This is my seventh feature in my portrait series 100 Years Strong. Commemorating the 100 year anniversary of the passing of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote, this series of portraits is a celebration of strength, victory and beauty featuring fierce, fearless women in Deep East Texas.
Beginning in the late nineteenth century, women began agitating for the right to work as professional journalists in the United States. Many female reporters in the 1800's and early 1900's were restricted to reporting on society and expected to only cover the latest in food and fashion. However, there were a few women who reported on subjects that were considered the domain of male reporters. Notably, an African-American journalist, Ida B. Wells was a journalist and activist who documented lynching in a crusade against the abhorrent practice in the southern United States in the 1890's. Ida was born into slavery and educated during Reconstruction. At the age of 27 she was an editor and co-owner of the Freedom of Speech and Headlight, an African-American newspaper in Memphis. In 1909, she became one of the founders of the NAACP. Since then, black women journalists from Alice Dunnigan to Carole Simpson to Oprah Winfrey have continued to help break down color barriers for women in journalism across the globe. Yet, despite all the progress that has been made, women continue to have to fight for progress and change in this industry. The Women's Media Center has studied the status of women (2019) and women of color (2018) in the news media and has found that women, particularly women are color are woefully underrepresented throughout all forms of media and at all levels, even today, in 2020.
“The media is in a state of great disruption, but despite all the change, one thing remains the same: fewer women report the news than men,” said Julie Burton, Women's Media Center president in the The Status of Women in the U.S. Media 2019.
I was excited to meet and photograph T’Ebonie Tanner a local Reporter/Multimedia Journalist from KTRE 9. She joined KTRE in November 2019 after moving to Texas from Alabama to work. Here's what she had to say about working in this industry.
Do you have a favorite motivational quote? “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and He will establish your plans.” Proverbs 16:3 -- I love this quote because no matter what I set out to do, I always see it fit to pray before I make a decision and to ask for clarity in hopes that God leads my path. Who are the women that have inspired you? I am inspired by my mom. She is such a smart, beautiful and strong-willed person who has persevered through any obstacle life may has thrown at her. She moved over 10 hours away from home to create a better life for me (Kansas to Alabama). Although she has done a lot, that act alone encouraged me to move over 7 hours away from home (Alabama) to Texas; all in hopes to do the same and seek more in life.
When and why did you become interested in journalism? I became interested in journalism before the age of 10. I remember two separate occasions in particular. One day, my aunt and I went to get food and at the register, there was a drawing for one lucky child to become a weather person for 1 day. We ended up filling out a raffle ticket and a week later, we got a call back that I won the drawing. I was ecstatic and from then on, I wanted to know the in-and-outs of the news industry. On another occasion, one year my elementary school invited a well-known meteorologist to come talk to us about future careers and I could not get enough. It is crazy because I ended up working at the same news station as him, which was my first job as a production assistant. (James Spann at ABC 33/40 News in Birmingham, Alabama)
Women, particularly women of color are significantly under-represented in U.S. newsrooms, even in 2020. Did you face any challenges getting into this industry? You’re right. As a black woman, I agree that there should be a lot more diversity in newsrooms. I did face a few challenges, while applying for internships and many jobs. I grew frustrated and sought out mentors for guidance on how to get into the news industry. A few mentors told me about the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) and how it is an organization built to help you network and build connections with other people who are already in the industry. Those challenges I faced seemed achievable, once I was able to network with other individuals who look just like me, in positions that I could only dream of. Looking back now, I am forever grateful to have attended those networking conventions. I encourage any person of color to do the same, in order to “find a seat at the table”, so to speak.
Why is it important to you that we have more women’s voices represented more in media? As a woman and a journalist, we must strive to be a voice to the voiceless; especially now, because at one time in history, none of our voices were allowed to be heard. In a world that is rapidly changing and as more women are getting roles that men have mostly occupied, our representation in the media is just as important now—maybe more than ever.
Tell us more about your job. What is your typical day like? Let me just start by saying no one day is the same for a multimedia journalist/reporter, especially during a global pandemic. I usually pitch a story idea the day before, in order to have things in order and ready to go smoothly the next day. I grab all my camera equipment and do the interviewing, videoing & editing myself. The day usually consists of scheduled interviews in the morning whether it be in person or via facetime/zoom, then I go to shoot more video that pertains to the particular story. Next, we have to create a video on our phones to send to our web team to post online content, because a lot of people get their news on digital platforms first. Then I start listening to the interviews, writing the story, and I edit it all together before the show. As journalists, we are always on a strict deadline to get things in. So if you add breaking news in the mix of a pre-planned day, that’s when plans can change fast! If this job has taught me anything… it is to be flexible and I’ve learned to stay ready, so that you will never have to get ready.
Any memorable stories? The most memorable story I have worked on would have to be from June 2020. There was a peaceful protest and march in Jasper, Texas where people came together to honor the life of James Byrd and George Floyd. In a time of heavy discussion about racial injustice and police brutality, this story really touched my heart. Many people in the community came out to march with signs in their hands which had powerful statements on them. Some people had on their Black Lives Matter shirts, and others were just there for support to cheer on those walking through the streets peacefully protesting. After talking with a few people, we all left in tears. We cried tears of joy, in hopes to make a change and change the narrative. What is the best part of the job? The best part of my job is meeting new people and being able to share their stories with the community. I get to meet many people from different walks of life and hearing their personal journey is very toughing at times. What are your long-term goals? It my 2nd year in the news industry, but my first 8 months as a reporter. My long-term goals consist of being a reporter for a few more years and transitioning into an anchor position at either the local or national level. Then, possibly be a part of a corporate communications company, so that I can start up a production studio for local creatives to work in and perfect their crafts.
Any advice for young girls who are interested in pursuing a career in journalism? My advice to young girls who are interested in pursuing a career in journalism is to be persistent and to pay forward the lessons you learn along the way. You must also have a genuine love to share other people’s testimonies. One of my managers once said, “everybody has a story”. This stuck with me and changed how I go about life on a daily basis. I want other young girls interested in journalism to remember that this career is not glamorous and ultimately, it is way bigger than you. People consume news for guidance and information. They trust us to tell the stories truthfully and accurately. We must always strive to be the light, breakdown those barriers that society has placed on us and make sure other women’s voices are heard as well. I am looking for more fierce, fearless women to participate in this portrait study. If you or someone you know would be interested in sharing your story, please contact me. You can learn more about my project here - https://www.rachelloutportraits.com/19thamendment