CAMP 2015: Not On My Watch

By Bethany Barnes, 2015 JAWS Fellow

Jill Geisler presents at CAMP. (Photo by Beatriz Costa Lima)

What we need to change in the culture of our newsrooms is what’s needed for all great stories: strong verbs. At the 2015 Journalism and Women Symposium plenary session “Not On My Watch,” Mary C. Curtis, an award-winning multimedia journalist, and Jill Geisler, an expert in newsroom leadership and management, encouraged the audience to view diversity as action.

“We want to challenge you to think of what we can do and what we should be doing,” said Curtis.

Each speaker shared a professional experience where she was made to feel like “the other.” Some 150 women in the audience were then asked to talk candidly in groups about moments when they felt marginalized. After an active and emotional discussion, each group nominated one person to share her experience with the room.

Women recalled stories of professional exclusion and humiliation based on race, origin, disability, family status and gender. The memories shared spanned generations and decades but had a clear and painful common thread.

“Not on my watch!” the audience shouted after hearing each story.

Geisler shifted the session to discuss “examining the process” to implement diversity. “Notice I used a gerund? Examining,” said Geisler.

Staying on the theme of action, Geisler and Curtis asked the audience to shout out gerunds that would fuel change in their newsrooms.

Here’s what the audience came up with:

  • Hiring
  • Promoting
  • Speaking up
  • Knowing the price for speaking up
  • Leading
  • Recommending
  • Coaching
  • Supporting
  • Respecting
  • Documenting
  • Challenging assumptions
  • Advocating
  • Telling the truth
  • Creating a safe space
  • Abandoning your comfort zone
  • Owning our mistakes