Driven Media: Accelerating the closure of the gender gap in media

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The idea came together sometime around 2 a.m.

“Someone just said ‘let’s do this.’ We just committed and decided failure is not an option,” said Samantha Harrington.

That’s when Driven Media, created by Harrington and a group of recent graduates or current University of North Carolina Chapel Hill students, decided to launch a crowdfunding campaign to raise $25,000.
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According to the Status of Women in the U.S. Media, an annual report by the Women’s Media Center, women make up more than half of the American population but only represent 20 percent of news story coverage.

The gender gap is visible across mediums and platforms: “In evening broadcast news, women are on-camera 32 percent of the time; in print news, women report 37 percent of the stories; on the Internet, women write 42 percent of the news; and on the wires, women garner only 38 percent of the bylines,” the report states.

“When you don’t see yourself in stories, it’s hard to see yourself in the future,” Harrington said. “[We want to] fill the gap so women can see that they can be whatever they want to be.”

While part of the entrepreneurial journalism lab at UNC Chapel Hill, the Driven Media team sent out a survey on social media, asking ‘What is missing in media?’ The team received more than 70 responses – nearly all replies pointed to the disparity in media coverage between women and men.

That disparity, some long conversations, and a late-night commitment created Driven Media.

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Once the crowdfunding campaign was over, the team purchased a green Toyota Prius, and the “roving gil power newsroom” hit the road. On its first tour, the group traveled from Portland, Maine to New York City, West Virginia, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and Orlando, Fla.

Along the way they told stories about four generations of women in Florida, the largest university hackathon in the United States and more.

The Driven Media team, comprised entirely of women, believes the need for female storytellers is just as important as stories about women.

“You learn a different story when a different person is telling it,” Harrington said. “The more variety of perspectives, the better we all are.”

Crowdfunding to tell those stories – asking for money and explaining the idea over and over to family and friends – was a humbling experience, and “the hardest 30 days of my life,” Harrington said. (Read The Crowd Funding Rollercoaster, the team’s list of advice for crowdfunding journalists).

But the payoff was substantial, and different from the tradtional route: No clickbait and no deadline.

“We didn’t have to give into number of clicks. It’s given us the control to create the content that we want,” Harrington said.

The successful crowdfunding effort also serves as a reminder that Driven Media’s audience is an investor in each story.

“It is really validating. People want it, people are willing [to pay for it,]” she said.

To read the latest stories from the road visit drivenmedia.org.

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Melissa Hutsell is a freelance writer with a passion for community and global journalism. Born, raised and based in Northern California, she writes for a variety of hyper-local and national publications on a diversity of topics including: business, art, culture, food and health. Along with journalism, Melissa has an insatiable appetitive to travel and learn. Melissa is an award-winning writer with B.A.s in Journalism and Globalization from Humboldt State University, and a joint Masters in Global Journalism from the Danish School of Journalism and City University London.

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