Journalism is an extremely progressive, gender diverse industry with several women in the spotlight, so people say. Of course, newsrooms have a huge number of women as anchors, journalists, reporters, editors and various other roles, yet journalism and media, like the rest of the workplaces, are also ridden with biases and hypocrisies that they set out to erase from the society. Tapping a highly male-dominated consumer base, discriminating between the beats men and women get, communicating with sources in the political milieu are issues that still exist in newsrooms, even today.
Talking about these issues and the experiences of female journalists in different kinds of newsrooms and what has changed over the years, panellist comprising of journalists Shaili Chopra, Anoo Bhuyan, Priyanka Dubey spoke with Nishtha Gautam at SheThePeople.TV’s Women Writers’ Fest, Delhi. Talking about the sexist attitude within the newsrooms particularly in business journalism back in the 90s and early 2000s, Chopra pointed out how there was a constant battle for women reporters to turn Rambo at the workplace.
"One of the constant battles of women reporters is to turn rambo at the workplace in the newsroom but media has seen a rise of women in workplace than any other industry" – @shailichopra at #WomenWritersFest discussing sexism in the news. #SheThePeople @AnooBhu @TedhiLakeer pic.twitter.com/IYQkAz9W68
— WomenWritersFest (@womenwriterfest) March 30, 2019
However, she emphasized that there has been a consistent rise of women in the media and that has brought in a gradual change in how women are viewed in the media workplace.
Stories about women have increased
Dubey added to this dialogue by speaking about how stories about women whether it is about crime or entrepreneurship have increased in circulation. “The Nirbhaya gang rape case was a watershed moment as it changed a lot of things in reportage. And now, because of some kind of public pressure, newsrooms have started giving preference to women-related stories on the front page. It is also because newsroom fear being left out so everybody wants to join the bandwagon but all of that is not genuine. At the end of the day, the question is whether newsroom value lives of people and whether they would have interest in human trafficking stories, etc.? Just because horrible crimes keep on happening to women and children in the society, the value of reporting is more often than not lost.”
The Nirbhaya gang rape case was a watershed moment as it changed a lot of things in reportage. -Priyanka Dubey
Gender-biased consumption of news
On the gender-biased consumption of news and the assumption around women consuming news, Bhuyan noted that if one is targeting a female audience then there is this assumption that one must report on issues like child-raising, women’s health, makeup, etc. These are all things that women take an interest in, but men do too. Then are women not interested in understanding the job market, GDP, space mission, etc? Women are interested in all these things as well and so some sort of flattening out has to happen in terms of what we as producers of news are doing in terms of deciding what women need to know and not.
In Public Health that I cover, all the beat reporters are largely women. There are few men who don’t do an indecent job of reporting. But since I cover health ministry and I also look at the beat as interdisciplinary as there are aspects of political economy and legal aspect as a lot of litigation is happening around it too. Now maternal child health and reproductive health is a huge component of how India determines health policy but on a lot of the government panels and expert committees sitting together to formulate the budget, policies, new legislation, gazette notifications are all men. There isn’t much pressure and accountability to register this pattern.”
Sexist nature of TRPs
Chopra shared her insight on the sexist nature of TRPs in the broadcast media industry. “TV news channels often come out with newspaper features on how they are number one and then there is a tiny bracket along with it that says SEC AB Male. So the way we see TRPs in our country, the advertiser TRP piece is only male. They don’t even analyse the female consumer base. And the people behind the TRPs would tell you there are around 500 boxes in the country which determine what the advertiser spend is like, who it is spent on and on which channel. Even today the biggest spend still happen on broadcast despite the fact that the digital scene is growing.
So the way we see TRPs in our country, the advertiser TRP piece is only male. They don’t even analyse the female consumer base. And the people behind the TRPs would tell you there are around 500 boxes in the country which determine what the advertiser spend is like, who it is spent on and on which channel. – Shaili Chopra
Female consumers and content on the screen or on paper haven’t really been considered as a consumer. Most people haven’t felt the need to understand the female consumer and particularly legacy media. The challenge for women is that because they aren’t recognized they are not going to find any content through that lens. Very few media houses have beginning the need to interpret data,” added Chopra to the conversation around understanding female consumer.