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women in journalism

How to make waves in your field

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How to make waves in your field

We're in the middle of a podcast explosion, but last year I realized something was missing: stories about women in media, told by women themselves and presented in an artful way. So in January, my colleague Sarah Ginsburg and I began exploring the creative minds of women making waves in their fields and created She Does Podcast. The series digs into each guest's journey, process and philosophy, and although their professions don't always align with our own, we've found that there's always something to learn from their experience and apply to our own lives and careers. Here are the top 15 pieces of wisdom these women have taught us.

First-time directors: Learn how to say no
"I am getting a lot more comfortable now with being the one to say 'no' and it's been pointed out on many occasions by my collaborators that I'm sort of the quality control on this project, and I'm the last stop on this show. Me following my intuition and me following my instincts has never not paid off."

Listen: Katja Blichfeld, writer and director of Vimeo & HBO's High Maintenance

Storytellers: Pitch story ideas from the heart
"I'm realizing more and more that your pitch has to be dominated by your opinion. No one wants to hear the facts of your story, they want to hear your analysis of your story."

Listen: Lyric Cabral, co-director of (T)ERROR

Women: Speak up--listeners want to hear more of you
"When I started working on Death, Sex, and Money in 2013 the landscape was very different than it is now. Not only were podcasts male dominated, but listeners were male dominated. There has been a conversation in public media about highlighting women podcasters and I think that's really starting to show. I've certainly felt listeners responding to me. You hear, 'It's just really nice to hear a woman host.' They respond to stories about my personal life and about the particulars of being a woman in her mid-30s thinking about family and career."

Listen: Anna Sale, host of WNYC's Death Sex & Money podcast

Choose collaboration over barking orders
"There's no space for that old style of the big barking orders coming from the big man. I think we're done with that paradigm. It's good and right and just to acknowledge the work of others. I think women do a good job saying 'I am not the king. I am a head coordinator and I'm working really hard with other people who all are contributing something to this effort.'"

Listen: Debra Granik, Academy-award nominated director of Winter's Bone

Set expectations for your work
"I think having confidence in yourself earlier and just being bold is important. Something that's really common is that men who are interns for a radio show will expect their stuff to be on the air right away, and women won't. I hear this over and over again from people at different shows and I think that's a problem. I think that women serve as the support system way too much and don't expect to be in positions of power or to have their voice heard as often."

Listen: Kara Oehler, co-founder of Zeega and GoPop

Documentarians: Don't hijack someone's story
"The notion of helicoptering in and taking on the role of documenting is so 19th century. It's just not right. Newsworthiness, in terms of documentary, is a really good standard. But a higher standard is ethics and accuracy. You have to understand that in that depiction you are altering the community's environment. You are absolutely affecting the way they are going to be perceived. And perception rules the way resources flow. It is really that simple. It's a huge responsibility and a burden you have to pick up. You have to be really careful about it."

Listen: Lina Srivastava, impact producer on Who is Dayani Cristal

Curators: Demand diverse makers and work early on
"In order to get where we want to go, which is creating really amazing pieces of work for audiences everywhere, you need to have diverse production teams and diverse audiences. It makes the work better. If you want this new interactive storytelling culture to be diverse and inclusive where everyone feels welcome and when you say civil dialogue you really mean that, then you have to do it early, because otherwise you're going to start building in all of that legacy bullshit and I just don't want to do that."

Listen: Ingrid Kopp, Former Director of Interactive at Tribeca Film Institute

Filmmakers: Put down the camera and build relationships
"I had quite a few instances in my life where I couldn't turn on the camera. Maybe sometimes you don't need to film. Maybe you sometimes have to put your camera down and let things go because you're also killing something with the camera if you're shooting all the time. You're not allowing for this other part of your relationship (with your subjects) to flourish, to take place."

Listen: Hanna Polak, director of Something Better To Come

Be like Netflix and cut out the noise.
"When I joined Netflix, in June 2011, the stock price was over $300. By July they had announced they were splitting the DVDs from the streaming service and the stock was at 75 going down to 50. You couldn't go anywhere across industry trade, business trade, general consumer coverage, there was so much just noise about the company. But it was great to see it from the inside; they were so calm. They knew what they wanted to do. That's really important, to be able to cut out the noise. Just being able to focus on what you're doing and put those blinders on. It's a company that isn't afraid to trust its own instincts."

Listen: Linda Pan, general manager of SundanceNOW Doc Club

Treat every interaction and interview as a mutually beneficial experience
"Having a tape recorder there is just an excuse to be able to ask these questions that I'm really wondering about and struggling with. What's served me best is to share things about myself and that's always led to great interviews and conversations and things that have been genuinely helpful to me. It's created deep relationships between me and the person I'm interviewing. A great lesson is when you share something about yourself people are usually grateful and willing to share something back"

Listen: Bianca Giaever, radio producer and filmmaker for This American Life

Value relationships over technology
"It's about understanding that a subject isn't a subject. A subject is an agent in their own world and how can we work together to create interesting media that will contribute positively. This incredible revolution that we're going through provides a moment everyday with new technology to really question our methods and our relationships with the people we work with. Too often we get so enamored with the technology that we forget about that."

Listen: Kat Cizek, director of Highrise series at the National Film Board of Canada

"Fake it 'til you make it" isn't always the best advice
"I won't say that I was 'faking it 'til I make it' because I didn't feel like I made it as a director. But I certainly was willing to raise my hand and say, 'I should direct that play.' I had a really high bar for what good theater looked like, and as a director, I was just competent. I wasn't great, and I knew the difference. At a certain point if you're only faking it and you don't get the payoff of making it, you will become dissatisfied."

Listen: Mary Coleman, Senior Development Executive at Pixar Animation Studios

Photographers: Be patient, curious and consistent
"Find something that you can stick with, that you can go back to, that you can grow in, that there's a lot of variety within it. Something that you can photograph over time. Don't be in a hurry. Take your time and build a project where you have 25-40 really powerful pictures. Not every picture in a project has to be dramatic. A project is like a piece of music. You have crescendos and very quiet times. Every photograph in a project has a job to do, and some of them are bridges from one idea to the next."

Listen: Maggie Steber, documentary photographer who has worked in over 60 countries

Remove "weakness" from your vocabulary
"Our culture is so oriented towards success and achievement and very little towards process. In my work and my life, because they inform each other always, there are things that I will work on my whole life and I'm really trying to embrace all of myself. Hollywood is a town that especially wants women to be sort of...not human, actually. And wants to deny a whole part of their humanity and their complications. What happens when we start telling those stories for the next generation of girls? That really matters."

Listen: Caitlin FitzGerald, actress and Libby Masters on Showtime's Masters of Sex

Stay committed to your value system -- it will pay off
"The thing about being an artist is there's always room, but now more than ever if you want to make a sustainable living it's your responsibility to find the people who also want you to have a sustainable living doing what you do. There's something about being really committed to a set of ideas that are important to you, and continuously articulating that value system to yourself and to your community in a meaningful way. And you will find your people."

Listen: Emily Best, founder of Seed&Spark and publisher of Bright Ideas Magazine

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