Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Getting ready for IAMCR conference, Mexico City

Here is an abstract of my paper: Building Global Bridges -- How Women’s eNews Covers Women Around the World

While the right to communicate is considered to be a basic human right, women continue to be excluded from the news media. As shown in the 2005 Global Media Monitoring Project’s one-day study in 76 countries, women only made up 21 percent of news subjects – those interviewed or whom the news is about. International news, especially, focuses on war, disasters and foreign policy, without any attention to women.

At the Fourth World Conference for Women in Beijing, Section J of the Platform of Action addressed women’s lack of participation and access to the news media, as well as the importance of promoting balanced and non-stereotypical portrayals of women in the media. Item 242c states that non-governmental organizations and media professional associations should “facilitate the increased participation of women in communication, in particular at the international level, in support of South-South and North-South dialogue among and between these organizations.”

One response of women to their exclusion and misrepresentation in the mainstream news media has been the creation of alternative media for women. Yet, these publications often only reach a small target audience. The New York-based online news source Women’s eNews is an example of an organization that focuses on news that affects women and also extends the reach of its articles by sending them to mainstream news media.

Women’s eNews was launched in June 2000 and describes itself as an “unbiased source of underreported news about women throughout the world.” It covers international women’s issues on a regular basis through freelance correspondents from over the world. Of specific interest is the global reach of the news service. In 2002, it realized that the service had quite a high number of visitors from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and other Arabic-speaking countries. Indeed, the Web site states that “visitors from the Middle East ranked fourth—after North America, Western Europe and unknown—in frequency of visits.” Women’s eNews also became aware of several reports that argued for the increased participation and non-stereotypical representations of Arab women in the media. As a result, the service developed an Arabic-language version “that would translate Women’s eNews articles into Arabic as well as produce original content for Arabic Women’s eNews in Arabic.” Women’s eNews currently features an Arabic version and has plans to expand to other languages, including Japanese, Spanish, and French.

This paper considers the efforts of Women’s eNews to improve the news coverage of women around the world. In particular, it addresses obstacles to the fair and accurate representation of women as well as strategies to bring about change. Results of this study are based on an institutional analysis, in-depth interviews, and an analysis of international stories published by Women’s eNews since 2000.

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