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What News Looks Like When Women Matter: Profiles of Rita Henley Jensen and Victoria Graham of Women’s Enews – Part II

I had grown up, of course, in the era of the Vietnam War protests and the civil rights movement, so I understood the principles, but it was just in the 1970s that women began to apply those principles to ourselves. I went to consciousness raising groups and joined the Women’s Action Collective on campus, and I was one of the founding members of the Single Mother’s Support Group, and through that process, I began to learn about women’s rights. Then, I began to take women’s studies courses at Ohio State University and more and more my eyes were opened wider.

SS: What is your experience as a woman journalist for the past 25 years?
RJ: I always loved my job, but in light of Women’s Enews, looking back, it was always a struggle. It was always a struggle to get good journalism into the paper. Editors of daily newspapers- they mainly want it done. They have a space that has to be filled every day. So it is always a struggle to spend more time on a story rather than less, and there is always a struggle to get an editor to say that ‘Yes, this is interesting to you, Rita, and you should do the story.’ And there is always a struggle to get controversial stories in the paper. Overall it has been enormously rewarding and awarding. I’ve received lots of awards for investigative reporting – not particularly for documenting gender bias. One of my stories documented racial bias in the school system. A lot of times I won awards for exposing corruption and that kind of thing, the standard investigative reporting, but this is the first time I’ve really been asked to cover the most significant story, I think, which is women’s lives and the conditions under which most of us live.

SS: Who is inspirational to you?
RJ: Betsy Wade, the first female copy desk chief for the New York Times, Eileen Shanahan, first woman hired by the New York Times Washington Bureau and founder of her own magazine called Governing and Caryl Rivers is a wonderful writer and reporter.

SS: Where do you see Women’s Enews in the future?
RJ: I want it to be as ubiquitous as CNN. I just want it, you know, to be an institution that people come to rely on, such as CNN with the same credibility and reach.

SS: Do you advertise on your Web site?
RJ: No we do not accept advertising on our Web site. And our links are not courtesy links. Our links are only to organizations that we have used and cited in our news stories. So that our links are editorially related and not advertisements.

SS: How have things changed for women in the news media and the newsroom over the last 30 years?
RJ: Many more women have entered the field, and gradually under sheer pressure of numbers, some have risen further than ever they had in the early days of the women’s movement. However, we still we don’t know the precise numbers of women in editorial positions. The one organization that counts that kind of thing, the American Society of Newspaper Editors, really hasn’t made public a definitive study, if it’s done it, on the number of women calling the shots. That is really where we need women. It is good to have women reporters, but reporting is an entry-level position in most cases. Some extraordinary people love it and just become senior reporters. It’s wonderful to have female copy editors and the language has changed as a result. And copy editors are enormously important. Yet, there is a high turnover rate in the industry and women often feel compelled to leave when they want to become a parent. We do not have enough women in the leadership positions in the industry. If women ran the news industry, the lack of adequate child care would be front-page news every day until the situation changed.

Victoria Graham, Managing Editor of Women’s Enews

SS: What led you to your position as mana

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