Use Your Voice: Speaking Up in Social Media

Nora Turriago ’16
Contributing Writer

Last Thursday, the Wurtele Center for Work and Life hosted a panel on the importance of women speaking up in various media outlets. The “Narratives of Speaking Up” panel feaured Rinku Sen, Farai Chideya and Judith Warner, three women experienced in voicing their opinions through radio, the written word, television, activism or a combination of the four.

The program began with the three women individually introducing themselves and sharing stories of their backgrounds. Each speaker highlighted specific moments that resulted in a discovery about themselves and their beliefs, which ultimately pointed them in the direction of their future.

For Sen, that moment was her participation in a rally supporting diversity and racial equality after a racial incident occurred on her college campus. The moment resulted in her involvement as a student activist, which informed her future career choices. Eventually, Sen enrolled in the journalism program at Columbia University.

“Journalism taught me how to be conversational, to talk how people talk,” she said. Sen now serves as the Vice Chair of the Schott Foundation for Public Education and is also on the Executive Committee of the Media consortium. Such work allows her to fuse her interests of journalism with activism for social change.

Chideya, a recipient of many awards including a National Education Reporting Award, discussed her experience growing up in a predominately black neighborhood in Baltimore, Md., and the racial implications of that environment.

“Race is a constant negotiation in the workplace,” Chideya said, reflecting on her 20-year career as a multimedia journalist who combines media, technology and socio-political analysis. Chideya is currently a Distinguished Writer in Residence at New York University’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute.

Warner, author of the 2005 New York Times bestseller Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety, a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and an opinions columnist for Time.com, shared how essential her involvement in her college newspaper was.

“Many people are surprised when I tell them I’m actually quite shy and introverted,” Warner said. However, as a student reporter for The Brown Daily Herald, Warner was forced to overcome her shyness in order to effectively voice her opinions.

After their introductions, the three women shared their advice on how to successfully voice opinions through media outlets.

“Do your own thing,” Chideya said, stressing the importance of staying active on social platforms like tumblr and Pinterest. “You have to constantly upgrade your skills,” she stated, and suggested keeping a blog as a great way to do so. Chideya also recommended working in teams, as a group could edit each other’s work and offer support and advice.

A point that all three women stressed was the importance in making sure aspiring writers are paid an appropriate amount for their work. The issue of payment has changed quickly over the course of time.

“Instead of being paid properly for what you do, now it is just be glad you’re in print at all,” Warner said.  When discussing the importance of changing this, she pointed out it is easier said than done, though she offered advice on the matter. “Don’t take what is first offered,” Warner pointed out, encouraging women to always ask for a higher pay than the original offer. “I worry about women in particular being unpaid,” said Warner. “We work hard at what we do and we deserve to be compensated for what we do.”

The topic of networking was also a key tip for success.

“Networking is king,” Chideya said. She encouraged Smith students to take advantage of the extensive alumnae networking, and to look for alumnae connections that could lead to more experience with the media.

The main reason for media outlets, Warner reminded the audience, is to inform the public. “I think people are hungry to read and I think people are hungry to read good things. That will always be the case,” she said.

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