If you have to ask “why gender”, then maybe journalism is not the profession for you!

Date: October 14, 2010
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I was reminded today while listening to a series of presentations on how the print and broadcast media in some Southern African countries are implementing gender policies, that there was a time when men and women entered journalism to use the pen and the microphone to report on community and social justice issues.

Armchair journalism was unthinkable, because in the pursuit of bringing to light the stories of those not on the radar of the privileged and powerful, journalists went out looking for the stories among women and men in communities and towns, and did not wait for the stories to present themselves in press releases and news conferences.

Now, as one of the presenters said, journalists have donned the cloak of “ambition”, and they are “polished”, which often translates into not going the extra mile to find the sources that never speak and the issues that are never covered. She also pointed out that getting the stories from communities on gender-based violence, unemployment and other issues of social injustice are not quick stories. These stories take time, and journalists these days always use time pressures as the reasons for not moving beyond men, the powerful and event-oriented coverage.

But perhaps it is not time that journalists and editors are short of; it is passion. Passion pushes us to hear the stories of the women and men who have no one else to tell their plight to; passions drives us out the door over and over again to find out why there is still no change for women and men who have remained on the fringe of society; passion makes us look beyond the halls of power into the shanties and dwellings where women and children huddle; and passion drives us to use the law to watch governments and hold them accountable to the rights of women and men as citizens. Passion forces us to gain the public’s trust, rather than set ourselves up as another “elite” entity in society that can make or break people using our privileged position as journalists.

If a journalist or editor has to ask ‘”why gender”, then perhaps he or she needs to reflect on why they entered journalism in the first place.


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