By Ekpali Saint

It will take at least a further 67 years to close the average gender equality gap in traditional news media, according to the 6th Global Media Monitoring Project, the largest and longest-running research on gender in the world’s news media. The 2020 study adds that full gender equality on numerical counts is insufficient without improvement in the quality of journalism from a gender perspective.

This is exactly what a team of four journalists is working on.

In November 2022, they launched The Gender Beat – a global collective of journalists working to raise the profile of gender journalism. The founders, Eliza Anyangwe, the managing editor of As Equals, a CNN series that spotlight systemic gender inequality, Megan Clement, the founder of Impact, a French-English newsletter covering feminist social movements and women’s rights worldwide, Ankita Anand, an India-based independent journalist and editor of Unbias The News and Tan Hui Yee, the Indochina bureau chief of the Straits Times – want to advance gender journalism through this initiative.

Hui Yee explained that gender journalism is about giving a voice to the gender minority, mainly women, and exposing the systems that oppress vulnerable communities. However, she argued that gender journalism is not a new concept in the media ecosystem and has always been an important aspect of journalism practice.

“Gender journalism has always been important as it’s a fundamental part of good journalism,” Hui Yee said. “But perhaps the calls for such inclusive journalism were not so loud before, because patriarchy crimped the space for discussion in media outlets.”

“The space is opening up now,” she went on. “But it’s far from enough. Ultimately, we need to get to the point where we no longer need to talk about gender journalism – where what we are advocating for now is simply regarded as everyday journalism.” That is why “we have to address this impunity and beyond the realm of sexual violence, we should also be doing well to expose system injustice that is rooted in these gender norms.”

A common challenge

The founding members said their experiences and observations working as journalists inspired them to start the initiative. Clement for example, who is a feminist writer specialising in women’s rights, got several rejections to cover gender stories from editors.

“As a freelancer, I just keep running into the same problem. I couldn’t get editors, mainly male editors, to take gender issues seriously enough to accept pitches on it,” she said, adding, “We need coverage [of gender stories] and the people who have been trying to tell these stories often struggle and that was my story as a freelancer.”

Anand had a similar experience. She frequently monitors underreported issues about women in her country and how these issues affect them. “When I started pitching, I was getting zero response,” she said. “So I started by doing whatever job I would get as a freelancer. [But] to match my enthusiasm, there wasn’t that kind of commissioning happening for gender stories.”

For freelance gender journalists facing similar challenges, Clement advised they get “a second job because it’s very hard to make a living as a freelance journalist focused on gender.”

The idea of getting a second job is working for Clement. In 2021, she launched the Impact, which produces in-depth features and news briefs about feminist social movements and the public policies that affect women’s lives. Clement works as the editor, which is “more like a job now,” she said.

To advance gender journalism, The Gender Beat launched Noodle in November 2022 shortly after Splice Beta, a conference on media start-ups, in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Noodle is a global Telegram community for people engaging in gender and feminist reporting. Its members share resources, opportunities, and gender reporting best practices. The platform now boasts over 150 members including publishers, academics, and members of media development organisations who are interested in or engaged in gender journalism.

The Gender Beat frequently provides training in gender-sensitive reporting and holds regular webinars on topics relevant to its members on Noodle. This year, the team appeared at major international events including the International Journalism Festival and the World News Media Congress to convene discussions about advancing gender journalism.

Additionally, the team worked on a survey primarily aimed at helping “us better understand needs [of gender and feminist journalists] so we can advocate for the right measures for newsrooms and funders to take,” says Clement.

They found high levels of burnout among journalists covering gender inequality and that many of them were doing their work with insufficient budgets. For this, Clement said, “Newsrooms need to invest in gender reporting to support these reporters and others who wish to enter the field, which will also help them be more relevant to their audiences.”

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Framing gender stories

In covering gender stories, Clement urged journalists to be mindful of how they approach and frame issues to avoid portraying women and gender-diverse people as helpless victims.

“Stories about gender inequality should not reinforce harmful stereotypes about women and gender-diverse people,” she said. “It’s important when approaching any story to act with empathy and curiosity, but even more so when you are dealing with issues of gender-based violence, for example, or homophobia.”

She adds: “Sources in gender stories can often be survivors of trauma, abuse or discrimination, but that doesn’t mean they should be portrayed as helpless victims, nor should their stories be sensationalised.”

Meanwhile, the founding members believe gender issues affect everyone and so gender-focused stories must be valued and prioritised. They are advocating for more coverage of topics that affect women and gender-diverse people.

However, a major challenge for the team is combining already busy lives with the running of the platform. “We all have busy professional lives already and are often working on The Gender Beat with the limited time and availability we have,” says Clement. However, the founding members are not bothered because “our passion for this field means we find a way to make it work,” she adds.

Reporting supported by a micro-grant from Jamlab


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