Advisory board member blog post: Lisa Stone

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Lisa Stone is part of the original advisory board for the Journalism & Women Symposium, formed in 2013.

Lisa StoneWhen Becky Day offered me the opportunity to write, I opted for a blog post format — perhaps unsurprisingly. 🙂

My name is Lisa Stone and I co-founded BlogHer Inc. with Elisa Camahort Page and Jory Des Jardins in 2005. Since our idea became a media company reaching 100 million women monthly, I’ve worked as CEO to deliver on our vision: To create opportunities for women — and men! — in social media to achieve greater exposure, education, community and economic empowerment for their work. It’s a growing, exciting business; from 2009-2012, BlogHer paid out $25 million in work-for-hire fees and advertising revenue shares to 5,000 writers and photographers working across blogs, Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook on subjects ranging from parenting to politics, and, in the case of one documentary, overcoming fear.

Frankly, as BlogHer’s team prepares to kick off our 10th year in business, I am still surprised to be the CEO of a for-profit company created WITH women, instead of just making money off of women. Growing up in Montana, before cable television and before the Internet, I fell in love with journalism and storytelling listening to KUFM public radio and reading the latest New York Times. I’m so happy now that my love of print journalism led briefly to broadcast and then to the Internet in 1997, where I have been studying women’s voices ever since.

In the past year I’ve been thinking a lot about how we journalists can leverage the golden age of social communication on behalf of our craft — because I still consider myself one of the club, even though I’m now wearing the hat of a community publisher. We have two major challenges: First, how do we continue to get paid for our writing or photography, and reporting of events? And second, how do we conduct writing and reporting that fulfills the highest calling of journalism, which I’ve always defined as investigating and telling the hard truths that equip readers to help ourselves?

My answer to the first challenge is to get as many women as possible to put their bylines in social media and provide storytelling that’s relevant to the majority of users, who happen to be women. How do you grow your community online? In answer, I’m extremely excited to invite the JAWS community to the tenth annual BlogHer conference in San Jose, California on July 24-26, 2014, where our curriculum is designed to help you reach new readers, extend your byline and grow your audience as a writer and/or photographer. (And allow me to clarify: While the conference costs money to attend, neither our early bird ticket price nor our regular ticket price, which kicks in March 1, actually covers the cost of attendance, since we provide meals and drinks. Our sales team sells sponsorships to cover the cost!) We designed this event as bloggers who want to improve and grow, and I think it’s still the best investment for your personal development dollar — other than the JAWS conference of course! The greater your readership and influence, the great audience and compensation you will be able to demand — for an article, for a photograph, for a book advance, for freelancing. You must invest in your brand to grow, and thanks to social media you don’t have to wait for your employer to do so.

By growing our readership, reach and — I’ll say it loud and proud — leaning in as an empowered, well-paid cadre of women in journalism, we can demonstrate leadership and change the world, for ourselves and for our readers. We can lead journalism with the stories we share and the priorities we communicate to our readers — look at Dominique Browning and the work she is now doing as co-founder and lead blogger with Moms Clean Air Force or Shannon Des Roches Rosa and her work on autism and parenting at the Squidalicious blog. We can lead journalism covering and sharing the realities of women that otherwise might not stay in the shadows — such as Fatemeh Fakhraie’s Muslimah Media Watch and Violence Unsilenced. We can lead journalism by reminding readers of the diversity of informed, articulate women’s opinion,  from as Feminista Jones and Grace Hwang Lynch on BlogHer.com to Jennifer Fulwiler, who blogs Conversion Diary.

I don’t always agree with all these writers, but I embrace their courage and value their voices. These entrepreneurial community journalists took new media tools in hand to break new ground. From what I see and hear from individual members of the JAWS community, I anticipate many more such initiatives in the coming year. I encourage you, I salute you and I invite you to reach out to other women online as colleagues and for help. Go for it! Here’s to your voice in 2014.

Best,

Lisa Stone