Mallary Tenore, 26, is associate editor of poynter.org for The Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, FL. Since November 2008, she writes online about changes and updates in the media industry and she also edits the website’s How To section.
Prior to her current job, Tenore has also worked as a reporter and intern for The Dallas Morning News. In Dallas, she wrote for the arts and lifestyle section, which involved covering concerts and feature events. After her June 2007 summer Poynter fellowship for young journalists, she received year-long fellowship as a Naughton Fellow and was hired full-time in November 2008. While a fellow, she wrote, edited, and produced stories for Poynter.org covering social networking for journalists and trends in journalism. Tenore also edited many columns and created Poynter’s diversity blog, Diversity at Work.
Tenore graduated in 2007 from Providence College, RI with a B.A. in English and Spanish. While studying at Providence, she was editor-in-chief of the student newspaper, The Cow. Tenore has a blog, www.mallarytenore.com and her email address is: mtenore(at)poynter.org.
Tenore was interviewed by Janlyn Holden, 21, a junior at the University of Iowa majoring in communication studies and getting her minor in mass communication and journalism.
Janlyn Holden: Why did you become involved in journalism?
Mallary Tenore: Ever since I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a journalist. One of my favorite books growing up was “Harriet the Spy.” I’d often pretend that I was Harriet and, with my notebook in hand, I’d act as the neighborhood “spy.” If a car was speeding down the street, I wrote it down in my notebook. If a stray dog was roaming around the streets, I’d make note of it and then write a story about it. I deemed everything “suspicious” – mainly because it seemed like something spies would do. I pretended to be Harriet not just because I liked her character in the book but because I’ve always had a desire to find out what’s happening and then write about it. And I’ve always had a desire to tell not just my own story, but others’ stories that may not otherwise get heard.
JH: How do you define journalism today?
MT: Journalism is about giving voice to the voiceless. It’s about helping people make sense of the world around them. It’s about exposing wrongdoings, and about holding the powerful accountable. It’s about educating people and satisfying their curiosity. It’s about revealing the Truth.
JH: How has technology influenced or affected your career?
MT: Technology has had a significant impact on my career. If it weren’t for technology, my position wouldn’t exist! I used to be very print-centric and viewed technology as a threat to journalism, but now I see it as the key to journalism’s survival. I regularly write about how journalists are using social media and other online tools to engage their users, build traffic and tell stories in new and innovative ways. And I use social media multiple times a day to talk with other journalists, find sources and spread the word about Poynter.org stories. Technology has connected me with other journalists halfway across the country, which has made me feel like I’m part of an online community that I can tap into for ideas and inspiration.
JH: How will technology affect the future of journalism?
MT: Technology will continue to make news more conversational. Now, with the growth of social media, journalists can pose questions and collect responses in ways that they traditionally couldn’t. This will continue to be the case as new tech tools come out. Social media is an excellent starting point, but it doesn’t replace traditional shoe-leather reporting. Journalists still have to verify information they get on social media and follow up with sources they find there. I’m inspired whenever I hear of a news organization that’s using social media in innovative ways. Not every tool works for every story, but that’s part of the beauty of having so many tools at our disposal; we get to pick which ones we want to use and how we want to use them. The key is to always be open to experimenting with new tools, and to set daily goals for yourself (“I’m going to start out tweeting at least once a day”) so you can keep technology top of mind.
JH: What one word would you use to describe the status of women in journalism today?
MT: Progress. (We’ve made progress, but a lot still needs to be made.)
JH: What role(s) will women have in future journalism?
MT: Women will continue to play an important role in the future of journalism, and hopefully they’ll play an even more prominent role than they do now. I’d like to see more female journalists become head editors and publishers. I’d also like to see more female columnists and critics. Most of the prominent media critics whose work I follow are men, and I can’t help but wonder: Where are all the women? I’ve written before about the lack of female voices in op-ed pages. The problem isn’t so much that news organizations aren’t featuring female contributors; it’s that they aren’t contributing in the first place. Catherine Orenstein, founder of the Op-Ed Project, told me that women cite a lot of reasons for not contributing: I’m not an expert in anything. You should really ask another person. I don’t want to be pretentious or snotty. I don’t have a Ph.D. …Perhaps if more women were editing opinion sections, there would be a greater effort to try to get more women to contribute.
JH: Do you feel that equality between men, women, and people of minorities is something that must be tackled and focused on more?
MT:Yes, we always need to be focused on diversity – both in terms of reaching a diverse audience and having a diverse staff. Having a diverse staff can make it easier to cover a diversity of topics. Unfortunately, as newsrooms have struggled financially, many have put diversity initiatives on the backburner. It should be top-of-mind, though. This is especially true as more newsrooms start to hire programmers. I’ve written before about the lack of women in technology and hope more women will start entering the field and that more newsrooms and tech companies will realize their talents.
JH: Have you ever felt discriminated in the journalism field because of your gender?
MT: I’ve felt more discriminated against because of my age than my gender. I’m lucky to have an editor who really values my opinion and who encourages me to share my voice. She’s inspired me to want to write more about women in journalism and women in tech, which I’m grateful for.
JH: When writing and reporting, do you ever find that your work is “softer” or more descriptive then that of a man’s?
MT: I’ve never considered it to be “softer” because I’m a woman. In the past, some of my work was “softer” than it is now – in large part because I was less confident in my abilities as a reporter and writer. I like to include emotion in my stories, particularly in the personal essays I write on the side. Is this because I’m a woman? Maybe. But I’m ok with that.
JH: If you ever had a daughter, would you encourage her to go into the field of journalism?
MT: Yes. The journalism industry is struggling right now, but I still have hope in its future, and I still consider journalism to be a noble profession. If my daughter wanted to pursue journalism, (and I hope to have a daughter someday!) I’d encourage her, while being honest about the downsides — low pay, tight deadlines, crazy hours, etc. If she wanted to pursue a completely different profession, I wouldn’t be upset.
JH: Do you believe that blogs can be just as informative as an online newspaper?
MT: Not all blogs are meant to be newsworthy; some are simply collections of personal essays, or musings about the world. But there are several blogs that feature quality, reported content. Sometimes, blogs are more opinionated than traditional news stories, so as a reader you have to keep that in mind. More and more, we’re seeing the Fourth Estate collaborate with bloggers, or the Fifth Estate. The New York Times, for instance, hired blogger Nate Silver, whose 538 blog is now featured on nytimes.com. People who say that blogs are written by “a bunch of people who are at home sitting in their pajamas” haven’t given blogs a chance.
JH: Where do you see yourself (in terms of your career) in ten years?
MT: Ten years from now, I’d still like to be a journalist. I love what I do, so I’d like to keep doing it. I want to continue to work at a place where I feel challenged, and where I’m always learning. That’s one of the great perks of being a journalist – you get to learn new things every time you cover or edit a story. Ten years from now, I’d also like to be able to call myself an author. I’ve always wanted to write a memoir, so my hope is that by then I will have taken the time to write it. A page a day, they say, equals a book a year.
This is part of a series of profiles of JAWS members by University of Iowa students. For a complete listing, see this page.