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Book Review: Making News, Women In Journalism

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Making News, Women in Journalism is written by Ammu Joseph who is also the co-author of Whose News?. This books is primarily based on inputs from 200 journalists in print media through one-on-one interviews and 35 responses through questionnaire. The book traces the transformation of women journalism in India from the late 1960’s and 70’s to 80’s and 90’s.

Donne-giornaliste

The book starts with a debate on the term ‘Woman Journalist’ and how many find the term demeaning. Highlighting gender can work against their professional interests, others feel the need to acknowledge gender in order to create role models while some find the term inferior when used in the male company. However, they agree that being a woman influences the way she carries on her duties and how she draws a conclusion over the same issue. However, opinion may depend more on an individual interview and conviction than on gender per se.

On whether women journalism has a special responsibility on account of their gender, arouses strong feelings. While some reject, some others accept the additional responsibility. Yet, others see women’s issues as just one of the many issues. Some women see it as question of professional responsibility.

According to journalist Smruti Koppikar, Outlook, “Women issues are part of the basket of issues. I would push to write on not because I am a woman but because they are important and they relate to a section of society that doesn’t easily find a voice in the media.” Sandhya Taksale, Sapthahik Sakal, Pune says, “If you are interested in something you should focus on it not do something to show others. Your own interests and concern should be your guide. Ultimately, you have to be true to yourself. Women journalists are good listeners.” Shobha De puts it as, “Women are seen as reservoirs of empathy. This makes men especially less guarded and more open

The glass ceiling that operates in Indian journalism has been scrutinized here. Women in journalism today do more of reporting than analyse, more men are in editorial boards than women. The few women in this country who sit in media boardrooms do so because of the privilege of birth. By and large, most of the women journalists are employed at the junior middle and feature editor levels. Several are columnists.

Whereas, if one looks at the Indian television, the glass ceiling is far less pervasive than in the print media, according to the author. Their pervasive visibility on the TV screen in studios of editing rooms and in the decision making corridors of TV channels and major production houses has contributed substantially to the mainstreaming of women in this profession.

From mere reporting on flower shows in the 60’s and 70’s, women were put on to fashion, entertainment, and beauty in the 1990’s. Eventually wide range of important events and processes relating to human rights, justice, development, society and culture became their beats. The old assumption that women are cut for soft news and men for hard news is also debated. Some women are of the opinion that hard stories are easier to cover when compared to soft news. This is primarily because politicians are more than willing to be quoted and reports requires one to go through the press release.

Even young journalists soon discover that reporting politics is not what it is made out to be. One of the journalist says, “I was very impressed with the elite crowd of senior political journalists and their proximity to power. But now I realize that is all just an illusion.” While in many parts of the country especially vernacular press, women are restricted to desk jobs. International and national news too are kept out off their limit.

Another important issue discussed here is Night Shifts. Women are not put on night shifts because that would mean providing transport facilities etc. but women journalists say that this is just one way to justify keeping women out of serious journalism.

The chapter ‘The Enemy Within‘ gives accounts of sexual harassment, unwanted advances, indifferent managements, professional demotion, personal vendetta, uneasy relations, generation gap, constant irritants and character assassination. Ideology has a major impact on career paths in media. Especially individuals with strong opinion on certain issue. Many also believe that the attitudes of newspaper proprietors and management inhibit their rise to the top in many other ways. Proprietors assume that women will make fewer compromises. It also looks at how in the 1990 Indian press is drifted from seriousness to superficiality and from societal concerns to societal affairs. Some claim that the turning point came with the advent of economic liberation and globalization. This brought in a wave of consumerism which swept into media organizations.

While according to many others the emergence of television turned the tide for journalism in India. Infotainment became the new buzzword even in print media. Issues are certainly less important now. They point that proprietors and management are exercising more control than ever before on editorial matters. Many of the new publishers seem to be more interested in the power and prestige that came with a publication than in running it properly. Celebrity journalism has crept in.

The main purpose of journalism in the 1970s and ’80s was activism, journalism is not a mission any more. What sells is what is wanted. They are no longer social reformers. Newspapers are not anti-establishment. Even readers seem to have started to comment on the low standard of language and news reports. Murdochisation of the press is a global phenomenon. Marketing is a fact of life now. Newspapers are dying. But Bachi Karkari is of the opinion that, “The mainstream paper cannot go in too much analysis, there are specialized publications for that.”

The chapter ‘The Generation Gap’ has senior-most journalists rambling over the negative aspects about today’s young women journalists. Many describe the new generation of journalist as lazy, pushy, brash and arrogant. Shobha De terms it ‘me’ oriented generation. They prefer air-condition journalism. They are poor listeners, say many. They seem to be more concerned about their own careers than anything else. They treat job as a stepping stone to something better. They don’t see the difference between public relation and journalism.

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  1. Neha Jha

    I agree with the above. Things are quite difficult in this sector because of the bias and re-tapism even. It is very frustrating to be in a media house when you are freshly out of college. Your concepts, fears, point of view and insecurities are not taken into account at all. Your mistakes come in the way of your job longetivity. It is straight-away said that because we are young, we don’t understand the seriousness involved in journalism. You are put in a big hole with every body around you noticing each & every thing with such eagle-like accuracy that it’ll make you shiver. That takes all ineterest out sometimes. In my case, it did.
    I think, the media organizations need to see things from a different point of view and open up to new things. Just because one is young doesn’t mean one is brainless.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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