Journalism and Its High Personal Demands

Interview With Inmaculada Álvarez, Director of Veritas Agency

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MURCIA, Spain, MAY 24, 2004 ( The world of communications has become one of the careers with the highest rate of failed marriages, says the manager of a Spanish Catholic news agency.

In this interview, Veritas manager Inmaculada Álvarez, married and mother of four, addresses some of the questions posed by John Paul II in his message for World Communications Day, observed on Sunday.

The Pope published a message for the occasion entitled “The Media in the Family: A Risk and A Richness.”

Q: Is there a place for women in the world of the media?

Álvarez: The presence of women in the media world is ever more important. In fact, for more than a decade, schools of journalism have had a decidedly feminine presence, despite the fact that journalism is a profession which traditionally was the preserve of men. …

It is no longer rare to see women as correspondents or special envoys to dangerous places, or young girls with television cameras, to say nothing of news programs or even sports journalism, which had always been the typical masculine preserve.

Therefore, women’s place must necessarily be found. In fact, the concept of the media will have to change to adapt to them.

It is already changing, not only because of women but also because of the introduction of new technologies, which have changed the old way of writing, and because of telecommunications technology, globalization and media concentration. We are at a point of profound transformations, in every sense.

The problem is that the media world often forgets its main asset: persons, professionals. And many find themselves pressed by schedules, lack of ethical support, and the precariousness of labor on the part of businesses.

In this situation, it is difficult for a woman, more than for a man, to be fulfilled and to look after a family, especially in a profession such as journalism, which requires much energy.

When I have spoken about the subject with women colleagues, I have perceived much dejection, much bitterness, because it is unjust to be forced to make a choice and get nothing in return.

There are many journalists working in very difficult conditions and, in addition, they are alone and, if they are women, this affects them a lot, because it forces them to compete at a disadvantage. This situation cannot be endured unless one is hardened, loses one’s scruples, and becomes somewhat cynical.

Q: What can women offer to the media’s present “system” of production?

Álvarez: Some psychologists say, and I see this also as manager of a small human group, that to be a man or a woman influences the way one sees the same work.

Women tend to be more social than men, they prefer to work in a team, while men tend to be more self-assured and decisive when it comes to making difficult decisions. Both are necessary and both should be present in an enterprise.

This obviously must be carefully studied, because in each person there are other factors at play, such as character, and the formation received.

But this stronger tendency to socialization on the part of women is present. In an ever more competitive and individualist world, the feminine way of being can be an important contribution, so long as women are always themselves and do not allow themselves to be influenced.

On the other hand, and always starting from the fact that we are talking about qualified professionals and not “tele-rubbish,” women have a greater tendency to give importance to feelings, emotional empathy, and this is an advantage in a profession in which often the instrument of work is human relations, especially in delicate situations, in which an attempt must be made to obtain information without violating people’s privacy.

In these cases, women tend to be more delicate and intuitive than men. And this is especially necessary in the present way of carrying out journalism, in which there is a tendency to trivialize people’s private lives.

Q: Is it possible to be a mother and a media professional?

Álvarez: It is more complicated than it seems. I will tell you a story.

Many times, it has happened that, after a long day of work, I arrive home, bathe the children — I have four, between the ages of 5 years and 9 months — prepare dinner, sit down to watch television, look for a moment of peace with my own and then — I hear something on the news program. And the pressure is on. I take my computer and the telephone and forget the world. In fact, I burn the food almost every day.

It is no accident that journalism is one of the professions with the highest rate of marital failures. It is not easy to be married to a journalist, and this must be understood.

I think that, within marriage, it is essential to try to understand one another, and to establish a hierarchy of values.

A journalist must be very clear about the fact that a profession that does not allow one to form a family is a bad profession, in which one cannot be happy, no matter how much one likes one’s work, especially if it is at the price of dear ones. First things first.

Success, opportunities, everything that is meant to happen will happen at the right moment. But the family must always come first.

It is essential for a journalist’s spouse to understand the nature of the other’s profession: Journalism is a vocation, a passion. It is not, and never will be, an office job, but something that occupies one 24 hours a day.

And if one’s spouse does not understand this, living together may be very difficult. However, one tries to understand, to be involved, to be interested in the other’s work. If one shares the other’s passion it is wonderful.

Everything else can be overcome. What most educates children is to see that their parents love each other. Problems of a practical nature always have a solution, by delegating, giving up, or postponing what is accidental and assuming what is essential.

When one is a journalist and, in addition, a mother, as in my case, when one has a family, and a large one at that, it can be mad.

But today, I would not change places with anybody. To have married, and to have had four children has made me a better person and, thanks to that, I think I am a better professional than I was before. Because when I come home and four little pygmies fight to give me a kiss, everything falls into place.

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