by NORMA TSOPO
SENSATIONAL tabloid journalism has been slated for its accusatory tone and shaming women especially in domestic disputes.
The trend – prevalent among local tabloids, was condemned for pushing back progress on the gender narrative in the media.
During free and candid engagements local scribes noted that screaming headlines projecting some women as husband snatchers or labeling some as small houses to attract readers skew narrative against females Manicaland journalists said during a Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCOZ) media training webinar in Mutare this week.
“For tabloids like HMetro and others I think the media has been caught offside in denigrating women to sell papers sometimes.
“We have some statements that we throw in our stories like “hubby snatcher” or “small house”. I feel these give the reader a negative vibe even before they read the whole story.
“Instead of focusing on the real story, we have already put the woman on the offside,” said one female journalist who cannot be named for professional reasons.
Kenneth Matimaire an award-winning freelance journalist contends that part of the problem lied with the gender dynamics in newsrooms.
There is also need of women in editorial positions. Most newsrooms are controlled by men… so this has an impact on the output of articles,” Matimaire said.
This was in part blamed on an over-dependence on gender stereotypes was giving women bad press even where men would be even be more liable for blame.
National Non-Governmental Organisation (Nango) Manicaland coordinator Joseph Kauzani implored the media to use gender sensitive language as part of efforts to deal with stereotypes.
“Firstly, I want to comment on the issue of gender sensitive/neutral language so that there is a fair portrayal of women and men thru the elimination of stereotypes. this also involves selection if sources and stories.
“Journalists should revisit ethics of journalism so that there is accuracy, fairness and honesty in their coverage,” Kauzani said.
Journalists also bemoaned the reluctance of women to engage the media and be quoted for their views as a huge drawback in claiming their space in the media.
Evidence Chenjerai a reporter with Global Press Journal said some women would even bar journalists from reporting on issues and decline to be named leaving men to dominate the narrative.
“Women suffer in silence in most cases… but they will still ask you to not write about them and what they said and at the end of the day you end up with a story that has comments by men on women issues,” Chenjerai said.
A senior reporter with one of the country’s leading daily newspapers Rumbidzai Zinyuke however said more women are increasingly opening up even in issues that are not gender-related but journalists will need to make an effort to find them.
“We have more women who are coming on board and are willing to be quoted on issues not only to do with gender and women empowerment, but also on the economic development and politics.
“The voices might be few but we need to find them and give them a chance,” Zinyuke said.