Paper by Linda Otto
“You know, I have big boobs and I am blond, so they think I am stupid, which is good. They let me do whatever I want because they don’t take me seriously” (Patricia Khoder, journalist at L'Orient-Le Jour).
War and crisis can be considered as a media event since the 20th century - at the latest (Korte & Tonn, 2007). It has never failed to catch the media outlet`s attention. War is relevant. It is the most extreme condition a society or a country can experience and more than often, war and its impacts are not limited to the war theatre itself but reach to the neighbouring countries; sometimes even beyond. However, what a specific audience thinks about a war is not only dependent on what happens in the theatre of war but also to a huge extend on how it is being reported about.
War bears characteristics that meet with a great response in the media system: They contain various factors such as negativity, conflict, or relation to elite persons – war and conflict meet with what a large audience is concerned about: violence and the existence of its limits (Eilders & Hagen, 2005; Galtung & Ruge, 1965; Wanke, 2012). War is a story that sells papers.
This is why the media presentation of war and crisis is of great importance. The pictures conveyed to a broad public are often the only information and impression the population receives about a war zone. Thus, the media presentation usually is the only access people get to this reality. The perception of war and crisis and the resulting political and social consequences are therefore strongly dependent on the field of journalism and the profession of foreign or war correspondent, which is why it is worth bringing this profession more closely into the focus of socio-scientific research.
This research aims to establish a link between the profession of journalism in war zones and gender issues. Several interesting aspects can be found therein: First of all, war in itself, which is already gendered, is still widely regarded as a domain of male agency and female victimhood, highlighting specific “male” character traits like strength and masculinity (Steiner, 2016). Moreover, the field of journalism is a contested one, in which different mechanism of power structures become effective (Dorer, 2001). The higher echelons of journalism – editors, boards are still dominated to a large extent by males, even if in recent years a development towards an increased participation of women has taken place. Because of this inequality in rank inequalities in reporting remain, and, above all, if those who have the final say about stories and reporting are predominately male, a male dominance can be demonstrated (Fröhlich, 2002). Receptiveness thus is not only an issue of the audience; it is curated by the higher echelons in the news rooms.
These two perspectives, in which gender may be relevant, are to be taken into consideration in the present research. On the one hand, attention should be paid to the processes involved in recruitment of war journalists. Which are the predominant hiring criteria? The second perspective is performance and its perception: Is there still the prejudice about the woman worthy of protection who cannot be sent to war zones?
On the other hand, the experience of male and female journalists gained during deployment in crisis areas will be discussed. How is either sex perceived by its fellows in a war environment? In summary, the aim is to clarify to what extent gender influences the work as a reporter.
In order to be able to answer the above-mentioned research questions, I conducted eight interviews with both male and female (photo)journalists, which were analysed and interpreted qualitatively in this work. This qualitative study can provide an important contribution to understanding to what extent gender differences still prevail in the field of war journalism. This work is divided into three thematic blocks. Roughly, this work consists of a theoretical part which is followed by a short overview of the used methodology and ends with an empirical one. Firstly, the connection between journalism and gender will be presented, in order to subsequently deal with the prevailing gender images in war. This is followed by an overview of the chosen method, procedure of research, and the sample. In the last part, I interpret the empirical material and derive conclusions concerning the beforehand stated thesis. A summary of my findings constitutes the final section of this paper.