The Pulitzer Center Gender Lens Conference showcased Pulitzer Center reporting focused on the intersection of gender with the most critical issues of our time. Journalists, editors, policy-makers, academics and NGOs joined us in a conversation on—and celebration of—the vital work of journalists and others on gender around the world. The conference, held at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, on Saturday, June 3, and Sunday, June 4, 2017, was the first of what we hope will be an annual tradition of conferences around an overarching theme.
On Saturday, June 3, 2017, we held a series of six panels with Pulitzer Center journalists, policy-makers and experts exploring topics ranging from diversity of reporting in conflict zones and in newsrooms, to looking at issues of property rights, public health, refugee migration, labor and economics through a gender lens. The conference illuminated why diversity of perspective, across gender, race, ethnicity and religion, matters so much in storytelling. These conversations and those that continued into the evening’s festivities helped to spark ongoing dialogues and connections among the nearly 300 in attendance, around the issues introduced.
Our hashtag, #PCGenderLens, trended on Twitter Saturday evening. It reached 1,093,246 accounts, garnering 8,449,619 impressions. A total of 281 people contributed to the conversation, generating 740 tweets. Check out the Gender Lens Conference experience through Snap Chat and Storify, too.
While covering conflict poses unique challenges to female journalists, they do far more than cover just "women’s issues.." "Pretty frequently we get categorized into these boxes as ‘female war reporter' and someone who covers 'women’s issues' which is detrimental to the story," journalist grantee Sarah Topol said.
“Property grabs” threaten life and livelihood for women around the world. The Property Rights panel raised awareness of the prevalence and consequences of property rights violations impacting women around the world and what is being done about it. As widows said in National Geographic’s "Widowhood" reporting, supported by the Pulitzer Center, “If you have land, then you have a voice.”
Scientists, activists, science journalists and photojournalists joined together for a discussion on current global health initiatives, the future of global health and how to fund it, and the importance of giving communities a voice in their own treatment.
“They train up teams of midwives, they go into the communities and it’s highly effective. It’s much more effective than going in and saying, everything you’ve done, forever, the way you were born, the way your mother was born, was wrong and here’s what you should do instead. And so again I think the key is not how do we change this, it’s what do we need to change to improve health and work within the frameworks of what they’re currently doing,” said filmmaker grantee Rob Tinworth regarding efforts to increase the number of healthy births by working with local communities in Nepal.
Panelists presented their views on the current state of diversity in the newsroom, often supporting and sometimes challenging one another in a wide-ranging discussion that explored the interplay between gender, race, and class in journalism—a profession that all panelists agreed is still a long way from being truly diverse.
"If we are not represented other people will tell our stories for us," said Nikole Hannah-Jones, staff writer at The New York Times Magazine.
International journalists, activists and editors joined together for a conversation on the impact of gender and gender roles on the refugee experience—exploring how those who are the most vulnerable are affected, how they cope, and how they survive. Journalists illuminated stories about Syrian refugees looking for a new home, LGBT refugees seeking resettlement, and host communities in border countries that are overlooked.
As a photographer, documenting the journeys of LGBT refugees seeking resettlement after looking for asylum in xenophobic and homophobic countries in East Africa, grantee Jake Naughton spoke about the importance of bringing these underreported stories to light, “There is a strong case for providing a record in contemporary history that this is happening. Not a lot of people know that there are gay refugees. [Many] gain information from the work we do, such as lawyers helping refugees seek asylum.”
Foreign correspondents, photographers, and a banker came together to discuss women's economic empowerment, the implications of labor migration, and the importance of letting communities come up with solutions for their own problems.
"If you listen to [the communities you are serving], then the real solutions will come. It may not fit into the numbers, it may not fit into the framework, but still it will be a happier way of thinking," said Chetna Gala Sinha, founder and chairperson of the Mann Deshi Mahila Sakhari Bank.
On Saturday evening, the Pulitzer Center held a dinner with keynote speakers Dr. Musimbi Kanyoro, president and CEO, Global Fund for Women, Susan Goldberg, editorial director, National Geographic Partners, and editor in chief, National Geographic Magazine, and Ben Taub, Pulitzer Center grantee and staff writer for The New Yorker, and a special performance by Girl Be Heard inspired by Pulitzer Center reporting.
Jon Sawyer, Pulitzer Center executive director, welcomed journalists, news-media and education partners, and those new to the Pulitzer Center community, with thanks to the Foundation for a Just Society, a principal donor in our reporting on gender issues, and to the Henry Luce Foundation, the Kendeda Fund, and other donors who support the Pulitzer Center in broadening our focus on these issues.
“We’re so glad you’re here—and we hope so much that you’ll become more deeply involved, in our journalism, in our educational outreach, and in our mission overall—to engage the broadest possible public in the big global issues that affect us all,” Sawyer said.
Sawyer also recognized freelance journalists from across the U.S. and from Venezuela, El Salvador and India, who the Pulitzer Center is funding for a five-day hostile environment and first-aid training course beginning June 4, 2017, in Philadelphia. The Center will support another group of 15 freelancers who will receive similar HEFAT training this August in Belfast. The Center is co-funding the training along with The New York Times and the A Culture of Safety Alliance (ACOS).
