VETERAN Journalist Bivan Saluseki thinks newsrooms in Zambia are still dominated by men and are toxic places for women.
So he shared his tips with the women journalists.
Women and the Newsroom…
Ok. I want to give an honest assessment of the situation and context some female journalists work in Zambia. I am hoping that these insights, in a very simple, non-academic language, can help female rooky reporters to be careful on how to navigate news sources and the landmines in newsroom.
Today, I was invited to talk to female reporters in one of the newsrooms in Kitwe. Here is part of what I said… I can speak about the newsroom because half of my life on earth has been spent in the newsroom. Most newsrooms in Zambia, in their current format, setup and design are toxic workspaces for female journalists, especially the rookie reporters. Most newsrooms are male dominated. Even assignments are male dominated. Politics and the big stories are usually a preserve for male journalists. So called easy beats like business, sports and court are given to female journalists. If it is a big political story, its usually written by male journalists, well unless it is a shared by-line. Check the stories. Occasionally, some male journalists pry on these young female journalists and get along, offer a bit of some diary presentation security, and share by lines and live happily thereafter. That is another story.
But generally, the female journalists who try to break this male chauvinism are tagged, nicknamed, male gazed and accused of strange deeds. Some terms very derogatory. They are accused of having loose morals. Even when these female journalists are labeled, they perform very well in terms of getting exclusive stories. Very hard working.
Why do they get scoops and exclusives? Well, it is because news, politics, fraud etc is male dominated too. Male news sources tend to open up to female journalists. It is a good strategy to have female journalists pursue the difficult stories. Men prefer talking to women than fellow men. But, when these female journalists start performing well, some male journalists feel threatened. You hear all types of innuendoes against females.
Unknowingly also, some female journalists have been abused by news sources because of the assigning editor’s carelessness. Here is how. Some male news sources have a tendency of requesting for a specific person to cover them especially for out-of-town assignments. Some male news sources even frown and riot when given male reporters to accompany them in the field. The gatekeeper, in this case the assignments editor/ news editor should be able to see these red flags and act to protect the female reporter from wolves and hyenas.
We went on and on……on the need for reforms. That we need to discuss these issues openly.
It was an interesting discussion. These are difficult discussions, I guess. Next time, I will deal with the power of a reporter. Yes, a reporter and not an editor.