By Kathy Kiely, JAWS Member | Photo by Helen Hausmann Photography
Sisterhood is powerful. So is journo-hood.
Sometimes leaning in means jumping out.
Since I took the big plunge this week, leaving a great job as an editor at Bloomberg Politics over our less-than aggressive coverage of the latest possible entrant in the presidential race – a sorta, kinda candidate whose name happens to be Michael Bloomberg – the words of support from my colleagues, especially my colleagues in Journalism and Women Symposium (JAWS), have been cherished like the beads on a rosary by this lapsed Catholic girl.
Much to my own surprise, journalism has become something sacred to me. And while journalists are not naturally joiners, I’ve become more and more convinced over the course of my career that if the craft is going to be saved it will be by members of the guild — the people who ply the trade, who polish the words, who capture the sound and the images, and who care enough about what they do to want to pass it on to the next generation of apprentices. That’s what JAWS is all about.
So thank you for being there.
My decision was not easy. Thinking it over, I can see that it was both motivated and impeded by being a woman.
I’d describe my management style as Big Momma: Yes, I push reporters to do stories and make deadlines and ask yet another question. But I also hector them about getting enough sleep, wonder if they’ve managed to get a decent meal, and help plan their trips so they don’t have to drive too far on dangerous roads at night. I plot ways to make them stars. Once, in a previous job, when a news source questioned the credibility of one of the reporters who worked for me, I went to a press conference so I could personally cross-examine the intimidator in public and make him back down. That was some righteous FUN!
So yeah, I am protective. And that momma-bear instinct made me think somebody should defend the credibility of my little brood and that somebody should be me.
But then, on the other shoulder was that little devil. We all know her: The Good Girl. Oh, but if I left, I was going to make a MESS. I was going to create a problem for Other People. Even worse, I was going to call attention to myself. The cardinal sin of Good Girlhood.
Happily, I know a couple of bad girls: Fellow female journalists who have been guides and role models for me. Instinctively, they were the people to whom I reached out as I agonized: Fran Dauth, a retired editor for The Newark Star-Ledger, The Philadelphia Inquirer and San Francisco Examiner; Muriel Dobbin, a retired reporter for McClatchy Newspapers; and Ellen Warren, a columnist for The Chicago Tribune. They were the ones who stiffened my spine and encouraged me to give that good girl the brush off.
Thank you, she-roes for making me see that every gal’s gotta burn her bra sometime.
This was my turn.