“We’re so grateful to ACOS—and to David Rohde, the journalist who serves on both our boards, for leading the drive to make freelancer safety and training a core issue for journalists and media outlets alike,” Sawyer said.
Nathalie Applewhite, Pulitzer Center managing director, noted the Pulitzer Center’s support of reporting that digs beneath the surface to uncover the root causes of crises that do not make the headlines. “As a result, gender issues consistently cut across so much of our reporting since our earliest days. In fact, our first Issues Gateway was Women and Children, which pulls from a number of reporting projects around the globe that illuminate the adversity and outright crimes endured by women and children, as well as creative responses to these challenges.”
In a special performance, Girl Be Heard, a youth group from New York that focuses on social justice issues, based their work on Pulitzer Center reporting on gender as a departure point for the program. Together, the young women presented interpretational scenes based on Taub’s documentation of the journey of trafficked teenage girl from Africa to Europe; journalist Cassandra Vinograd’s reporting in South Sudan on children being forced to become soldiers; student fellow Julia Boccagno’s stories on the trans experience in Thailand; and photographer Amy Toensing’s photography of widowhood around the world. With courage and grace, Girl Be Heard honored the stories of trauma and resilience, and brought the people’s experiences to life.
Kanyoro provided a set of practices to keep in mind when journalists write a story, take a photograph or begin to develop a pitch or proposal for funding.
“It’s such an honor to be in this room with so many inspiring journalists and leaders working on some of the most pressing issues of our time. From peace and security to global health and the refugee crisis, the challenge for all of us here is how to apply a gender lens to reporting, to photography, to research and analysis on these issues. What we all understand is that gender is inextricably connected to all of these issues and so many more,” Kanyoro said.
She challenged the audience to include a woman’s perspective, urged people to challenge gender norms through their stories, through word choice, such as swapping the word “victim” for “survivor,” and asked that people stop idealizing women’s stories of resilience as newsworthy.
“All women are resilient most of the time,” she said, sparking applause.
Goldberg highlighted the partnership between the Pulitzer Center and National Geographic that has made possible several projects over the years.
“At National Geographic we have a saying, we believe in the power of science, exploration and storytelling to change the world. We do that everyday, and great opportunities every month in our magazine, and over and over again we have had the opportunity to make a difference because of partnerships that we’ve had with the Pulitzer Center. We’ve had more than 70 major stories that we have partnered with them on," Goldberg said. "One of the largest stories that we have partnered with them have been stories that have involved gender. It is the story about widowhood around the world. In many parts of the world, widowhood plays out as a dire example of gender inequality, where the husband's death becomes the death of the women’s wealth. Women who are in a state of widowhood are cast out, their possessions, land and children can be taken from them.”
Taub spoke about his recent works made possible by funding from the Pulitzer Center, including an award-winning investigative story about Syria—a story with the potential to lay out the war crimes of President Bashar al-Assad in a way that had never before been done—and his most recent reporting to get at the roots of Europe’s migrant crisis and its effect on women and children.
“As with every project I have done for The New Yorker, the reporting process for this piece began as a series of fumbled steps, or missteps, which led me to discover something I had never considered looking into—not because I had dismissed it, but because I hadn’t known that it existed, or of its urgency,” Taub shared.
His advice to journalists was to consider the following in their reporting:
“What obsession keeps you awake at night and hijacks your thoughts during quiet moments in the day? What awful or beautiful thing did you alone learn, because you were there? This is the project you must take on. Research it like mad and write, desperately, until you can let it go,” Taub said. “And most of all, be ever careful not to tread on the rights or dignity of anyone you meet. Try to imagine all the ways in which your work could hurt the most vulnerable among them, so that it does not,” he said.
On Sunday, June 4, 2017, the Pulitzer Center offered morning workshops on fundraising and proposal writing; on the state of journalism for women photographers and photographers of color; and on cyber security.
During this workshop, participants learned how simple tools can protect passwords and data, and how they might use email encryption via Mailvelope as one way to work with confidential sources.
"It's relatively easy to figure out how a cyber attack happened, but not why it happened," said Runa Sandvik, director of information security for the newsroom at The New York Times. "Attribution for cyber attacks is fascinating, but also incredibly difficult."
A lively and interactive panel led by Pulitzer Center staff members Joan Woods, campaign director, and Tom Hundley, senior editor, and Ann Marie Valentine, senior program officer, International Women's Media Foundation (IWMF), drew journalists to a filled room to learn about pitching and funding reporting.
Photojournalist grantee Daniella Zalcman and Jennifer Samuel, associate photo editor at National Geographic, created the space for a key discussion in a world where the climate of journalism is shifting rapidly, and outlets turn more often to visual storytelling to bring these issues to light. They shared databases they’ve recently curated listing female photographers and photographers of color, defining these private databases as tools essential in supporting diversity in newsrooms and amidst photo editing desks at major international outlets.
Zalcman, founder of Women Photograph, noted that the community needed to be more conscientious and intentional in efforts to change hiring practices at newspapers, magazines and elsewhere, and to consider ways to assist others in working with commissioning editors.
For more details on Gender Lens Conference panels and workshops, please see the program.