Radio Day

Women voices on the air

Photo by Soundtrap on Unsplash

Today as we celebrate International Radio Day, I would like to share my experience and the stories of three women’s who were pioneer broadcasters and managers.

I remember the first time I talked on radio station for an interview, I was nervous and shy because I don’t like to hear my voice reproduce on any device. However, years later when I coordinated a project for journalists in Nicaragua, I learned to record in the studio and give interviews more often like never before imagined.  

I participated in several workshops along with the young participants from community radios where I learned techniques and skills to become confident in front of a microphone. Besides, I had a lot of motivation from the participants, which made it much easier. 

I had the opportunity to learn and be directed for my recording. Nevertheless, many women have learned empirically to broadcast on radio and had to struggle to let their voices be heard. 

Women’s voices on the radio have played a pivotal role in the history of broadcasting. Their voices entered spaces speaking to housewives, workers, and consumers. Both listeners and broadcasters became a key role for women to vote in the 1920s. 

Photo by Fringer Cat on Unsplash

Eunice Randall, in 1920, at age 19, was one of the first announcers and engineers on Radio 1XE from the Boston area owned by the American Radio and Research Company (AMRAD), which was a factory of radio equipment. 

Randall needed money for her art school study so she started working at the factory, but soon she developed an interest to operate the radio. At the station, she read stories to children two times a week, she read police reports, announced the news, gave morse practice, and other duties. No doubt, Randall was an inspiration for many women during the 1920s.

Betha Brainard is another radio pioneer who grew up in New Jersey, dreaming to become a movie star. She studied theatre which led her to conduct a programme titled Broadcasting Broadway, which debated theatre reviews and up-coming shows at station WJZ. 

Her programme was moved from New Jersey to New York City, where she had it easier to interview actresses and actors and also allowed her to work directly in managing the radio and produced new programmes. In 1927, she became the first woman to hold the position of radio executive at NBC Network.  

Audrey Russell, was one of BBC’s first woman war correspondents, who covered the war between 1941-1945, interviewing civilians of their experiences in the war such as the explosion of a V2 rocket in London. Unfortunately, she was restricted from covering the frontline of the battles, because it was reserved for the male correspondents.

These women’s voices were On-Off the air at the radio station for many years even though they faced more challenges than women do today, However, they didn’t stop. Thanks to their braveness and example, we have the privilege to hear today more talented women’s voices on radios or podcasts discussing topics of interest for women empowerment. 

I would like to list women friends with whom I worked in my home country. They have powerful voices on the radio and have been working to develop a social change in their community. Among them: Ileana Lacayo, Nora Newball, Dolene Miller, Aleseter Brack Downs, Duyerling Ríos, Patrica Orozco, Margarita Antonio, Jamileth Chavarria, and all the other girls at the communities radios.

Today, as radio continues to evolve during the internet era, we also got to remember that it is still the media that reaches the widest audience worldwide. 

Don’t stop giving a voice to the voiceless!

Covid-19 and Women in News Coverage

They are at the frontline but almost invisible in the news.

In many countries, lifestyle drastically changed in March after the novel virus expanded over the globe. I remember being at work when I heard the first press conference of the Finnish government about the crisis. Days after, on the 16th of March, they declared a state of emergency. 

Besides talking with relatives and friends who live in different countries about the pandemic, I also followed the media as one of my sources. But it was healthy not to be influenced all day by the news. 

During these months of the crisis, a lot of people are working to give us the services that we need. Many women are among health professionals, public workers, social workers, scientists, and others. However, in many of the reportages, female expert’s voices and women, being the protagonists of the stories have an under-representation in news media. 

Back in April Forbes magazine listed Jacinda Arden,the Primer Minister of New Zealand;  Tsai -Ing -wen, the first female president in Taiwan; Mette Frederiksen, the Danish Prime Minister; Katrí­n Jakobsdóttir, Iceland’s Prime Minister; Sanna Marin, the Prime Minister of Finland; Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany;  and Erna Solberg, Norway´s Prime Minister, as leaders who had the best outperformance in the fight against the virus, in contrast to the male heads of state. This was news for days; it would have been great to have such coverage constantly. 

The study, The Missing Perspectives of Women in COVID-19 newswas conducted in India, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, the UK, and the US, by the international audience strategy consultancy, AKAS. In one of the chapters, they analyzed three groups of women coverage in news: as experts, sources of news, and story protagonist.

The first finding of the study is that women expert’s voices were substantially smaller than that of men in all countries. “In the UK, 25% of people quoted in COVID-19/ coronavirus articles were women. This was followed by Kenya and the US, where women were quoted a fifth of the time (20% and 19%, respectively), then by South Africa, Nigeria and India where women’s share of voice in Covid-19/coronavirus stories was 17%, 17% and 16% respectively”.

The second fact is that women were less used as sources of authoritative expertise than men, but they were more likely to be used as a source of subjective personal views. In Akas’s portrayal analysis “half of the people quoted in the news were experts and commentators while only 6% were sources. Women constituted only 19% of all experts but 53% of sources”.

And the third finding is that between the 1st March 2020, and 15th, of April 2020, women had low visibility as the story’s protagonists in the six countries. In the US 14%, South Africa 15%, Nigeria 15%, Kenya 15%, 19% in India, and 26% in the UK. 

Framing the news is very vital to how the audience will be perceived, thus protagonists, expert voices, and sources must be from the people that know about the story to cover. But it’s  also important to write about local stories and the relationships they have with other wider topics. For example, where to get assistance in case of gender-based violence, or by providing tips for parents to entertain their child(ren) during Covid-19. 

Many countries are in the second wave of the pandemic, so less hope this time women can have a higher percentage of lead in the news coverage. 

Do you know a woman in your community who is leading the fight of Covid-19? Share the story with us.