Girls Just Wanna Have The Chance To Write

Troubling statistics reveal that female representation in entertainment journalism is slim, but this has not discouraged the female journalists of tomorrow.

A 2016 study from the Center for the Study of Women in Television & Film at San Diego State University found that in the field of film criticism, 74 percent of those employed at major outlets were men, and just 26 percent were women. Even in the general field of media criticism, male reviewers outnumber women at 80 percent to 20 percent.

These numbers have not been improving either. A previous study conducted by the same researcher, Martha M. Lauzen, in 2013, had found that 78 percent of the top media critics were male, in comparison to the 22 percent who were female.

Associate Editor at Film Journal International and freelance entertainment writer Rebecca Pahle agrees that most critics and entertainment journalists are men, and that this fact is inarguable.

“This is a very networking-heavy industry,” said Pahle. “And guys tend to hire other guys. Often it’s unconscious: you hire from the pool of people you know.”

Yet, one might be surprised to find that young female writers not only have enthusiasm for their futures, but also are not discouraged by these findings.

Allison Perrine, a recent Monmouth University graduate and former Entertainment Editor for The Outlook, exudes confidence not only in her writing ability, but also in her opinion about the future of entertainment journalism.

“I don’t feel discouraged,” said Perrine. “If I did find myself in an office with more male employees, I would remind myself that I landed that position for a reason. Women are just as capable of doing the job as men are.”

For Monmouth graduate Victoria Nelli, who wrote television recaps and reviews for The Outlook during her time at Monmouth, the love of entertainment writing seems to eclipse any potential fears.

“Writing reviews was something to help me grow my résumé while in school, while at the same time doing something that I loved,” said Nelli. “I wanted to talk about TV, and was hoping someone would want to listen!”

Nelli, who recently committed to graduate school for journalism and entertainment writing, finds that entertainment journalism can be difficult to break into, but that passion and skill are the keys to success.

“It can be hard,” said Nelli, “But if you’re doing it for the right reasons and you’re truly passionate about it, I think you can eventually find your way.”

For Pahle, her story is similar.

“I’ve loved writing for as long as I can remember, though when I was a kid I always thought of myself as pursuing fiction,” said Pahle. “Once I moved into film journalism, I knew it was the right fit. I’ve always loved movies, and I’ve always loved writing. Part of me still can’t believe I’ve gotten to see two Star Wars movies early.”

While Pahle adores what she does, life as a female entertainment writer is not without difficulties.

“It’s not an easy profession. So many people want to do it, and are willing to do it for free or for very little money,” said Pahle. “Turnover in general tends to be pretty high; new outlets are always appearing, being merged into other outlets, or disappearing altogether.”

Similarly, Pahle warns that confidence is only half the battle.

“I think being confident is good, but you should also be reasonable in your expectations,” said Pahle. “This is a field where you have to work your ass off for not much money for years. It never really stops.”

John Morano, a professor of communication at Monmouth, the faculty advisor of The Outlook, and a former film critic and entertainment journalist himself, thinks there is much more gray area when it comes to the issue of sexism in the industry.

Morano cites how his employer at Modern Screen magazine was male, and that his office was male dominated. Yet, a sister entertainment magazine had a female editor, and the newsroom had much more gender balance.

“In the 1980s, as I recall, there were more men as film critics and in journalism in general,” said Morano. “But I don’t think it’s a systematic problem. Who gets hired is more on the whims of the editors.”

This idea has persisted, but Pahle admits she is seeing change.

“More and more editors have been making an effort to hire a diverse staff, which I think is great. And that’s diversity in terms of gender, but also race and sexual orientation and other groups,” said Pahle. “We’re not where we need to be yet by a long shot, but in part because of social media, there’s more consciousness around the fact that there’s a problem.”

Based on growing awareness and changing attitudes, the future could be very different. Other studies show that more and more women are pursuing the field despite prior statistics. In 2013, the Annual Survey of Journalism and Mass Communication Enrollment discovered that women made up two-thirds of students enrolled in bachelors and masters journalism programs.

Even at Monmouth, Morano finds that there are dramatically more women in journalism classes. Similarly, he had difficulty remembering the last male entertainment editor at The Outlook, since it has been all female editors for the past few years. Even just flipping through the last five editions of The Outlook during the Spring 2017 semester shows that most of the entertainment section is written by females.

For women writers, sexism or gender imbalances may not be going away in the near future, which might be why they are not afraid to face it head on.

“I’m not sure sexism in this field could ever be solved until sexism is solved everywhere, which seems highly unlikely,” said Perrine. “There will always be a stereotype, and it’s hard to erase preconceived notions.”

Perrine though, like many other female journalists, hopes to one day obtain an editorial position at a major magazine or newspaper. Until then, it’s all about practice and staying realistic.

Pahle also encourages young journalists to build meaningful relationships, not just network.

“Find a mentor. I wouldn’t have a career now if it weren’t for Jennifer Wood, my editor at MovieMaker,” said Pahle. “She taught me a lot.”

For many, honing their skills, working hard, and staying confident in their work could be what they need to become the top entertainment journalists of tomorrow.

“It’s not about being male or female, or where you worked before,” said Morano. “What gets you to the New York Times is that you were outstanding at what you did.”

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