Author Topic: Women Photograph  (Read 218 times)

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Offline Cole Burston

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  • Toronto, Ontario
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Women Photograph
« on: January 26, 2018, 04:29 PM »
There is a fruitful conversation starting to happen in our industry. This isn't just about the women's march, but more about who makes up our collective voice in the media, and why that is. I'm not going to pretend to have a solution but
let's acknowledge that there is an issue here and continue the conversation to work towards one.

Read Amber's opinion piece in Maclean's

"Do or do not, there is no try" - Master Yoda

Offline Ken Gigliotti

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Re: Women Photograph
« Reply #1 on: January 30, 2018, 02:46 PM »
Regarding Amber Braken's Opinion Piece titled Canadian Journalism Must Do Better on Gender Equity :

The newspaper business a “mono culture,” dominated by “white males,”driven buy a slow moving “inertia” when it comes to change. Guilty as charged or did it just get old. Is it ready make the major changes that are needed? Many people have to retire first. Mass retirement is immanent.

I have to say the whole  Meatloaf album Bat Out Of Hell and the 1987 movie Moonstruck  has the best advice for both women& men in this time and place. The newspaper business cannot love you back.

I am not sure if people really notices credit lines written in the smallest type possible. I know that there have been plenty of times when a female photographer would have been better suited to particular assignments than a man. There are times when men are not comfortable with what ever shows up on an assignment sheet either. The  reporter that did a story on his own vasectomy ,comes to mind. There are so few jobs and many of the staff photographers were hired 20 years or more ago. Me included,but recently retired.

I just want to add some thoughts. I started at the Chronicle Journal In Thunder Bay in 1977 and women were well represented in the newsroom reporting staff and section editors and at the assistant city editor spot. The paper had only 2 photographers and they were both male plus a dayside female darkroom tech.Four women,Edna ,Flor-Anne, Joanne and Sharon  stood out like Templar Knights all for different reasons doing battle in that old Thomson system.

When I went to the Winnipeg Free Press in 1979 there were many women working as reporters and there was one senior female sportswriter. Female sportswriters were rare in both TV and newspapers at that time.

Of the six photographers none were female. There were no lab techs at the time, photogs  did their own shooting,negative processing and printing. This would change soon with the hiring of one female lab tech.

I remember the sports writer saying when I asked her about the rarity of her position, she deadpanned , the Free Press had a female sports reporter because someone in management wanted it so. When she left another female was hired to take her place.
That is how it starts, because that is the way it started. These jobs are not hard but the hours suck, nights, weekends and travel.Family time is rationed. Sports writing in particular faced the challenge of being in male locker rooms. The WFP were to win awards for covering female sports. Female sports began to surge with better coaching and more young girls getting into sports like soccer,curling, track, basketball and volleyball at the high school level.

After working in the news business for almost 40 years I can see the fault in the newsroom stars lays not in the stars themselves but in the spaces between the stars. Newsroom management has always been an issue. The business is naturally backward looking in cannot see forward. Every reporter is trained in the manner of the last. This why there has always been friction between word and visual players. The Senate investigations into  newspaper ownership in the late 1970's and early 1980's did focus on the operation of the newsroom and how it was managed. It recommended training.

The business is defined by it's past, reporting is a looking back process, a reporter can always research and see in past tense a photographer cannot. This is shared experience vs actual experience.

The press defines newspaper thinking,and presses are in service for over 30 years. Imagine using a thirty year old computer or camera. The 30 year press institutionalizes static thinking.

The office practices were designed in the 1950's and there are remnants of 1950's stale thinking still emanating from those cluttered assignment desks. The ideal newspaper family is still rooted in the 1950's, the “family newspaper” a term that can still be heard.

Like it or not. News photography is a job ideally suited for a single person, but people don't stay single forever. The young push the old ,then they fallowing the same cycle of  factory floor abuse. With a family a person has to come home at a certain time, kids have practices and appointments. Life happens and the resulting pressure is shifted to the young and single.  For others it is divorce. The new hires do everything they are told, they will accept assignment even though the editors know they are at he end of their shift. There are probationary periods and end of year budget cuts and contract people get tenuous extensions that do as much harm as good.

The problems have always been around children , taking care of children  and how that effects whether  person is a work or not , it creates more friction than people will admit to. When your child is sick, you are sick. There have been may office floor fights when a dad or mom is off work too many times because their child is sick. Like it or not the newsroom has to adapt, sick days are called family days,and there are mental health days people cannot admit to. Like it or not these cause friction.

Weak newsroom office systems are abusive to new hires. The editor has too much power over the lives of powerless people. Newsrooms are pressure cookers, always have been. Weak systems are exploitable if the new hire has defective wiring. Jobs are scarce so bring us your crazy,do what you are told, don't claim overtime and good assignments, travel ,days , nights and weekends are all yours. Till you burn out or just say no. Then  your status begins to fade. I have benefited and have the scares to show for it, makes for quite a ride.

The systems pushed it's people to playing hurt with physical pain and depression like being in the old NHL with a players only fear is showing weakness to their bosses and peers. It is worse for women.

I believe women playing sports has  done as much to prepare women for The Revolution  that is now happening as anything else, but there are many other advances in culture that are adding to the charge.

BUT the newspaper business is still the same and change is painfully slow. It is funny the newspaper business reports of culture everyday but almost never benefits from the advance knowledge. Everything is always a surprise,even though others would say “I wrote a story about this a year ago.”

The newspaper business a “mono culture,” dominated by “white males,”driven buy a slow moving “inertia” when it comes to change. Guilty as charged. Sexism is less a problem that actual constant, low dose, abuse within  weak self inflicted ,pressurized  office practices. Women have other options,many leave. Many men leave. No one ever asks why in a formal study kind of way. Exit interviews are kept pretty secret.
The unpredictable nature of the news business, has dictated weak, crisis based “go along” office management systems.

I am proud to say the Winnipeg Free Press has over come some serious long past management problems it has one very talented female photographer and has just hired another. The newsroom staff consist of 18 females and 26 males. The photo department has 6 photographers ,4 male,2 female. The photo department has 10 people,4 are female.
The real need is finding more ethnic diversity,but one step at a time. I know money from the government may be dedicated to these neglected areas. I know the WFP has made an effort to find aboriginal and other representative ethic groups as reporters over several managing editors, but people move on . It is not an easy job on the head or the heart. Opinion by Ken Gigliotti

« Last Edit: January 31, 2018, 11:08 AM by Ken Gigliotti »