The President of the Journalism and Women Symposium, according to the organization bylaws, serves as the chief executive officer of the organization. She directs staff and board members, presides at meetings, appoints committees, signs all written contracts and obligations of the organization, and speaks on behalf of JAWS. The president, most importantly, sets the tone and direction for JAWS.
Not to get all syrupy, but for a feel-good JAWS moment, read the note earlier this month from Sabine Muscat to the listserv about The Wall Street Journal’s accepting her story.
Muscat says Viola Gienger brought her to a D.C. JAWS event after she lost her job as Washington correspondent for a German newspaper. She wasn’t sure how to break into freelancing and expand her outlets to write in both English and German. JAWS members reached out and offered advice and resources. Two years later, Muscat says she can live on her freelance income.
“It has been liberating to see that it is still possible to make a living as a journalist these days,” Muscat wrote. “But it also is a fact that job and income security are not easy to attain for freelancers — which is why networking is so important. JAWS is the best example for that.”
Women elected officials and the women journalists who cover them share an uncomfortable reality: We are both underrepresented.
The new U.S. Congress includes 20 women out of 100 senators and 84 women out of 435 representatives. Only five of the 50 governors are women. Compared to other nations, we’re in the cellar when it comes to the number of elected women. We trail behind such nations as Honduras, Rwanda, Vietnam and Bosnia.
And research shows equally dismal representation for women journalists at home and abroad. An IWMF study on the global status of women in the media found that women worldwide held only about 36 percent of reporting jobs. Last year’s study by the Women’s Media Center found that, in the United States, male bylines continue to dominate both newspaper front pages and the content of newer online-only sites.
Listicles aside, I will spare you any year-end JAWS rundowns of top 20s, 10s or 5s. Let’s just say it has been a very interesting year. At the start of 2014, I did not expect to end the year as president of JAWS. But here I am.
And I am here for you.
So what can you expect from me in 2015? I plan to focus on getting JAWS in robust shape with a healthy budget (yes, that means fundraising) and stable staffing so that you can receive the programs and networking and support you want. Next year is a special year, our 30th anniversary, and that makes it an apt time to think about the state of our union. When you look at the mission of JAWS — to support the professional empowerment and personal growth of women in journalism and work toward a more accurate portrayal of the whole society — how far have we come? Where do we need to go? What are the next steps to get there? Let’s engage in this conversation throughout the year and have it culminate in a great program at the Conference and Mentoring Project (CAMP) in Montana, where we can celebrate our legacy and our progress and get inspired for the next 30 years.
This year at the Conference and Mentoring Project (CAMP) at the La Quinta Resort and Club near Palm Springs, California, our amazing fellows asked for a few moments on the program because they had something to say. They stood up and, one by one, shared how they had become hooked on JAWS, how they had found it a safe place, a place of support, rejuvenating and inspiring and so much more.
They summed up eloquently and with emotion everything I might have said in my opening remarks after immediate past president Lauren Whaley placed the stylish shark tiara on my head. The fellows, like the excellent journalists they are, zoomed in on the heart of what JAWS is about.
Dear JAWS members:
Thank you all, once again, for the opportunity to serve as your president.
At CAMP, I officially passed the crown to the very capable Linda Kramer Jenning. But I did want to say goodbye one more time and also give a brief recap of our incredible 2014 Conference and Mentoring Project (CAMP).
Dear JAWS members:
These have been a troubling few weeks for journalists and for the world. And I am grateful for JAWS members who have helped to explain and reflect on what is happening through our network, support and work. Thank you for the posts and discussion on the killing of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown and the continued aftermath in Ferguson, Missouri and beyond. And thank you, too, for the coverage and conversation following photojournalist James Foley’s execution. In both stories, many people see their sons, their fathers, their brothers, themselves.
I am hoping we can continue these conversations about the world and the role of journalists in it on the listserv, on Twitter, on Facebook and at our Conference and Mentoring Project (CAMP) at the end of October.
Dear JAWS members:
I’m happy to report more good news about our Conference and Mentoring Project (CAMP)!
Jill Abramson will be joining us again and has agreed to speak again as well. We’re still working out the details of when she will talk, but probably at some point on Saturday, Nov. 1.
I am so pleased to announce that Anna Holmes has agreed to be our Saturday night keynote speaker at this year’s Conference and Mentoring Project (CAMP). She’s excited about it and so am I.
Anna is founder of Jezebel and recipient of the 2012 Mirror Award for Best Commentary for her columns in The New York Times and the Washington Post. She is the editor of two books, “Hell Hath No Fury: Women’s Letters from the End of the Affair” and the “Book of Jezebel: An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Lady Things.” She now works as a columnist for the New York Times Book Review and as an editor at Fusion.
Many JAWS members asked for her by name as a potential speaker, and we are honored to have Anna at this year’s CAMP.
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.
Dear JAWS members:
I want to take this time to share with you not only some of the exciting opportunities we have been working on (see Fellowships! Regional gatherings! Member news! CAMP!), but also some of the work we have doing behind the scenes to keep JAWS functioning and improving.
