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A Personal Look At Gender Sourcing In My Journalism

Posted by admin on Apr 29, 2016 in news, opinion

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Women are underrepresented in media.

Fact.

Sure, most J-schools are 90% women, but that has little bearing on how everything pans out. In 2015, 68% of bylines at the New York Times went to male reporters, 67% at USA Today and 59% at The Wall Street Journal.

That’s not all: women are also missing in the stories themselves. The Global Media Monitoring Project reported that in 2015, only 24% of all people heard, read about or seen in the media are women. When you drill down to subject matter, the stats get even more skewed; only 16% of political coverage features women and 35% in tech and science.

This isn’t ‘new’ news to anyone who works in media; we all know this is an ongoing problem. Men get quoted more frequently as experts for a number of reasons (accessibility, relationships, etc) and while I’m sure no one intentionally does this, it’s a real issue. As long as one gender gets disproportionate column space, the other, by default, becomes a second class citizen and gets excluded from topics that relate to everyone. Journalists need to be cognizant of their own reporting bias, and make an extra effort to include both sexes

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This issue is personal for me; on a recent story for Drone360 Magazine I was halfway through my reporting when I realized that every badass director, drone operator and entrepreneur I’d spoken to was male. To counter this, I reached out to the kickass Amelia Dronehart community to get some female voices. This wasn’t a story about sexism in drones (which I have written before) but one about the entertainment industry, and it was weird to find that it was only boys who were obviously involved/ talking about it/suggested as the company spokesperson.

A tweet from reporter Polly Mosendz alerted me to John R Platt’s great story on Motherboard; a feature about his quest to feature more female sources in his reporting.

He discussed how he managed to get from around 25-30% women voices to 43.55% in a year, through consciously using a wider pool.

That’s pretty awesome – but it got me wondering if this is something I’m guilty of. I don’t get a pass just because I have two X chromosomes. I decided to take an in-depth analysis of my own work over the last year. As a freelance journalist, I cover a bunch of different topics – recent stories include revenge porn laws, the business of pet funerals and yoga boxing – and I broadly fit into the ‘tech and lifestyle niche.’ With this in mind, I’d expect a relatively balanced gender division of sources.

I write for a lot of different publications, but to narrow this project down I’ve focused on my work for OZY Media, a company I do a lot of reporting for. I wrote approximately 67 stories between January 1st 2015 and March 2016; I use ‘approximately’ because I’m counting from date invoiced; not all my stories have been published yet, and some from 2014 were published during this time.

I’m aware this is a relatively small sample size, and I’m using this just to try and get a better understanding of my own work and bias; to discover what I need to work on. Way bigger studies and analysis have been done by other organizations; look a Max Berggren’s gender equality tracker (hat tip: Victoria Turk) the Women’s Media Center and the Geena Davis Center for more detailed research.

I counted the gender of all experts quoted, and the gender of the main characters in my stories. This was counted per story; a number of people have been quoted in multiple pieces (men and women) and this wasn’t documented separately.

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Here’s what I found (put into percentages for ease of analysis).

Overall gender total: This includes every person spoken to

54.4% Female
45.5% Male

This is encouraging. I was a little worried – as someone who does a lot of tech reporting – that this might not be the case. I’m not sure why this is so balanced, I’m going to put it down to having a good network of female tech experts I contact regularly.

Gender total: Sources/Experts only

60.5% Female
39.5% Male

Gender total: Story main focus

47.6% Female
52.4% Male

Thoughts:
Still pretty even, but a shift from earlier. Perhaps this is related to the number of male tech CEO’s?

These results are nice and all – a great virtual back patting’s going on now – but I wanted more data. This is my dive into story genres, to see if this switched things up.

Technology Reporting

Gender count: Technology Story focus

23% Female
77% Male

These are the numbers I expected to see earlier, and they make me feel pretty bad. Sure, men make up between 70-95% of all tech CEOs (depending on which study you read) but that’s no reason to not include women who are kicking ass.

Gender count: Technology Story sources
Female 70%
Male 30%

This is also strangely skewed. I’d account for this by the fact that I have a number of great women tech reporters that I regularly use as expert sources. I’ll make more of an effort to be inclusive to the great male experts as well.

Travel Reporting

Gender count: Travel Story focus

Female 27%
Male 73%

Thoughts: This is unexpected, and I can’t really account for this, other than I was unaware in my reporting that men were so prevalent in travel; I’d kinda assumed this might be pegged as ‘female’ in the same way that fashion is. I have looked at my fashion stories, and they skew significantly towards women as CEOs, but I had so few that I didn’t feel that data should be included here.

Gender count: Travel Story sources
Female 56%
Male 44%

Overall thoughts:

I’m surprised and pleased by these results. It feels to good to know I’ve been fair in my reporting, and that I’m representing people well. I still need to work on making sure I speak to more women, especially those who are tech CEO’s/entrepreneurs, but overall I feel pretty good. This has taken up more time than expected, and that’s OK, there’s value in understanding what I’ve been doing, not just blindly moving forwards, but having knowledge and forethought for future work.

