June 20, 2013

Port Magazine’s recent cover, featuring all male magazine editors, prompted journalists to ask an obvious question: Where are all the female editors?

Wanting to show there are plenty of them, Amy Wallace created the hashtag #WomenEdsWeLove. It was a small step that led to a lot of recognition. Soon after Wallace created it, others began including it in tweets to highlight female editors and the good work they do.

“Clearly, many women — and some men, too — were feeling what we were feeling and were glad for an outlet for those frustrations. I was tweeting, and then retweeting, as fast as I could,” Wallace, a part-time editor at large for Los Angeles magazine and a correspondent for GQ, said via email. “People nominated editors all over the world, and not just in magazines, which was the focus I’d kicked off, but newspapers, websites, everything that gets edited. Apparently, there are women editors at all of them. At one point, #WomenEdsWeLove was even trending, whatever that means.”

Wallace got the idea for the hashtag after talking with Mary Melton, editor-in-chief of Los Angeles magazine, and deputy editor Nancy Miller. They had seen the Port cover and wanted to advance the conversation about it. Creating a hashtag seemed like a good way of proving female editors aren’t invisible and aren’t that hard to find, Wallace said. She mocked up a list of female editors she admired and worked with Miller and Melton to build it.

As more people started using the #WomenEdsWeLove hashtag, Miller tweeted that it’s not enough to just recognize women in journalism: “Other than mass group hug, @msamywallace’s #WomenEdsWeLove proves there are many women editors. Let’s move the convo forward.”

“It’s always complicated — as any woman in any profession knows — to raise the subject of gender. If you’re competent, you’re not a whiner,” Wallace said. “And I’ve worked for, and learned a lot from, so many male editors, some of whom were on that Port cover. That said, it was bugging me that women like Mary, who’s won three American Society of Magazine Editor [awards] in short order during her tenure as EIC of Los Angeles (and who recently got promoted to supervising all of Emmis’ titles, which include Texas Monthly, Atlanta, etc.) remain bizarrely invisible in pieces about “dude-itors” (the Port piece is not the first).”

Additionally, female editors’ work is sometimes undermined. Jessica Grose’s New Republic’s piece — “Can women’s magazines do serious journalism? Some people don’t think so…” —  set off a lively discussion about the types of stories that women cover and read. Not long after the story ran, someone created a #womenatlength hashtag to highlight examples of serious, longform stories women have written. Similarly, Longreads published a list of “21 examples of ‘serious journalism’ from women’s magazines and websites.”

Amanda Hess shared a different take in a Slate piece Thursday, arguing that women’s magazines aren’t as serious as men’s magazines.

These conversations are important — they challenge our perceptions and open up room for debate. Questions that are open-ended will further the debate moving forward: How do we distinguish “women’s content” from “men’s content,” and should we even try to distinguish them? How does gender affect the roles we hold and the coverage that interests us, if at all? How can we make sure we’re inclusive when featuring people in journalism?

Wallace hopes women’s work will continue to be elevated.

“Women editors don’t want to be judged or rewarded for their gender, but for their excellence,” Wallace said. “Now that we have a list as long as your arm of women doing good work, it’s just a little harder to ignore that excellence.”

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As managing editor of The Poynter Institute’s website, Poynter.org, I report on the media news industry, edit the site’s How To section, and moderate the…
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