We now have organizational documents posted online behind our members-only site. There, you will find committee names and members, our 2014 budget and our 2014 development plan. We will continue to add documents to this area.
Wow, what a month! I am reminded every day that JAWS is like no other place or organization. I have come to expect our robust listserv discussions on topics such as Jill Abramson’s recent firing as well as links to heart-wrenching gorgeous essays. I love reading news on book deals and jobs opportunities. We all benefit from the intimacy our fellow members have cultivated over the years. And sharing that experience with more women in journalism – especially at this time in our industry when so many need the kind of support we provide – is gratifying. As I wrote in my fellowship letter, I want JAWS to welcome those who need this community. Our membership growth over the past few years shows how relevant we are, and the financial support that has grown along with it shows that our mission is compelling.
The members of the Journalism and Women Symposium (JAWS) support you.
As you ascended the ranks of top newspapers, you impressed us with your investigative journalism chops. When you became the first woman to run one of the most influential news organizations in the world, you inspired us to reach for leadership positions in our careers. And when you spoke to us during our annual conference last fall, you re-invigorated us with your self-proclaimed optimism about the journalism field and the influence we can have as women in it. Now we want to support you.
At the JAWS conference, you brought us to our feet declaring yourself to be “the newest member of JAWS” and acknowledging us as your “peeps.” Well, your peeps are here for you if you need us. We are hundreds strong in newsrooms all across the country and we stand with you and will help if we can.
I am proud to tell you all about our commitment to bring another 10 emerging journalists to our annual Conference and Mentoring Project (CAMP) this year — and to encourage you to spread the word about this tremendous opportunity. Please reach out to people who would not only love the Journalism and Women Symposium experience but who would also bring vitality and fresh contributions to our intimate group.
As a former fellow, I know how important this program is and have made it a priority to maintain during my time as president.
I feel like I have birthed twins. Juggling care of my 3-month-old son and my work for JAWS leaves me wishing for clones (or at least more arms). I know many of us feel such Overwhelm. Lucky for me, I have a great support system in my husband, my friends and family and in all of you, including my hard-working JAWS board members. I feel my energy renewed with each listserv discussion on, say, a must-read article or a JAWdess’s accomplishment or plans for upcoming meetings. Thank you for being such an engaged community of professionals!
As you know, our executive director stepped down last month; she is working with us through April 30. We bid adieu to Becky Day with fondness and gratitude for the work she has put in as office manager and then executive director, for a total of 13 years with JAWS. Thank you, Becky, for your service to this incredible organization.
It’s 1:23 a.m.
The baby is asleep in my arms and I’m typing this on my phone. He’s snoring and practicing his smiles in his sleep as we rock. He just laughed in his sleep. It’s quiet moments like these when I look into my son’s face when I feel truly grateful.
For JAWS, it’s all about the moments, too. Thanks to your support and the hard work of board members and other volunteers. We are looking forward to creating more moments, big and small.
I just had a baby. My first.
His name is Malcolm. He has 10 perfect long fingers and 10 perfect long toes and wants to eat every second of the day.
Knowing he will be watching me closely, listening to how I describe the world makes me want to be even more deliberate about how I spend my time. I’ll proudly tell him that I am a member of a kickass group of women journalists who are trying to create a more accurate portrayal of society through our work.
Dear JAWS members:
As I look to the year ahead and all the exciting upcoming programs and life events, I have to pause. I have to remind myself that there are a few days left in this year and lots to do before the clock strikes midnight.
Tucked in among our power cords and notebooks, my husband and I have piles of baby clothes to wash, baskets of papers to file and stacks of presents to send. We’re getting ready to welcome our first child into the world. After all these months, I still cannot believe he or she is almost here!
With many work projects under my belt, a recent apartment move and a nearly complete pregnancy, I have had quite the year personally.
Even so, my JAWS work has been some of the most gratifying.
Dear JAWS members:
When outgoing superwoman president Kat Rowlands placed the presidential shark crown on my head at this year’s Conference and Mentoring Project (CAMP), I teared up looking out at the brilliant women who started our Journalism and Women Symposium (JAWS) nearly 30 years ago sitting among those who were at CAMP for the first time. As a fellow in 2010, I remember the feelings I had at my first CAMP — intimidation and excitement — as I marveled at the brilliant badasses surrounding me, welcoming me into their ranks.
Building momentum is fun and we are doing a lot of that right now at JAWS.
At a networking party I held at my home this month, I got to sign up a dozen new members, connect writers looking for work with editors looking to hire, and start building a wish list of training sessions that we will organize this year.
What fun to see success with the networking, mentoring and training behind our mission to support the professional empowerment and personal growth of women in journalism and work toward a more accurate portrayal of the whole society.
The transition to fall requires a fresh look at the calendar, including the start of school for my daughter, the holiday celebrations with friends and family and, of course, JAWS CAMP.