I’d suggest more reporters attempt this with their own work; the better we understand ourselves, the better we can reach our readers.

Note: I’m aware this is an incredibly complex topic, and that by looking purely at gender I haven’t touched upon ageism, race or ableism. I hope to expand on those issues in follow up blogs; I kept this tightly focused on gender due to the narrow scope of this story. I welcome any comments/follow up thoughts people might have.

 
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How Revenge Porn Goes Viral

Posted by admin on Apr 18, 2016 in news, technology

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When Annmarie Chiarini’s ex decided to post nude pictures of her online, there weren’t any laws prohibiting “revenge porn.” Since 2010, great strides have been made to punish those like Annmarie’s ex who post the pics—but for victims like her, that’s often beside the point: Once nude pics are on the internet, they’re often there to stay.

When nude photos are uploaded online to a forum or website they can be copied by third-party web scraping tools. Think of these as virtual robotic spiders with the ability to search the source code of a website and download its content, including images. Many of these tools are free to use. Once the images have been captured by another individual, they can be republished on multiple websites, Patrick Ambron, CEO of BrandYourself, an online reputation management company, told Vocativ. Photos, including revenge porn images, can also be manually downloaded by individuals for republication elsewhere.

Ambron’s services help clients clean up their Google search results of everything from police mugshots to party photos. But, he acknowledges, revenge porn is especially complicated to remove because its spread can be viral. “It starts by someone posting [a revenge porn image] anonymously on a forum,” he explained. Then, either web bots or individuals can crawl the content and store it in multiple locations.

When a website gets taken down, the images that have been archived by web bots or simply downloaded by users will often resurface on different blogs. The re-uploads can be accomplished automatically or manually, he said. Eventually, a nude image can be broadcast across so many websites that its origin stops being relevant. Trying to individually request the removal of revenge porn images from each site is a game of whack-a-mole.

Around 5 percent of Ambron’s business is from revenge porn victims. According to him, that’s around 25,000 people since he started his company in 2012. And these are particularly difficult cases. “We can’t take it down as fast as it’s posted,” he says. Because digital copies of a revenge porn image can spread so quickly, it’s nearly impossible to remove them all, so Ambron focuses on the next best thing. His protection processes involve issuing photo takedown requests and creating other, non-revenge porn-related content associated with the victim’s name in order to push incriminating images to the third page of Google search results. This work is done manually. And, often, it’s not enough. Revenge porn victims can live for years under the threat of their photos surfacing yet again. Read more…

 
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Inside my first Cannabis Convention: Hempcon 2015

Posted by admin on May 23, 2015 in news, opinion, Strange events

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The cannabis “medible” industry  is gaining more traction every day (for people who  eat their weed) and I was curious to see what creators in the space were up to. A convention is the perfect place to see  industry connoisseurs, and 420 tends to have gatherings forming across the states. I chose to go to Hempcon 2015, a large cannabis exhibition event held at Cow Palace in San Jose, six miles south of San Francisco. The three-day event took place from the 17th-19th April 2015, the dedicated 4/20 weekend (naturally) and I attended on the Sunday.

California was the first state to legalize medical marijuana – almost two decades ago, in 1996 –  and as a new resident, I was intrigued  as to what  Hempcon would offer me. It’s not the most famous expo ( I’d wager The High Times Cannabis Cup has that that honor) but it has been running  since 2010,  and holds events across the country. Read more…

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The Dazzling World of High Tech Hula Hooping

Posted by admin on Apr 21, 2015 in geekery, news


SpinFX

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When Lauren Shaw starts hula-hooping, jaws drop. But it’s not her sinuous motions capturing attention, it’s the flashing light show created by her spins. Dazzling lightscapes and hip-swirling rainbows transform her movements into art performance. This is the next generation of high-tech hoopery: LED “smart” hoops.

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Five years ago, then-real estate agent Shaw was bored and decided to try hooping as a hobby, and she soon tapped into the online communities — 20,000-plus people in the Unity of Hula Hoopers Facebook group and a big YouTube hoop scene. With their encouragement, she kept improving her “flow,” which is what hoopers call their dance style. A moment of inspiration struck one night when she saw flashing red lights atop a movie theater. She had an engineer mount LED spokes on a hoop and program them to project words that glow when the hoop is in motion. “It uses persistence of vision phenomenon, where the light goes so fast that it’s created in front of your eyes,” Shaw explains. The positive response to this creation encouraged her to launch her company, SpinFX, which is dedicated to high-tech hoop solutions.

Her first version, the SpinFX Pro Hoop, became the flagship model; it’s customizable for corporate events and music videos, such as Vanessa Hudgens’ music video. For consumers, there’s the Phoenix. With 150 embedded LEDs, the Phoenix is programmed with 200-plus patterns, which create dynamic circles, spikes and trails of light. Extra patterns can be created at home, and many people in the hooping community share theirs online for free. And they’re a little crazy; think wildly spinning pizza slices and neon Mario Bros. The hoop can be controlled with its Android app (yes, a hula hoop with an app), which connects via Bluetooth.

