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Plenty of work to do

By Caroline Jones

So often I look westward for wisdom. That is where Women in Media was founded by our co-patron, Victoria Laurie, in 2005, with a small group of colleagues. For most of my working life there was nothing like it and it’s exciting to see how Women in Media has established around Australia.

Tracey Spicer, AM, initiated WiM in the other states in 2013, in cooperation with MEAA. The latest news is that WiM has started in the NT and Tasmania.

While all state WiM branches provide mentoring and networking events for our professional development, I’m fascinated to see how each state has developed its individual style of operation: from the new Masterclass series in WA to the establishment of The Jill Singer Lecture in Victoria; from the ACT initiative of the Caroline Jones Young Journalist’s Award for rural and regional journalists to the Queensland committee’s creation of the outstanding WiM National Conference … just to identify a few events among many.

No doubt we’re all familiar with the famous maxim of former first female US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright: that “there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other”.

I believe that there’s a special place in heaven for all you generous state WiM committees, giving your time, energy and expertise for the advancement and encouragement of other women.

There’s much emphasis now on the necessity to ‘build your brand’. To me, that term seems incomplete. I want to add to it a sense of purpose. Why do I want to ‘build my brand’? If it’s only to see my face on television or to have the biggest byline, I might end up disappointed.

What is it that I want to achieve with my media work?

What contribution does it make to documenting the human cost of government and business decisions such as Inside Hazelwood – An Ode to the workers by Jane Cowan, The Newcastle Herald’s Joanne McCarthy shining light on injustice or abuse, The War on Waste, translating the advances in science, medicine, technology into accessible language, and featuring what is inspiring.

As journalists, or in related media work, we can feature the human concerns of immigrant and refugee groups. This has the potential to lessen the ‘us and them’ atmosphere which is an obstacle to harmonious integration and which, at its worst, can lead to recent events such as Christchurch.

Reporters Claudia Jambor, Moyra Shields and Nathan Morris collaborated recently for a report on Yazidi people, driven from their homeland in a brutal purge. Sarah Navin produced a story on Yazidi New Year celebrations for Prime 7.

Such reports give names and faces and precious customs to otherwise anonymously grouped ‘these people’. They reveal the concerns and hopes common to all humanity. The strange is made familiar. For what is more precious to all people than their stories: the record of who they are; where they come from; what they carry with them; where they’ve found courage and strength to keep going in their hard times; what they hope for their children; and what they have to offer.

Bindi Bryce has just produced a story on the Indigenous women who fought homelessness and stereotypes to take control of their money. Very often it is through such powerful personal stories that matters of public interest can be illuminated most effectively.

In the long run, the most authentic satisfaction comes not from your own notoriety, but from how your work served a meaningful purpose, or how your leadership has facilitated the good work of others. At least that’s been my experience.

So what lies at the heart of this Women in Media venture? Why the offer of mentoring, networking and professional development ? Because we believe that journalism and an ethical media are important for the maintenance of a just and humane society.

It is a privilege for us to work in the media and yes it’s also challenging. Women in Media aims to support us all to do our best, with our personal and professional lives in the best possible shape.

We also hope that in gaining greater confidence, more women will aspire to leadership positions. Although there is a fair numerical balance of women and men in the media, very few are to be found at managerial, chief executive and board level in Australia.

There’s plenty of good work for Women in Media to do, and we can all be part of it, contribute to it, be nurtured by it.

Caroline Jones is the co-patron of Women in Media.

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