Here’s What Jessica Bennett Has Planned As the New York Times’ First Gender Editor
Ladies First highlights women and girls who are making the world better for the rest of us.
We all know by now that the structure of traditional newsrooms is changing, but for once that doesn’t have to be a negative thing. Earlier this month, the New York Times announced Jessica Bennett as their first-ever gender editor. Bennett, coming from a career of covering gender and culture as a freelancer for the Times, was one of 300 applicants to be chosen for the position — which only seems fitting since she actually advocated for the creation of this position three years ago. She’s also the author of Feminist Fight Club: A Survival Manual for a Sexist Workplace. Before she assumes her role on October 31, she spoke to us via email regarding what’s in store for the Times.
For Bennett, the most exciting thing about the new role is equally the most terrifying: It’s never existed before. “That means I have an incredible opportunity to help shape the coverage, to try new things, to take risks, and to be experimental — but it also means there’s no model or blueprint for how this is supposed to work,” she says.
What’s particularly special about this role is that it’s not dedicated to a specific section. Instead, the coverage will take place seamlessly throughout the paper. In an interview with Teen Vogue, Bennett explains that gender issues are not solely coverage of feminism and women’s issues, but that they involve approaching subjects that the Times already covers — but, through the lens of gender. It may mean increased coverage of gender identity, sexuality, or masculinity, but it also includes politics, international affairs, and health. Though Bennett was covering similar topics as a freelancer, she knows that more can be accomplished as an editor inside an institution.
“There’s just so much more opportunity to collaborate and to think big,” she explains. “I have the infrastructure to work with a newsroom full of amazing writers, to think about story delivery across all sorts of teams, to come up with wacky big picture ideas that may be good or may sometimes be terrible, but I have the institutional support to try things out.”
This coincides perfectly with her belief in team efforts and the power of collaboration. Bennett is especially looking forward to the implementation of strategic partnerships with apps, like Bumble, and various organizations.
“I’ve always found partnerships to be an incredible way of experimenting with new storytelling models,” she says.
Her past experience implies that she knows what she’s doing in this area. As a then-executive editor of Tumblr, she worked with The Guardian to live-GIF the presidential debate. And she later worked with Getty Images and Lean In to create the Lean In Collection, a photo initiative to change the depiction of women in stock photography.
When asked what her new move might mean for the future of other publications and media, Bennett says, “I don’t think any company can survive in this day and age if they’re not reaching a group of people (women) who make up more than half the population and hold billions of dollars in global consumer spending power.”
She also believes “covering women and gender is critical to producing fair and nuanced journalism. What we hope is that we can continue to bring the same rigor and depth of storytelling to gender as we do to every other subject.”
What are some stories you’d like to see covered? Tell us @BritandCo!
(Photo via Sharon Attia; Featured photo via Jessica Bennett)