July 2014: Empowering women journalists

President's Letters, Recent News l

Whaleyd0e0abDear JAWdesses:

If ever you doubted the power of our mission to empower women journalists, just take a look at the results of our JAWS crowdfunding campaign to support the 10 Emerging Journalist fellowship winners coming to CAMP this year. Not only did we meet our goal of raising an incredible $12,000 through more than 200 small donations, we also garnered attention from hundreds of new supporters, who saw the tweets, posts and emails about these impressive emerging journalists and our Conference and Mentoring Project (CAMP) this year.

Remarkably, we had over 80 applicants for 10 spots — a record response for JAWS and double the number from last year.

And we have three more fellowships to offer yet: the Diversity Fellowship sponsored by the Financial Times, and the mid-career fellowship and the Entrepreneurial Fellowship, sponsored by private donors.

Incredible! And so gratifying!

The success of our fellowship efforts tells me that JAWS is needed now more than ever.

Women journalists are craving support, community and expertise of learning from one another. It is 2014, and we are still battling. Battling for equal pay. Battling for equal treatment. Battling for equal byline counts. And we’re also forging a new path in our changing field. It’s an exciting time to be a journalist. And an exciting time to be a JAWS member.

One of the amazing fellowship winners tweeted to a board member:

As soon as I found out I was a fellow, I jumped up and down and cry-laughed in my living room.

These journalists really want to be a part of JAWS. And JAWS is fortunate to have them join our ranks so we can expand the circle of women who are committed to helping one another tell great stories, improve their skills and make a difference in the world.

These are journalists covering religion, transgender issues, Native American issues and immigration. They live in the U.S. and abroad, reporting on under-represented border communities, statehouses and the Middle East. They are reporting for television, radio, newspapers and online. They are investigative reporters and multimedia journalists. And they decided that JAWS is where they want to be.

This is what JAWS is all about for me: Bringing in new women who seek the community that welcomed each of us so warmly into its ranks when we each joined. For me, it was as a fellow in 2010 at the recommendation of longtime JAWdess K.C. Cole. For others, it was at a small gathering in Estes Park. And for others, it was through word of mouth as stories were passed along about the battles fought by members such as those who sued The New York Times for gender bias — and won.

The strength of JAWS is how we bring together women of all ages, geographies, ethnicities and genres to support one another as our industry continues to change. What an opportunity we have to mentor each other. What an opportunity we have to shape our industry.

At CAMP this year, we’ll hear from Peg Simpson at our Legacy Lunch. She will talk about the lives and careers of the women whom the Legacy project honors, including Kay Mills, Eileen Shanahan and Joan Riddell Cook.

We will also have a chance to listen to a lively conversation between Edith Lederer and Linda Deutsch. Edie has reported on all but one continent for the AP and is senior diplomatic correspondent based at the United Nations in New York. Linda has reported on pretty much every notorious trial from her base in Los Angeles (the Manson murders, Patty Hearst, the Exxon Valdez oil spill, Rodney King, O.J. Simpson and Michael Jackson). Both were close friends of veteran JAWS member and former AP Washington correspondent Fran Lewine. These interviews are recorded and serve as an oral history record of outstanding women in journalism.

These trailblazers have a lot to teach the newer JAWdesses, just as our fellowship winners have a lot to offer. We call it symbiosis at CAMP, when we mentor across generations. Thanks to our larger membership the last few years, we are now able to do this regularly at regional gatherings, on the listserv and even on Twitter.

Here’s what longtime JAWdess and former board member Peg Simpson had to say when I asked her about the value of JAWS:

To me, JAWS is an intergenerational resource for hundreds of journalists. You can see it on the listserv — one person asking for help with a first-time teaching gig and a half dozen JAWS veterans giving their invaluable resources: website links, names of books and pertinent articles — and all within an hour…

This is a large part of what JAWS is about: sharing our wealth of knowledge and resources, on deadline. Yes, it’s a time of upheaval in the world of media. But JAWS provides a forum for people who are just entering the field and are determined to make a difference to be able to meet up, on the listserv or in person at CAMP or at the regional meetings, with longer-term JAWS members who have a lot to offer.

This commitment to share is what makes JAWS unique.

I am proud to serve as president at a time when we’re expanding our fellowship program, engaging our mid-career members and also honoring the trailblazers who made it possible for the rest of us to pursue careers in this field.

Thank you to all those who helped make the fellowships possible with your contributions, whether through donations or mentorship. We are all so grateful!

All my best,

Lauren