In the latest of our ongoing series examining the media’s “blind spot” towards gender, race and class, we ask editor, blogger and freelance writer Keysha Davis about the media’s attitudes towards women and the role social media could play in ensuring that their voices, and those of other women, are heard.
How do you define the blind spot in the media?
I would characterise the media’s blind spot as its tendency to overlook people, perspectives and narratives that differ from that of the dominant society. Whether consciously or not, the media’s blind spot renders the voices of minorities – such as black people, women, or disabled people – silent by failing to present a myriad of viewpoints in mainstream journalism. This manifests itself in editorial output that is often skewed and one sided. If we, as a society, are truly committed to equality as we say we are, it’s essential that the media allows for a diverse range of voices to be heard, and stories to be told – it’s the most crucial step we can take in the journey towards redressing social imbalance.
What do you think of media coverage of women’s issues generally and how does the blind spot operate in that respect?
I am more encouraged by the media coverage of women’s issue which, in my opinion, has made huge strides in ensuring that stories deemed as “female-centric” are at the top of the news agenda. Last year I lost count of the amount of articles dedicated to feminism. Also stories on the gender pay gap and the lack of women in senior management roles were frequently examined. That said the newsroom still remains the preserve of middle aged, middle class white men – women are still underrepresented in high-profile journalism and senior roles, so there is still work to be done.
What do you think are the challenges for people working in the media – women and men – or what are the most common mistakes journalists make?
The blind spot in journalism limits our understanding of the world. It misses the opportunity for sincere, multifarious, far-reaching conversations and explorations that could facilitate our growth as a society. This can cause numerous problems. For instance, when individuals feel that their voices aren’t being heard or that they are misrepresented, this stokes the fire of resentment and leads to feelings of marginalisation. At the very worse, social marginalisation can lure people towards crime, hatred and extremism, and in recent years we have seen the manifestation of this in a myriad of ways. But the media’s blind spot also threatens its very own existence, especially in the digital age. People are turning away from the often one-sided, non-inclusive media and are finding other sources of information and channels of communication (we only need to look at the decline in readership figures of newspapers and magazines for evidence of this).
The media is steadily losing its place as the voice of authority, and for it to regain our trust, it has to acknowledge its blind spot by prioritising diversity. Mainstream journalism still remains very insular; journalists need to look beyond their peers and contact books for sources of inspiration to present a truer reflection of the UK in 2014. We also need more black, Asian and minority ethnic media professionals in positions of influence.
What role do you think digital media plays in all this? For example, do you see it as an effective antidote to the media blind spot?
Although the internet has presented traditional journalists with the challenges mentioned previously, digital media has been really effective in counteracting the blind spot inherent in mainstream media. Over the last year there has been a plethora of dynamic websites and blogs dedicated to providing platforms and voices for those who are underrepresented. These sites not only offer talented writers the opportunity to get their work published, but also forces us to think critically and challenge the often one dimensional narratives we are often force fed by the dominant media. The presence of independently run online sites has helped to democratise the media, to some degree, but a lot of the content creators are operating off passion and dedication alone, with little or no funding. The real challenge will be how to sustain these sites in the long term, as they are very much needed.
About the author
Keysha Davis is an editor, blogger and freelance writer who specialises in hair and beauty, culture and women’s interest writing. Over the last four years, Keysha has been at the helm of hair and lifestyle magazine Blackhair, where she edits the magazine and is a very public face of the brand. A magazine veteran, previous to this position Keysha was the features and entertainment editor of Pride magazine for four years. To keep abreast of Keysha’s musings visit her blog The Cocoa Diaries.