Journalists are failing at their job

At TEDxSydney 2017 – journalist Jane Gilmore didn’t pull any punches. She spoke about the ways that sub editors, journalists and publishers minimise the role of male violence against women by writing harmful headlines.

She used a series of examples like ‘Axe slashes a family apart’ rather than ‘Man kills his family with axe”. As she reflects things don’t murder people. People do and most of the time those people are men who somehow become invisible when it comes time to write the headline.

There often seems to be an over balanced need to explain away the violence by blaming the victim somehow and conscious or not this clearly needs to change.

In a review of her talk and subsequent interview by Emma Joyce called Why we need to call bullshit on the way media reports on violence against women She expands

In a number of these articles, the victim or a related person such as the mother, is featured in the headline – “drunk teenager”, “stripper” – in a way that taps into myths around who these women were, what choices they made, and how they’re somehow responsible for their own deaths. Usually the killer’s name is found in the third or fourth paragraph.
“I think the media has huge responsibility in how social understanding of violence against women goes,” says Gilmore. “Feminists have been working for decades on this but we’re very, very slowly changing the public perception that domestic violence isn’t not just a series of isolated incidents but a social problem that exists in power imbalance, most commonly found in gender. Not always, but most commonly. We’re certainly not there yet. The media has a real responsibility in the stories that we tell – and I don’t think we’re doing our job very well.”
Gilmore’s vision is that change is possible in the long term and that, along with many others who are challenging the status quo…
“Words really matter. Words describe what we think and how we understand things,” says Gilmore, who, during her talk, said that interchanging the words ‘rape’ and ‘sex’ was like comparing ‘giraffes’ to ‘spoons’. She wants readers to call out the journalists and publications for using incorrect and damaging language as it changes the way people think about these crimes, and “you can start to change their actions and their responses.”

Coincidently I was reading this story today – ‘We didn’t recognise that he was dangerous’: our father killed our mother and sister. especially where it talks about the media coverage.

“What the brothers see as the normalisation of their father’s actions in the press concerns them.”…”After the initial shock, the brothers say they have grown weary of the victim-blaming that came from both the press and people they knew”.

For a few days you may still be able to watch the TEDxSydney17 live stream from the event over here. For Jane Gilmore go to 1:20:56.

Note: All TEDx talks will have a video published soon after but this is a early opportunity to see the live stream version. Once the “official” version is published I will embed it here in this post. Update: added this clip below.

TEDxSydney 2017 organisers take a bow. All TEDx events aim to be inclusive and diverse and to represent the widest range of voices. TEDxSydney 2017 was a delight and I will write about some of the other talks soon.

I especially liked the talks by Bronwyn King – an indictment of the finance community who still (by default) support the tobacco industry. Elanor Huntington on opening up the engineering discipline. Plus Gawurra sublime music and Mariam Veiszadeh who was funny but forceful on the diversity dividend.

I’m still digesting the talks as they were only on Friday. Another significant win for TEDxSydney.