Erin Valentine ’15, Ashley McGetrick ’16 make headlines exploring sexism in entertainment journalism
The journalism majors’ project, titled “Breaking News: Deconstructing Entertainment Journalism,” has gained attention from online media outlets in the United States and abroad.
Erin Valentine ’15 and Ashley McGetrick ’16 have received widespread attention from online news sources for their spring 2015 project detailing sexism in entertainment journalism. In recent weeks, their project, “Breaking News: Deconstructing Entertainment Journalism,” has been recognized by The Huffington Post, Los Angeles Sun Times and other media outlets. Valentine’s own post on the BuzzFeed Community page also garnered plenty of attention.
The journalism majors’ Internet buzz can be traced back to a class assignment in Professor Kirstin Ringelberg’s “Current Controversies in Feminism” course. The class is part of Elon's Women's/Gender Studies program.
The project combines two often-discussed topics: media literacy and sexism. Valentine and McGetrick illustrated the gender issues present in journalism by creating a side-by-side comparison of actual headlines from entertainment sources with those they created that are not chauvinistic, unlike the originals.
On their project website, readers are asked to take a survey about their media literacy levels and questioned whether they believe that entertainment media is sexist.
Valentine and McGetrick were initially shocked by the survey results. “We were surprised when over three-fourths of the original respondents said they were not often offended by entertainment journalism, but 90% considered themselves to be media literate,” Valentine said. “This showed that sexism in entertainment journalism is so embedded that people have become used to seeing it and may not be questioning it actively.”
McGetrick surmised that the entertainment media landscape is definitely sexist, but that readers have the ability to influence change. “As consumers, we have the power to control what type of content does and doesn't get published by giving our viewership to outlets and articles that support women,” she explained. “If we stop clicking on sexist headlines, they'll have to stop publishing them.”
McGetrick’s interest in the topic isn’t just personal, but also professional. “I want to be an entertainment journalist who tells the stories that actually deserve to be told in a respectable way,” she said.
The duo was amazed by the project’s positive feedback so far. “The Internet response has been absolutely fantastic! We've seen responses from national publications here in the U.S. to international blogs in India and Sweden,” Valentine said. “It's also been great to look at the comment sections on the articles (which can be dangerous) and actually see people have productive conversations about our project.”
McGetrick noted that the positive responses were wonderful, but a few people disagreed with their points.
“I never thought that everyone would agree with us, but I also didn't think there would be anyone who was so adamantly opposed to our message,” she said. “A small group of people on social media were saying that the celebrities featured in our project were ‘asking for it’ by being famous. Sexism and objectification is dangerous no matter if you are famous or not. And it is even more detrimental when it’s done on a public platform for the world to see and emulate. “
To further promote the project, Valentine also participated in an interview with Lady Collective, an inspirational women’s website.
While the attention the project’s received has been unexpected, McGetrick offered an explanation for the interest: “Apparently, when passion meets the Internet, the results are virtually limitless.”
By Brett Gubitosi '16