Earlier this year, I went to a conference on crisis and risk communication. As a journalist, it was interesting to hear how the other side (public relations folk) worked. In the midst of what seemed like hundreds of white, rich, old, white PR men, I found a woman who spoke my language. Her name was Maria Paula Martinez. Martinez stuck out to me for many reasons. She was a woman, a Latina, a journalist and a professor, and she was going to discuss digital media during her session at the conference. I must say, I was pretty bummed to only find about 4 other people who showed up to her session (all women). But I took that as an opportunity to extend the conversation after her session. Speaking with Martinez was very enlightening, and I want to share some of things that I learned about women's role in Colombian media.
According to Martinez, women journalists in Colombia are often relegated to entertainment stories. However, most of these women don't even have journalism or communication degrees. Martinez told me that Casa Editorial El Tiempo, which owns pretty much all of Colombia's mainstream news organizations, tends to hire models and other celebrities to offer the entertainment news briefs. With no place to cover more "serious" news stories, Martinez said that her female students generally leave Colombia or secure other jobs outside of the media.
However, it's not all bad. Martinez also shared stories of two women who I think you should know about -- two names that you probably won't ever hear; but as future Latina media producers, these are two names that may inspire you to continue your work in media.
Juanita Leon: Leon is a Colombian journalist who is defying gender stereotypes in Colombia. Hoping to provide a different news outlet for Colombians, who are right now left consuming news under the Casa Editorial El Tiempo monopoly, Leon established her own outlet -- La Silla Vacia. La Silla Vacia is an online news platform that combines professionally reported political analysis, high-level discourse, expert blogging and citizen journalism. Leon is using new technology to promote civic participation. She invites everyday people to collaborate with her and her team in co-writing articles or covering news after providing them with coaching. Leon's objective is to open public debate and add new voices to Colombia's media monopoly.
Maria Teresa Ronderos: Ronderos is another Colombian journalist who is defying gender stereotypes. In fact, she was El Tiempo's, Colombia's largest newspaper (yes, now owned by Casa Editorial El Tiempo), first female editor. Ronderos is now one of the bigger voices in investigative journalism. She is the founder and editor-in-chief of VerdadAlbierta.com, an online news site that features exclusive coverage of Colombia's armed conflict. Because of all of her work, VerdadAlbierta.com has received the national Simon Bolivar award.
Although the media climate in Colombia is known to be sexist, Leon and Ronderos are amazing Latina role models, not only to young Colombian women but to all Latinas. I hope you read a little more about both of these women, and I hope they are as much of an inspiration to you as they have been to me.