Read more…

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Equine artists turn horses into works of art

Posted by admin on Dec 15, 2014 in Animal Oddities, Design and Home, geekery, news, style

Castle Clip JMC Equestrian

When most people see Jillian Scott’s horses they do a double-take. Is that really a zebra in North Lanarkshire, Scotland? Nope, it’s part of Scott’s art — but the canvas she uses isn’t paper or linen; it’s the bodies of horses. From shaving giraffes to dragons to Batman, this is the realm of creative clipping.

And some of the designs are crazy. For customers Scott has shaved everything from a skeleton to the Minion from Despicable Me on a horse’s rear — a type of clip called a “bum patch” that’s increasingly popular wIth people who don’t want to commit to a full-creative groom — to a One Direction logo onto a pony. But her favorite designs is her leopard print.

Halloween Horse Jillian Scott

A horse groomer for ten years, Scott, 27, started experimenting last year: she took out her clippers and carved a zebra pattern into her horse, a job that took around three hours, with breaks to consult images on her phone to make sure she had the pattern right. The same clip now takes her 45 minutes. Her work started getting her local attention — some positive, some not so friendly. “Some people don’t like new things,” she shrugged. She charges $63 for a “regular” clip and $78 for a creative clip.

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Scott isn’t the only groomer using horse hair as artistic medium. Melody Hames, 28, a graphic design student at the University of Salford, Manchester who works at JMC Equestrian, wanted to combine clipping with her art.

After sketching her designs on paper she clips freehand — with no stencils. Her most impressive creation: a detailed castle etched into the side of a Freddy, her 4-year-old horse. It took nine hours. Read more…

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Explaining Ebola for Children

Posted by admin on Oct 13, 2014 in news, opinion, technology

There’s a lot of hyperbole about ebola at the moment. This makes sense; it’s a scary disease with no vaccination and people are concerned. But that’s no reason for misinformation, or for people to run around making wild claims and confusing the issue. Most of us aren’t biochem majors and can’t break down complex details about drug interaction/ virus systems etc, but we do have questions we want answered.

An explainer:

I was recently trying to explain Ebola to a ten year old who was very frightened and was thinking about how best to help them. I like to go with something visual, it’s easier to take in, seems more accessible and breaks down the subject matter. A number of places have created useful Ebola guides but I felt they had something missing. The fun angle. I’m not making light about the serious of the virus, but want to put it in context and the humor (hopefully) means people and kids won’t turn off when it gets a little heavy. hey, if Miley Cyrus and Unicorns can help, why not? (watch for this to be explained).

You can see what other outlets have done below, and do let me know how you think mine holds up.

The Cartoon Network

Read more…

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Meet The Man Who Want People To See Pit Bull Dogs as “Cuddly”

Posted by admin on Jul 14, 2014 in Animal Oddities, news, opinion

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Pit Bull dogs tend to have a public image problem. They’re consistently viewed as “dangerous dogs”, and regularly vilified by the media. Other breeds get a bad rep as well; rottweilers, and boxers also fall into the perceived danger dog category. Yes, some of these dogs have done the things they’re accused of; – one of the most recent high profile incidents being that of Mickey, an Arizonan pit bull who mauled a 4 year old child.

If this had happened a few years ago it’s pretty likely that Mickey would have been put down, but instead he was given a prison sentence. Yes, a real one. The dog was charged to be neutered and defanged, sentenced to live in a no kill animal shelter inside an Arizona prison. Bizarrely, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, (he of the angry views on immigration) was behind this odd dog life sentence.

Artist Douglas Sonders has been working to change the public perception and opinion of pit bull’s as dangerous dogs, and cases like Mickey might suggest that his work has been reaping benefit. Sonders has been working toward since 2012, when he started the “Not a Bully” campaign, to help humanize the “dangerous dogs” breeds.

His journey started at a Petco adoption event. Sonders had been mourning the death of his pet boxer, Winston Churchill, after an aggressive tumor took his life. He felt he was ready to love again, and wanted a pet that he could connect too.

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“I saw Emma, my pitbull mix, and fell in love, “ he wrote via email. “She had been in foster care for 9 months because nobody wanted her: because she was black and a pit bull. She was such a sweet girl and I knew that she deserved a chance to be in a forever home where she would be loved.”

This was Sonders first time owning a pit bull and straight away he noticed a difference.. from other people.“People scowled at me on the street, one lady screamed and ran away despite Emma’s perfect behavior. I learned something had to be done to change the negative stigmas.”

To help change the negative perception of pit bulls and other dangerous dog breeds, Sonders created the “Not a Bully” campaign.

This campaign uses Sonders skill as a photographer to show pit bulls in a very different light. Forget those images of slavering jaws and crying toddlers, he shows the dogs as they are, removed from negative stereotypes.

“The goal of Not A Bully is to share the stories of inspiring Pit Bulls that have been through the worst (abuse, dog fighting, bait dogs, etc) and still serve the community in a positive way. We want to show that even in the worst circumstances, these dogs are capable of living wonderfully positive and inspiring lives with the love and care of a responsible owner,” Sonders said. Read more…

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