Nonprofit launches journalism operation to cover women’s issues
This column appeared Sept. 4, 2001, in the Online Journalism Review. Here’s the version on the OJR site.
By J.D. Lasica
Rita Henley Jensen, editor-in-chief of Women’s Enews, makes no apologies for her news service’s tilt on the news. “We do have an agenda,” she says. “It’s a pro-woman agenda.”
Still not widely known, Women’s Enews is one of those fascinating experiments made possible only because of the Web. Launched in June 2000 by the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund, the news service (at www.womensenews.com) is run by a small staff of professional journalists.
Kathryn Rodgers, president of the news service’s parent organization, recounts its genesis this way: “Looking out at the media’s coverage of women, we saw a tremendous void in women’s voices, in women as opinion shapers, and in the coverage of all the things that women do in society. So we decided to show the media what they were missing. Not to go on a blame campaign, but to do the ground work, actually do the reporting, and go back to these media outlets and say, ‘Here’s what we’re talking about when we say you’re not covering women’s issues.’ ”
A lot of media organizations say we’ve got a women’s page or we cover the WNBA. The point is to have it on every page.
And that, basically, is how the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund got into the journalism business. (Founded more than 30 years ago by the same women who founded the National Organization for Women, the organization has separate funding and a distinct mission from NOW.) Rodgers and her staff began by recruiting Jensen, a former senior writer for the National Law Journal who won an Alicia Patterson Fellowship grant in 1994 and wrote an expose about the role lawyers played in the savings-and-loan scandal of the late 1980s.