Women might be a fixture in journalism, but more could be done to help ensure their presence is secured and thriving. One group of women thinks Wikipedia could be a great avenue to accomplish that goal.
Women Do News is an online effort to create Wikipedia pages for women in news, not just those who are in front of the camera or scoring above-the-fold bylines, but for those who work behind the scenes and often don’t get the accolades or attention they deserve.
“The broader picture of that is we want to raise the profile of women in our industry,” says Angilee Shah, one of the founders of the campaign. “We’ve been cut out of history and the record of news in this country. Wikipedia is a symptom of that and a place where we can start to make sure our stories are part of how we understand news in this country. It’s a simple mission in a lot of ways but it has deep roots in what we’re trying to do to uplift the status of women in news media.”
The campaign was launched by a small group who were part of Take The Lead’s 2019 50 Women Can Change the World in Journalism cohort. The group wants to correct the current state of things: Only 18 percent of biographies on Wikipedia are about women, and more than 90 percent of contributing editors on Wikipedia are men.
“The ripple effect of having a Wikipedia article are pretty big,” Shah says. “It’s a place where we could do something small that would ripple across the internet in ways that are outsized for the effort we put in.”
Work like this matters, especially for women who aren’t public figures or recognized names in news.
“It’s harder for women who don’t have that kind of space for name recognition to go and pursue other stories and investigative work because they might not be searchable on the internet. That’s what sources do (before agreeing to speak with a reporter). Wikipedia is a stepping stone for us to add profiles online so female journalists can be recognized for the work they do with colleagues who might be more notable,” says Jareen Imam, director of social newsgathering at NBC News and a member of the International Women’s Media Foundation.
More than that, having a Wikipedia page adds credibility to a woman’s name and online presence. For women who work in news in other countries, they can be the target of disinformation campaigns, sometimes backed by their governments, to discredit or harm them.
“All that disinformation that might happen to women operating in countries like Brazil or India or other places where it’s highly volatile to get the truth out, Wikipedia can rank highly in a search,” she says. “If you search her name, you’ll see that entry first, before the disinformation campaign. It has a big implication with safety and also safeguarding women and their reputations as journalists, especially in places where freedom of speech and freedom of the press is not always guaranteed.”
It’s All Journalism host Michael O’Connell talks with Angilee Shah and Jareen Imam about the Women Do News campaign, which is creating Wikipedia entries for women in news to help raise their profiles and credibility.