Q&A: What It’s Like to Be Women in Newsrooms

A woman’s experience in the newsroom has changed over the last four decades. Two longtime journalists, Julia Wallace and Kristin Grady Gilger, detailed just how much in a book called There’s No Crying in Newsrooms (a twist on A League of Their Own’s “There’s no crying in baseball” line).

Adweek caught up with Wallace and Gilger to hear more about the book, which was released last summer, and how they’ve watched the industry change. They have held leadership positions in various newsrooms throughout the country and are now working together for the third time, as faculty members at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

(This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.)

Adweek: Did you find when you were having these conversations that everyone was open and willing to share and talk about what it was like to be a woman in today’s news environment?
Kristin Grady Gilger: We were asking very personal questions. We’re asking them, what setbacks did you face in your career? Did you get sexually harassed? What barriers did you face? Did it affect your marriage? Did your kids hate you? Once we started talking to them, you really couldn’t get them to stop talking. It really did feel like they had just been waiting for someone to ask about what their experiences had been during this time period.

Do you think you would’ve been able to have these same types of conversations before the MeToo era?
Gilger: We actually started this project before the MeToo movement. But even if it had never happened, women would have wanted to talk about these issues. Almost everybody had a MeToo type of story to tell. The MeToo movement pushed women to be more vocal about the things that had happened to them because you felt like you’re not alone.

Were there specific experiences that were standard across the board? Or that were specific to a particular type of medium?
Julia Wallace: It’s a little hard to generalize—a few differences. In digital media, I think women would say there’s some real advantages because it’s so metric-based, and it’s less about who can make the strongest argument in the room, but who has the numbers to show that this is a good idea. So that’s an advantage. The disadvantage, though, is that it’s so hard to get money for women startups.

There tends to be a bit of a bro culture because of that in some of the startups, so that was a real difference. Obviously, if you think about sexual harassment, there has been so much of that in broadcast. It’s everywhere, but broadcast has been particularly hard hit by that. I think part of it is because of the sexualization of the media of that platform. Part of it is because of the star nature, and the huge amount of power that those people have, which is a little different than other platforms.

One of the reasons I wanted to join the journalism industry is because it’s such a weird place with weird characters. With these kinds of conversations—about ways to improve newsrooms—I’m curious if you’ve thought about how you can preserve the uniqueness or the weirdness of a newsroom while also taking on these conversations and have it be an improved, diverse workplace?
Wallace: I hate the word ‘preserve.’ There’s a certain nostalgia that comes with journalism, that is what’s holding us back. I don’t want to sound like a millennial, but burn it down. I’m sorry, but what we had didn’t work and if we’re gonna have to rebuild something new, inappropriate and insensitive comments just don’t have a place and that’s something I won’t miss.

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