Ellen Stewart is Head of Content of the inspiring online newspaper and LGBT+ news agency PinkNews. In this exclusive interview, she told us about her experiences as a woman in the world of media.
Théo, Project Leader at RAHM: Ellen, thank you for accepting this interview. As Head of Content for PinkNews, you inspire and keep readers up to date with current topics, achievements and problems concerning the LGBT+ community around the world. Thanks to PinkNews’ work, we have learnt more about the arrests of LGBT+ activists in Russia among other important news. In your opinion, what is the mission of PinkNews and how does it contribute to the LGBT+ community?
Ellen: As much as we pride ourselves in producing entertaining and engaging content, our mission at PinkNews is to act as source of information and a springboard for education for those within and outside of the LGBT+ community.
While the majority of our audience is based in Europe, the US and Australia, we have a smaller – but equally loyal – readership in parts of the world where it is still very difficult and dangerous to be queer. PinkNews is often a lifeline for those in places where they could lose their lives for just being who they are. We strive to be a space of acceptance and solace for those who need it.
It is integral to us that we represent all those who identify as LGBT+.
Théo: Since you started as an executive at PinkNews, the editorial team has doubled its staff. How and why did you take this decision? Do you have a personal style of leadership?
Ellen: Coming from a more traditional news background, I have strived to introduce the very best aspects of ‘mainstream’ newsroom practice – putting in place clear lines of report, diversifying the voices on our staff and commissioning content from a wider pool of freelancers in a number of territories across the world.
The appointment of both a News Editor (Tufayel Ahmed) and a dedicated Video Editor (Amy Ashenden) cements our commitment to creating more original content.
In the coming months, PinkNews will continue to push diverse and inclusive content both on and off-platform.
Théo: One burning issue of this past months is the global #metoo movement. How have you experienced this movement as a woman and as a professional in the media world?
Ellen: I think #metoo was a really pivotal moment across all industries. It forced people to sit up and take notice of the fact that yes, all women have faced discrimination, harassment or violence to varying degrees in places and spaces where fairness and safety should be guaranteed.
Personally, it forced me to question what behaviours I had ‘put up with’ in the past purely because I had been conditioned to accept it as ‘normal’.
Théo: In the companies you have worked for in the past, have you ever experienced difficulties because of your gender? How did you handle them?
Ellen: While things have certainly improved for women in the workplace, I have definitely had to shout louder than my male colleagues to be heard.
In all industries women face challenges with equal pay, promotions, and being taken as seriously as their male counterparts. I remember when I first set foot in a newsroom, I was struck by how few women there were – particularly in senior positions. It is sometimes hard to stay motivated when you can’t see someone who looks like you higher up the chain – but seeking out others who can support you or who you can offer support to is invaluable.
It is important to shout about your success and the success of others who deserve recognition.
Théo: Coincidence of the calendar, you and us (STICKS & STONES) organised an all-women panel discussion on the same date. In your opinion, how are these panels different from the others and why are they important?
Ellen: All-women panels will remain an essential way to ensure underrepresented voices are heard until it is purely coincidence that all those on a single panel are women.
Théo: In the post truth era we are now living in and with people and governments saying one thing and its contrary at the same time – let’s take President Trump as example -, it can be hard for readers and editorial teams to figure out how to handle the news. As Head of Content of PinkNews, how do you make your decisions about the angle and news you publish? Did it get harder to stay objective as journalist?
Ellen: Resisting the urge to editorialise news copy when reporting simple facts is becoming increasingly difficult in the current news climate – particularly, online.
However, I think it is more important now that ever to present facts in a clear and concise manner, allowing readers to make informed decisions. A great story speaks for itself without the need for sensationalism.
Théo: Last but not least: our traditional question! As a professional in the world of media, you have eyes everywhere and know a lot of people. Can you name one LGBT leader in the UK, who the rest of the world should know about?
Ellen: PinkNews recently met LGBT+ campaigner and performance artist, Travis Alabanza, who is working really hard to change people’s perceptions of non-binary and trans people.
Travis has been raising awareness around what it means to be gender non-conforming in the outside world, the harassment those people face on a daily basis and helping those in the trans community feel valid without surgery.
If you are not already following what they are doing you really should be!
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