Feminist perspective enables a broader look at journalism, say experts in webinar

The second webinar of the new series of online meetings promoted by the Network for Diversity in Latin American Journalism was dedicated to deconstructing myths about feminist journalism. The conversation held on June 27 featured journalists Michelle Nogales, co-founder of Muy Waso magazine, from Bolivia; Alejandra Higareda, general director of Malvestida, from Mexico; and Graciela Tiburcio Loayza, a feminist journalist specializing in gender and human rights, from Peru.

Lucia Solis, Peruvian journalist and cofounder of the Network, moderated the discussion. The conversation took place in Spanish and was followed live by people based in Venezuela, Mexico, Peru, Colombia, Uruguay, Puerto Rico, Guatemala, Brazil, El Salvador, and Panama.

"It's not journalism, it's activism"; "it lacks rigor"; "it's a fad and is aimed only at women" were some of the myths about feminist journalism debated by the panelists.

Graciela Tiburcio Loayza said that she has heard these questions raised by many colleagues, as if “everything you write is going to be passionate and you are not going to have any rigor when verifying data and contrasting sources.”

"Which is completely false. In fact, having this feminist perspective when preparing your journalistic products gives you greater rigor, because as feminists we understand that the stories in the world, in society, are crossed over by different aspects of inequality. When we cover issues of inequality, of human rights, this feminist perspective is necessary to be able to understand how each life is crossed over and impacted by different situations. Therefore, this perspective gives me a much broader view," she said.

Alejandra Higareda recalled that journalism with a feminist perspective has produced serious and high-impact investigations, such as the one that revealed the history of abuse by Harvey Weinstein, a former film producer in the United States, and coverage that led to advances in public policies, such as abortion rights in Argentina and menstrual rights in Mexico.

“The results are there. You can do good journalism or bad journalism, regardless of whether it has the label of feminism or a gender-based approach. I think it’s a bias that I feel arises on the one hand because of the prejudices that feminism provokes in and of itself. But also because many times, or at least in our experience in the media, many issues are triggered by personal experience. Here’s something that I identify with because I went through it, because I lived it, or because I found out about it, and from that personal experience the research process begins. But even so, it continues to coexist with all this part of journalistic ethics,” Higareda said.

Michelle Nogales said that there is actually transparency and honesty in news outlets that call themselves feminist before their audience.

“You are telling your audience, your community, whoever reads you, whoever listens to you, whoever watches you: 'Look, we’re telling you everything from this perspective, using this approach.' There are media that hide behind an objectivity, which in reality doesn’t exist, but we know that they respond to certain political or economic interests. It’s an open secret, everyone in our cities, in our countries, knows who the media respond to, but they never say it up front. On the other hand, feminist journalism does. And this also gives much more sense of security to those who read us to know where we stand when sharing the information,” she observed.

Nogales pointed out that feminism is an "epistemological umbrella," a way of seeing the world, of relating and of being. That is why there are also professionals in other fields who call themselves feminists, such as lawyers and doctors, she set out as examples, and apply this worldview while practicing their work.

“The moment in which we differentiate, let's say, activism from journalism, would be, I believe, from the point of view of practices and tools, the way we execute what we execute. Each area has its own tools, each one has its own way of practicing in that area. And the same thing happens in journalism, beyond the formats, which can be feature stories, audiovisual chronicles. Journalism itself has its own methodologies, its own tools, its own ethical codes. And activism has its own forms. And, in many ways, both complement and feed each other.

Solis commented on Malvestida's practice of sharing posters for people who follow the news outlet to download and take to demonstrations on March 8, International Women's Day. In response, Higareda pointed out that feminist news media “broke with many traditional ways and structures in how the media communicated with audiences.”

“We have understood that beyond being just an information channel, we are a community that is questioning things. We are informing ourselves, we are understanding what is happening in the world we live in. And that means that sometimes we also have to take to the streets and we have to provide tools so people can fight. All of that responds to our editorial line,” Higareda said.

Breaking out of the niche

Just as feminist movements are always questioning and evolving, it is also necessary to act in this way from within journalism to reach more diverse audiences, Nogales pointed out.

“Something that we probably also have to undertake from the various ways of doing feminist journalism is that many times it is very comfortable to talk only to women or only to other feminist activists,” she said, adding that in Muy Waso she and the rest of the team are trying to change this..

“How do we get out of this niche or this comfortable place where we already know the language, we already know the issues, we already know the ways of speaking? (...) We from Muy Waso are questioning this and trying to transform it: How do we reach women who may be Christian, religious, working women, but who do not call themselves feminists and in their daily struggles do a lot for women, do a lot that we understand as different types of feminism? So how do we break these types of logic, these languages, these narratives that have been pre-established from the various types of activism to reach not only women, not only women activists, not only diverse groups, but also everyday people, partners in other spaces?

This constant self-examination is also a lesson coming out feminist journalism, Tiburcio Loayza said.

“It’s a path in which you have to be quite open to relearn, unlearn and question yourself all the time (...). Feminist journalism has helped me become aware that it’s not a sin, so to speak, if I don’t know something fully. That in (...) interviewing someone, I can also learn a lot from that person, which will help me to see things in many different ways,” she said.

She also highlighted the difference she sees between the traditional journalistic attachment to the exclusivity of information, the scoop, and the collaborative nature of feminist journalism.

“Traditional journalism is very closed, very much about lead players, 'I’ve got the story, the scoop, and I only want it for my news outlet.’ And feminist journalism says, 'Okay, we got this. Suddenly this happens here in my country and it also happens in another country. We may have a collaboration, we may come out at the same time, we may expand the investigation, and something much more powerful comes out. And that implies building relationships and sharing that news with other colleagues, leaving aside the selfishness that traditional journalism tends to have. It’s a beautiful path,” she said.

Upcoming Diversity Network webinars

The online meeting that debated myths about feminist journalism was the second webinar in the new series held by the Network for Diversity in Latin American Journalism, with support from the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas. The first, "Stories with LGBTQ+ Pride," took place on June 20.

The third session of the series takes place on Tuesday, July 4, at 6 p.m. (CST), with the panel "How to cover gender violence journalistically." The session will be moderated by journalist and lawyer Pilar Cuartas, with the participation of Leila Mesyngier, editorial coordinator of Amphibia Magazine, and Mexican journalist and writer Lydiette Carrión. You can register at this link.

The fourth and final webinar of this series will be on July 11, at 6 pm (CST), with the session "Disinformation, audiences and dangerous discourse son diversity issues", moderated by journalist Mariana Alvarado. This session will feature Daniela Mendoza, director of Verificado MX, and María Teresa Juárez, co-director of the Periodistas de a Pie network. Click here to register.

This is the second series of webinars held by the Network for Diversity in Latin American Journalism. The first one took place between January and March this year and had the participation of more than a thousand journalists from 16 countries. In this first series, topics such as myths about diversity, migration, gender perspective, and inclusion of LGBTQ+ people in newsrooms were addressed. The videos from this first series are available here.

Those who attend all four sessions of this second webinar series can earn a certificate of participation from the Latin American Journalism Diversity Network.

The Latin American Journalism Diversity Network began its activities in late 2022 with support from the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas and the Google News Initiative. In addition to previous webinars, the network has trained several news outlets in the region on diversity issues and organized two international conferences on the topic.