FEMINISM: Women in Media Conference 2018 at the People’s History Museum

Women in Media Conference 2018

The Women in Media Conference returned once again for its third year, after two incredibly successful previous years. Held this weekend at the People’s History Museum in Manchester, the Conference saw some of the most influential women in the media share their knowledge and experience through a mixture of panels, talks, Q&A’s and workshops.

After a brief welcome from the organisers, I headed to first workshop of the day, Breaking News with Tina Moran. Moran has been a journalist since the age of 19 and has worked for the past 36 years in various roles in the industry from women’s editor to executive editor of newspapers ranging from the London Evening Standard to the Sunday Times and Daily Express.

In the workshop Moran gave us a whistle stop tour on what ‘news’ is and how to write a great news story using the inverted pyramid and by ensuring that we covered the who, what, where, when, why and how in the first paragraph. I found this advice invaluable and we were then given the opportunity to construct a story of around 160 words for a national news on two different news stories. Moran then came and read our stories, giving us tips and advice.

Despite the workshop being very brief, I took a lot away from the session that I think will certainly help me with my blogging, though I’m sure she’d have something to say about this post not covering all of the who, what, where, when, why and how in the first paragraph!

Moran now works as a lecturer and trainer for the Press Association and after attending this workshop I am giving serious thought to doing the Press Association training course in the future.

Other talks at the same time as this workshop included LGBTQI+ with Carrie Lyell and Northern PowerWomen with Katie Thistleton, Emma Houlton and Kirsty Styles.

Lisa Nandy (left) & Anna Kennedy (centre) 

Following the Breaking News workshop I headed for the ‘100 years and still fighting’ talk with Lisa Nandy and Anna Kennedy. Nandy is an MP for Wigan, the first woman to do so and has worked for homeless charity Centrepoint as well a The Children’s Society. In 2010 she was elected to serve on the Education Select Committee and now campaigns against low pay and zero hour contracts. The second speaker, Anna Kennedy OBE, is a UK Autism Ambassador, Founder of UK Autism Charity AnnaKennedyonline.

Both women spoke with such passion about subjects close to both their hearts. For Kennedy is was her son’s Autism, the difficulty in getting a diagnosis and the support needed for proper schooling for children with the condition, so much so that she set up her own schools, college and residential school for children with Autism.

For Nandy it was about her experiences of being a woman in politics. She talked about what she saw as the power imbalance with children and later women preventing them from having their voices heard. On her first day in Parliament she recalled how as she walked in the walls were lined with pictures of men, of corridors full of statues of men and a chamber with wall to wall men and she begun to wonder where all the women had gone. Despite being elected she still couldn’t help but wonder who it was that had all the influence, after all, only 43 women have ever served in the cabinet. She recalled some of the negative experiences she had encountered since entering Parliament including having a camera pointed down her top during a debate and an ensuing furore about whether she was dressed appropriately to walking into a members room only to discover one of her male colleagues walking around naked. Little did she know that ‘members room’ meant ‘men’s room’. Clearly, Parliament was constructed for men by men and whilst there you were forced to play by the rules they’d set.

I found Kennedy and Nandy to be incredibly inspirational women. They encouraged the audience members to follow causes they felt strongly about, to listen to ordinary people and their stories and to support other women.  

The power of ordinary women’s stories was echoed in the final talk I attended by Koloud Helmi and Sarah Giaziri. Helmi founded the Syrian newspaper Enab Balai, in 2011. As an activist and journalist, she talked with passion, her voice breaking at times, about the situation in Syria for freelance and local journalists and the atrocities committed there. She produced the newspaper from her home and distributed it in dangerous conditions, smuggling it out of the area in her clothes through road blocks. It was quite something to hear that 75% of the people who worked on the newspaper were women, something British newspaper should perhaps take note of.  

Sarah Giaziri (left) & Koloud Helmi (centre)

She talked about the need to protect these journalists security by using pseudonyms or not telling family and friends they were journalists to protect themselves and their families. “There are those that tell the stories of the people and those that stay silent,” she said but for those that do tell the stories, there is a huge price to pay. I guess we forget about this when we’re sitting at home with our newspaper reading these stories from some of the most dangerous places in the world. 

When asked about the role of female journalists in places like Syria, Helmi said that it has both its advantages and disadvantages. Women can access more sensitive issues such as the rape of Syrian women, stories men wouldn’t have access to. But she also talked about the threat of rape to female journalists, though mentioned this happened to men as well, and the problems of PTSD.

Her fellow speaker, Giaziri, is the director of Freelance Initiatives at the Frontline Club part of the Frontline Freelance Register, a body that represents freelance journalists. She previously worked for the Rory Peck Trist which provides emergency support for freelancers in crisis.

Like Helmi, she talked about the precarious nature of working as a freelance journalist without the support of large media corporations. Due to the decline in investment in foreign news by media outlets there’s a heavy reliance on local and freelance journalists because it’s cheaper. But what this means is that they are responsible for their own security. This can be a dangerous affair when you consider that last year alone 46 freelance and local journalists were killed.

This was an important talk and it opened my eyes to what it means to be a freelance journalist working in some of the most dangerous corners of the world and the costs involved in reporting these stories.

So, if you didn’t have the opportunity to attend the conference this weekend, then I’d certainly make a note in your diary for next year as this is well worth attending for anyone interested not only in journalism but in the media more generally and I’m sure as the conference goes from strength to strength there will be a greater focus on online content and those that produce it such as bloggers and vloggers. I was sad to miss out on todays event. I was only able to attend one of the two days and it was such a shame that I wasn’t able to go to blogger Sophie Barresse’s talk on blogging.

I also quickly wanted to mention that all profits from the conference are being donated to the Manchester Action on Street Health (MASH). 

Website: Women in Media Conference

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