Gender and Journalism: Finding the ‘Master Voice’

The crowd was small but enthusiastic on Thursday evening in McNeir Auditorium where four leading female journalists discussed the relationship between gender and journalism.

The panelists included Lonnae O’Neal Parker of The Washington Post, Donaig Ledu of Radio France Internationale, Patricia Murphy of and Andrea Seabrook of NPR.

The panelists discussed and fielded questions about the many facets of their lives as journalists and as women. One of the main topics of discussion was female versus male power, and how both genders use their power. They agreed that on Capitol Hill, many women use their sexuality as their main source of power.

When asked if it is possible to be a good feminist and a good journalist at the same time, Seabrook quickly responded with a resounding “no.”

“I find myself having to pick one master. I allow journalism to be the master,” she said. There are often times when I have to choose someone between being the women’s voice, or the best person to talk about the issue. … There’s pressure on the whole staff. We have to go with the person who is the best person, even when I want to have that feminine voice.”

Ledu noted how women are often assigned to certain types of stories. “When I started, being a woman made it so that I was not able to cover a war,” she said.

All panelists agreed that although it is possible for women to be just as successful and influential as men are in their field, it is much more difficult for women to get their foot in the door than it is for men. However, women bring a strong voice to the world of journalism that may otherwise not be heard, they concurred.

“I bring all parts of myself to my stories, as a woman, as a black woman,” Parker said. “I find that I’m less interested in listening and hearing from the same voices. It is critical when telling a story that we get different voices.”

The event was sponsored by the Georgetown Women’s and Gender Studies program.

– Bess Chapman

Yahoo! Co-Founder Honors Professor’s Research

Yahoo! Inc. co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Jerry Yang honored Georgetown Yahoo! Fellow in Residence Irene Wu for her work in researching technology’s transformation of identity and political power.

Wu, who is on leave from her position as director of research in the International Bureau of the Federal Communications Commission, is a professor in the School of Foreign Service and in Georgetown’s Communication, Culture and Technology program.

“I wanted to try to see if I could delve deeper into relationships between technology and politics,” she said of her research, which analyzes the impact that technology has on government power.

“In some ways, the Internet is simply an instrument . but there are instances, a minority of instances, where technology has a transformative affect on politics.”

Wu discussed how technological changes have influenced and impacted institutions and policy, as well as crisis events in regions such as the former USSR, Brazil, India and China.

She noted that bloggers were able to inform the public of conditions faster than mainstream news media after the 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia.

“The bloggers were filling a gap other institutions could not,” Wu said.

“We can use information and technology as a means to prevent and aid in world crisis events. . In the first four days after [Hurricane] Katrina, it became clear that technology could help find dislocated people and alleviate some of the fear and stress” while allowing Americans elsewhere to “provide tangible support,” Yang said about the importance of new mediums of communication.

“I think that information is a source of political power that can be understood to a greater fullness,” Wu said.

– Emily McGinnis

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