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Jennifer Reitman Gives a Voice to Diverse Women Through Dame Magazine

As we write this, we’re 55 days away from the 2020 Presidential election. And while we keep our TV’s tuned in to a steady stream of Beltway coverage of politics from the major news networks, we also crave journalism that approaches the subject from a different perspective. That’s why we were thrilled when we learned about Jennifer Reitman’s Dame magazine.

Dame provides critical context around the political, cultural and societal issues of our time. Independent women-owned and women-edited Dame breaks through conventional narratives to deliver the insight readers need to understand today's complex cultural landscape.

In this week’s episode of The Passionistas Project Podcast, we talked to Dame’s founder and publisher about the current state of media, covering the Biden-Trump showdown and why it’s important to her to elevate diverse voices.

Here's an excerpt from our interview with Jennifer Reitman.

Passionistas: What's the one thing you're most passionate about?

Jennifer: It's clearly about driving equality in the media landscape. We live in a world where women are just over 51% of the population, but we own only 11% of all media. And this is coupled with holding only 37% of all media and journalism jobs. And I always say that that when you look at those statistics, what that tells us is that the stories that are being told the framing of the news is an, is an incomplete picture because those voices aren't equally reflected.

Passionistas: How do you make sure those voices are reflected through the magazine?

Jennifer: First and foremost, of course, is that we're a hundred percent women edited. And our stories themselves, the news we cover is bylined, I would say 99.9, 9% by women. Occasionally we'll publish a story by a man, but nearly everything is bylined by women. And that, that matters. And it matters because the language we use, the framing, the context and the analysis, when you're looking to create equality in media, you have to have that reflected in the stories and in the coverage.

Passionistas: Talk a little bit about the current state of media and how it's changed and some of the challenges that you're facing.

Jennifer: Is this the part of the interview where I start to cry? Well, the current and the, you know, the current state of our union, as we say, the current state of, of, of media is dire it's frankly dire, but it's not, it's not as a result of, of this administration necessarily. That's been amplified with his enemy of the people language. My beloved industry has been suffering for a very long, long time. And so I worry tremendously about it because there are lots of sayings about journalism, right? The first drafted history, but really you don't have democracy without a free and fair press. And while on the business side of things, there's been a erosion for years and years in terms of what works from a business model and how to survive financially, what brings me great, great concern is the erosion in trust of, of the institution of press today.

And so on the business side, I think you'll see things, you know, things will change and models will pivot and tech, new technologies will come out and, and those who survive, and those who don't. But so I'm a little less concerned about that and tremendously concerned around how do we, as an industry, how do we encourage people and get them to understand the role of, of our business in their daily lives? And this is particularly important at the local level. Dame is obviously not a local news outlet. Many of our stories are pegged to local news issues, but, but we don't, we're not a beat outlet and say, you know, Bennis, California, we are the guard rails in so many ways. You know, we, we are the ones who, who, it's not about the big stories that you read in the New York times or Washington post, as important as those are.

We're the ones who talk about embezzlement at your city council level, right? Or, you know, school, board issues, pothole fixes, and, and those that's important as essential as, as anything else that goes on at the federal level. And so when you see such a distrust of the media and such disdain for the reporters who are in large part, not all of them, but in large part, the majority are here to help you. The citizen. It really is heartbreaking as someone who works in this business, we're here to protect you from bad people and bad things through information, through context and through analysis. And, and so my, my short, but very long answer is that is what worries me the most.

Passionistas: What is Dame’s plan moving into this intensified election period? How do you guys handle election coverage?

Jennifer: It's interesting. There's a few things that we'll be launching that are, will be a little different for us. In fact, we're going to be launching a lot more coverage of disinformation and that's because I personally have such an incredible fear of the impact, you know, with the hindsight of 2016, I feel a responsibility to do a lot more coverage on what just info ops are out there to debunk it as much as possible, because that really is a service to the electorate, right? We, we have to inform, we've always done a ton of election coverage, right? We, we, you know, we did ongoing series leading up to 2016, obviously in 2016, we did a ton, but, but leading up to the 2018, we covered all of the congressional women candidates running, leading up to the presidential primary. We had a series running on all of the, a weekly series on all the women candidates running for president.

And so we'll, we'll stay there in terms of Senate races. Now we've moved onto the Senate races. So I don't think we'll change much of our election coverage in terms of actual races. That is not our core expertise. We're not DC beltway reporters in that way. We'll probably stick with what we're best at, which are the issues that are relevant to any race. So we've got a lot more disinfect work to do, and we'll probably do far more explainers around the core issues that will be on the ballot, basically what we're voting for when we vote in 2016, not so much about the candidacy, but, but more about, you know, all of the things that go into the federal government. We did a piece that was sort of overarching, right? What we're voting for in that way, but we'll drill down into each of those issues like the judiciary or, or the, you know, federal agencies. So I think those will be two, two big things that we'll focus on is leading it

Passionistas: As we are recording this now the country is seeing an uprising like we haven't seen in decades and there's a lot of protesting around the horrible death of George Floyd. And in fact, Dame magazine sent out an email this morning about elevating the Black voice. So what kind of steps are you taking in that regard?

Jennifer: Well, we've always taken that step. I have to say that, that we're very conscious as a white owned, uh, I'm white and I endeavor whenever possible to be publishing Black women, but we need to do more, you know, we need to do more and I need to spend some time making sure that there's parity within our own digital pages. I think one of the things that I've consciously tried to make an effort around is to not relegate our Black journalists, to just writing about race, right. That, you know, I want Black women to be writing on the economy and on, you know, technology and cultural issues. To me that that's one of the best things I can do to continue to expand outside of, of sort of saying, well, the only thing you can write about, and we do that in all of our categories, frankly, but, but I think it's essential for me to, to every single day be conscious about that. That for every story we assign that I really am not just talking the talk and making sure that that if there is, is a Black writer who, who is an expert in tech or an expert in, in economic issues or the law that, that we're publishing that voice, it's essential, but, but we've published, you know, so much over the years. And I think I'm, I'm proud of the work we done. I just know that we can do better because everybody can do better. I don't care what business you're in.

Subscribe to Dame Magazine and check out their 2020 Presidential Election voting guide here.

Listen to Jennifer’s full episode of The Passionistas Project Podcast here.


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