Friday, January 29, 2010

From 2008: Michela Wrong on why women make better investigative journalists

I just discovered this little rant from way back when, and I have to say, I kindof love it.  Especially this part--After Michela Wrong receives a call from a young aspiring male journalist who is looking for tips on his latest project, a book about Africa, despite having no experience covering African stories, she muses:
I realised that my conversations with aspirant writers, and there have been dozens, had one thing in common: they all involved the male of the species. Africa is full of female reporters who tramp through Darfur’s refugee camps and grit their teeth during Mogadishu firefights. Yet not one of these indomitable females has ever called me for the Quick Guide to Successful African Book Writing. I think I know the reason. It’s the same one that ensured I tried my hand at being an author only after 16 years of journalism. Women probably see an Africa book as featuring Africa first, their own exploits second. They fear they know too little, have nothing original to say. Even in this neo-feminist era, they have a sneaking suspicion they are not worthy.
Now, I won't deem to paint all women with such a broad brush,  but it is an intersting counterpoint to all those articles telling us we need to be more like men.  I can just hear what those career counselors would say--that's because those women are too shy, too reticent to reach out and ask for help, and too self-doubting to recognize their own abilities!  While there may be some truth to that, too (I often have to push my female friends to not be afraid to draw on their network for help in projects or career searching), there's also definitely something to Wrong's point.  Growing up as a woman has a tendency to make us more convinced of what we can't do than what we can, and in some cases, that lends a beneficial pensiveness to our actions.  For example, some female journalists might find it necessary to do some research on African subjects before making them the topic of our latest vanity project.

1 comment:

  1. I agree that such pensiveness can be beneficial, but I feel it's far more common to err on the side of thinking too much. You can consider any endeavor, and come up with a long list of reasons why you're not qualified (or someone like Wrong can do it for you). Too often, you end up doing nothing -- or you get stuck in a suboptimal path dependency, where you're only willing to pursue endeavors based on which courses or jobs you took on years ago. I have no problem with this kid attempting to write this book, if that's what he wants to do. Let's see whether so many years in Africa and "learning the journalist trade" actually make a difference in the quality of his book. As for whether there's a significant gender difference in this kind of behavior, I have no idea - I've seen it go both ways.


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