuss the role of women in journalism.
The panelists included Marsha Cooke, senior vice president of content strategy at VICE; Kim Masters, editor-at-large for The Hollywood Reporter and Willow Bay, dean of the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.
Cindi Leive, a senior fellow in Annenberg’s Center on Communication Leadership and Policy and former editor-in-chief of Glamour magazine moderated the panel.
The discussion emphasized the need for more women and women of color in newsrooms and leadership roles in the news media industry. According to Leive, the number of women in newsrooms has risen 1 percent since 2001. What’s more, women of color compose 8 percent of print newsroom staff and 6 percent of local radio staffs while two-thirds of women journalists globally said they’ve experienced abuse or harassment.
“It has to change, not just for women’s sake but for the sake of a free press, which can’t plausibly do its job if half its members are kept from being able to flourish,” Leive said. “If you believe in what journalism does, then you need every person who is talented and committed to be able to grow and not to need to quake with fear when called into her boss’ office, not to worry that her male peers are being paid more than her and not to have positions denied to her.”
During the nearly quarter century she worked in broadcast news and at CBS, she never saw a woman in a major leadership position, Cooke said. Now at VICE, where her new boss is a woman, Cooke said there is a push to increase diversity in the staff and that it should be applied to all newsrooms.
“She wants to see diversity not just from the content that we produce, but we have to take a look at who our audience is,” Cooke said. “If we’re not recognizing our audience and not having our staff reflect the audience and the content that we produce, we’re not going to succeed.”
Masters, who helped break stories on sexual harassment at Amazon and other corporations and industries, said that some people have told her they are bored with coverage of sexual harassment allegations in various industries. Still, she said it’s important for journalists to tell these stories to end the culture that allows powerful men to harass women.
“We have to do what we can to root out the culture that has been so dominant in the entertainment world, the media world, and I think the world period,” Masters said. “We can’t let up. If people don’t want to read it, too bad.”
Bay said she remains optimistic about the future of women in the news media because she sees more companies seeking out qualified women to fill leadership positions and increase gender diversity. This past week, Bay said seeing journalist Christiane Amanpour take over Charlie Rose’s spot at PBS after he was ousted over sexual harassment allegations and seeing Beth Mowans, the first female play-by-play announcer to call a game on Monday Night Football were “glimmers of hope” for the future of women leaders in media.
Bay also said she sees employers recruiting more diverse groups of students for their young workforce.
“Looking at a generation of young women that is equipped beyond our wildest imaginings with the mindset and skill set to take advantage of these doors being opened, I believe this is a moment of powerful change,” Bay said. “It’s not going to be easy. It’s not going to be pretty. It’s going to be bumpy and uneven, but I truly believe that this is a sign of hope and is a sign of change.”