Jill Filipovic used to create her own stories and narrate them as a child. She had the knack for weaving stories, and this skill helped her pursue a career in journalism.
For her it is a satisfying experience to be able to narrate stories about people, to talk about people and hear their challenges.
“Puzzling pieces are put together to create something new and this is the reason why I chose career in journalism,” 33-year-old Filipovic, who was recently in Capital for the Speaker’s Programme of US Embassy shared in an interview with The Himalayan Times.
Currently a journalist based in Nairobi and New York City, she has worked as a freelancer on different issues — from politics to gender to global health and foreign affairs — in diverse media. And while she writes on varied topics, this American journalist loves to write on issues related to women — women’s rights, reproductive rights, sexual harassment et cetera.
Interest in journalism
She completed her high school from New York University with Journalism and Politics as her majors. Then she studied Law at the same university in the Bachelor’s level.
As a student, she was not only interested in writing, she wanted to write about the issues related to women.
So, she started writing blogs in 2003. People liked her writing, and blog and newspaper editors started approaching her — she did not have to look back on her writing career after she started blogging, and it continued till 2013.
During this duration, she completed her Bachelor’s in 2008, and started working in a law firm as a litigator.
She would work 16 hours a day. The job was stressful and demanding. Yet she continued it for three-and-a-half years. She wanted “to earn money” but the love for writing was such that she gave up her career in Law.
“I was interested in advocating, but I didn’t like practising Law” so she was back into writing.
After this career change, she did not limit herself to writing blogs, she joined mainstream media to pursue her passion for journalism.
Till date she has worked as a senior political writer for www.cosmopolitan.com, and columnist for Guardian.
Filipovic’s feature stories have also appeared in New York Times, Washington Post, TIME, Al Jazeera America, Foreign Policy, Marie Claire, among others.
Filipovic was an editor at New York University’s Journal of Law and Social Change, a contributor to Yale Journal of Law and Feminism, and to anthology Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power And A World Without Rape.
Being a female and a journalist
Gender-based discrimination exists in every profession, and journalism is no different.
Filipovic says she has faced discrimination for being a female “as lots of men have underestimated my works as a journalist”.
To prove them wrong she works “extra hard to bring good work”.
There are instances when media houses do not assign hard news stories to women journalists.
“Females are often given the beats of fashion and entertainment,” she states. “But women are making a change in society through their soft stories. I feel such stories are actually important as they need to be told to the public,” shares Filipovic who has written both hard and soft news, and in various issues.
But being a female journalist has its advantages. “You are able to narrate women’s stories much better than males.
Many women do not open up about issues of sexual violence, health (reproductive health), exploitation et cetera to men,” opines Filipovic. And she feels as a female journalist you have the privilege to talk to women “because they feel comfortable in sharing their stories with women”.
While talking about women working in media, Filipovic feels women are gradually coming in the field of journalism.
Yet it is difficult for them to climb the ladder of this profession as they often have to make a balance between their professional and personal life. So, she advises women, “Marry a man who supports you.”
For those women who want to pursue a career in journalism, she suggests, “If you are interested in your job, then do it, love it. Build your support.” She advises female journalists to create a network with other female journalists, and support each other’s works.
“And if you are interviewing people, then talk to women, include and elevate their voices. Keep in mind that it is the 21st Century and there are adventurous, ambitious and smart women who love challenges,” she adds.
Media and change
“Journalism is helpful to shed light on the malpractices of society or other problems,” shares Filipovic, who prefers to write the stories of society’s change makers as she believes such stories are helpful to bring change in society.
Watching the development of media industry over the years, Filipovic finds the role of Internet important.
“One can publish anything on the Internet and it is much quicker,” adds Filipovic.
She was awarded with the Sigma Chi Delta Award from the Society of Professional Journalists in 2015 and Newswoman’s Club of New York Front Page Award (2014).
Filipovic was also a UN Foundation Fellow in Malawi in 2013 and Indonesia in 2015, and an International Reporting Project fellow in Brazil in 2014 and India in 2015.
A version of this article appears in print on May 15, 2016 of The Himalayan Times.