Now this is a bloody brilliant idea — the BBC has gone out and actively sought women experts and trained them how to work effectively with journalists:
The BBC, and other broadcasters, have faced consistent criticism about the lack of female experts on air. Last year a report by Sound Women, a pressure group set up to represent women working in radio, found that 84 per cent of the reporters and guests on Radio 4’s flagship Today programme are men….
The ‘expert women database’ contains the details of the 60 women who have so far received free training via these days, as well as the contacts of a further 120 women who “showed promise” in their applications to the BBC Academy. More than 2,000 women applied for the first BBC Academy female expert training day but there were only 30 spaces. The BBC Expert Women YouTube channel features videos of successful Expert Women trainees presenting to the camera on their specialist topic.
In the United States, reputational power relies on a web of relationships, and media visibility is a direct result of this. If your work, and ideas, are not audible or visible, you’re unlikely to win grants and fellowships or get your book(s) published. You have to prove your “platform”, that you have an audience eager to hear your thoughts.
And if you’re an ambitious, smart writer focusing on politics, economics or social commentary, you’ll also want your work, at some point, to appear in Harper’s, The Atlantic or The New Republic, to name three.
I interviewed for a staff job, unsuccessfully, at Newsweek three times. I was told (seriously!), they only wanted writers who write for The Atlantic, which I hadn’t then and still haven’t. What a bullshit barrier to erect!
Here’s the stats for 2012:
Harper’s — female bylines, 31, male bylines 158
The New Republic –male book reviewers, 79; female 9
The New Republic — female bylines, 77; male bylines 389.
So, what’s the deal?
Women don’t speak up?
Women have no ideas suitable for these publications?
Or their ideas are getting shot down?
Or they haven’t built/created the networks of (Ivy educated men) gatekeepers to these publications?
A few months ago, I saw something that made me want to weep with excitement — all six columns of the front page of The New York Times were stories written by women.
For those of you not working in journalism, there is no better placement in a newspaper than front page, above the fold — i.e. the first place readers look, on paper or on-line.
Women’s voices need to be heard. We have wisdom, humor, insights, analysis and ideas to share. We vote. We run companies. We’re raising the next generation, or teaching them or nursing them or selling them stuff.
The gatekeepers to media — the radio and television producers, the editors and reporters and freelancers — are busy, overwhelmed and/or lazy. They reach for who they know. So that’s a hurdle of inertia we all have to leap.
If you’re a female journo, aim high(er)!
If you’re a woman expert, reach out to your local newspaper, websites, television and radio stations.
Add your voice!