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This is right time for women in media to lean in, step forward

Friday January 24 2020

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Journalists inside a newsroom in Nairobi on November 24, 2018. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

NJOKI CHEGE
By NJOKI CHEGE
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An absolutely great thing happened this week. Annette Thomas’ appointment as The Guardian’s new boss is a massive vote of confidence in female leadership in the global media industry, not to mention an inspiration to rising women leaders in the industry.

DISRUPTION

Traditionally, such jobs were a preserve of men — and a few women — but lately we have seen more women step forward or lean in towards media leadership and management, both locally and globally.

The female voice — whether in the newsroom, in the boardroom or even in the academy — is getting bolder and clearer and my hunch is that this is just the beginning of a new crop of women leaders in the global and local media scene.

As the media industry continues to struggle with the economic consequences of the digital disruption that has seen the undermining of the advertising business model, there is a renewed effort by news media organisations to marshal every strategy within their reach to match up the disruption.

One of the most important strategies that seems to be working for them is diversity and the inclusion of groups that were never at the decision-making table in the first place.

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CONVERSATIONS

We have not only seen more women of colour join editorial boards that were traditionally male and white, but also more women at the highest levels of these organisations making decisions that not only affect their colleagues but also their audiences.

There are more women columnists and professionals providing expert commentary and owning conversations in politics, climate change, business, civil society, innovation, you name it.

All this is intentional. It is true that whoever hacks the digital advertising business model will be the survivor. It is also true — and more important — that for the media to wiggle out of this disruption conundrum they must involve everyone in the room: men, women, the young and the young at heart.

As a good friend of mine likes to say, you cannot play with half the team.

OPPORTUNITIES

Women must be part of this journey because they have a rightful place in decision-making and they bring so much more than diversity to the high table.

It is for this reason that I mount an argument for considerable efforts to aggressively recruit the next generation of women journalists and media practitioners.

Experts have told us that the future of media and journalism lies in media’s leverage on the latest advancements that technology affords us.

Think data, artificial intelligence, automation, immersive journalism and even robo-journalism.

This, to me, is the perfect entry point for the next generation of women media leaders: the nexus between tech and media, and the opportunities in media, technology, journalism and communication in general.

MOVEMENT

We need to make it known — assertively so — to every woman under 35 in this country who is interested in media that their voice matters, their skills matter even more, and that they need to be part of this movement towards a fully digital media space.

Ms Chege is the director of the Innovation Centre at the Aga Khan University’s Graduate School of Media and Communications. [email protected] The views expressed here are the writer’s own.

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