Newsrooms around the country have been debating over the idea of a gender beat: a category for news specifically covering gender. As newsrooms lack gender and cultural diversity, news outlets have considered creating a category geared toward gender as they do for race and ethnicity. The question of course is, what would a gender beat in news entail?
The point of a cultural beat focused on a specific group of people is to highlight their voices amongst the majority that silences them. In terms of gender, men would be considered the majority to where women and other genders need their voices amplified. It is meant to act similar to race beats and the amplifying of marginalized voices.
Why is this important?
The news historically lacked the inclusion of women in the newsroom. The ratio of men to women in the newsroom is about 3:1. Researchers from the University of Britsol and Cardiff University also found women show up in the news visually more than being mentioned or quoted, as reported by The Atlantic. Though women are the majority population, they lack the same representation in journalism.
Women are either underrepresented in the news or hypersexualized. Women were regarded only as sex symbols appearing in photographs on the front pages of magazines instead of being mentioned in the articles themselves. Men continue to dominate the representation of credible sources and experts on topics including politics and science.
Things to Consider
However, the gender beat would have to be careful not to exclude the voices of the LGBT community. Gender and sexuality often have been classified together regarding human rights movements. The transgender community, with help from the media, has amplified their needs and initiatives to move forward. A gender beat should consider everyone binary and non-binary to make sure the spotlight is not focused only on heterosexual women.
The category would also have to examine how complex the groups within gender and sexuality are. If the beat were to focus on women, it would have to focus on all women including women of color and Black women. If the focus were on also on sexuality, then the beat would expand beyond women and reach issues regarding anyone who identifies in the LGBT community. This means gender beats would also have to make room for men. But, how would a news organization go about that?
The solution is very similar to how reporters write about race. Don’t include a person’s race or gender unless it is significant to the story. Men are written about all the time. The random inclusion of someone’s gender or sexuality might “other” them and take away from the point of the article. Instead of patronizing a person who had done something regular like win an award or survive an injury, the terms should be used intentionally.
The idea of equity and inclusion is a growing demand for news organizations as what was known as a minority is now growing to be a majority. Groups who’s voices had been historically ignores are now demanding to be heard and also given the chance to write their own stories.
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