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How female entrepreneurs can help journalists out

Angela Priestley /

As Women’s Agenda reported yesterday, Bloomberg has made a significant move for gender diversity in the media, by being the first of the major business news outlets to issue a mandate that news stories must include female voices.

In the email outlining the new rule, which applies to all ‘enterprise’ news stories, Bloomberg’s news editor-in-chief Matthew Winker said, “Women are engaged in every topic we cover. Our journalists should reflect that variety.”

It’s a good move, and a significant first for the industry. Yet in doing so, one could argue Bloomberg’s own news editor just made the jobs of his journalists more difficult.

Journalists are writing, producing, broadcasting and tweeting more content than they’ve ever been asked to do before, often across multiple platforms at once. The news no longer ends when the newspapers go to print and the 6pm news airs. We live in a 24-hour media cycle where news doesn’t end with a story going to air, it keeps happening day and night, requiring an endless stream of commentators and sources to keep it going.

When up against a deadline, and requiring a number of sources to pull together a story, journalists will need to acquire the expert input they need as simply as possible — and often that means by going to an existing pool of contacts. They will consult the sources they know, and those who are available — or will at least make themselves available.

Journalists seeking expert commentary on a story don’t want to wait around for the media department to approve the interview, nor for the source they are approaching to question if they are the best person around to offer a perspective. They certainly don’t want to be asked to send through a story for approval.

As soon as acquiring a comment for a story threatens meeting a deadline, the journalist will look elsewhere for somebody else and probably go direct to the trusted sources they know will deliver. It just so happens that the good majority of those sources are male.

Any consumer of the news will know this. Sure, there are plenty of women telling the news — female bylines, women on television — but when it comes to sources in the media, women feature nowhere near as often as men. Unless, of course, the story is about a perceived ‘women’s issue’, such as childcare, fashion, food, losing weight, and the ‘having it all’ debate.

This is especially true in the business media. If you don’t believe me, start applying a ‘gender lens’ to the business pages of our major newspaper and you’ll very quickly see that the same type of person is quoted over and over again. You don’t even have to read the content, just take a good look at the headshots published. You may even start to question if women are starting and leading businesses at all.

Sure, this has a lot to do with journalists not looking hard enough for a diverse range of opinions, as well as editors not demanding enough variety.

But it also has something to do with women.

And while I don’t usually like to say women need to ‘change’ something in order to see more gender diversity across different aspects of business and community, I do believe that when it comes to sources in the news, women could be doing more to help journalists out.

That may mean positioning yourself as an ‘expert’ on social media and your other digital assets — your business website, blog, newsletters etc — and making it clear that you’re available (a mobile number helps). It means getting on the 24 hour news cycle treadmill yourself, knowing a webpage, LinkedIn profile and Twitter account is only as good as your last update, which could be completely irrelevant to what’s happening in the world one minute after publishing.

Once you can actually be found by a journalist, you need to be available. If they are looking for a quick quote on an issue they’re covering, the interview will be short and to the point and they’ll appreciate you being just as concise. You can find the time to offer a quick quote, even if it means stepping out of a meeting for a couple of minutes or while walking to grab something for lunch.

Being a source is hard work and requires a significant investment of time, all the time.

Bloomberg journalists have been told to consult their internal resource for contacting sources which includes more than 800 female names. Locally here, the Women’s Leadership Institute of Australia offers its own comprehensive database of women in the business, finance and NFP sectors available for media comment. These databases certainly help, but there’s always more that women can personally do to get themselves quoted in the press.

We may not see any Australian news outlets issuing a ‘quota for quotes’ like Bloomberg any time soon.

But women don’t need to wait for such a move to occur. Help a journo out. Make yourself easy to find, easy to contact, and as easy as possible to quote.

This story originally appeared on Women’s Agenda.

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Angela Priestley

Angela Priestley is the publisher and founding editor of Women's Agenda. She's an author, journalist and passionate advocate for workplace gender equality and diversity. Her first book is Women Who Seize the Moment.

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