The Social Science Research Council (SSRC) has awarded its first round of “Social Media and Democracy Research Grants.” The 12 projects provide “systematic scholarly access to privacy-protected Facebook data to study the platform’s impact on democracy worldwide.” The SSRC is an independent, international nonprofit led by Alondra Nelson, a Columbia University Professor of Sociology and inaugural Dean of Social Science for the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
Facebook data will be used by researchers to better understand the role of social media on politics and society, notably the spread of disinformation and fake news, and how social media users attach themselves to particular online narratives. Several of the projects analyze how social media has affected particular political events, including recent elections in Italy, Chile, and Germany, as well as public opinion in Taiwan. The projects also examine the relationship between Facebook and traditional news media, and delve into the complex question of what constitutes “fake news,” and how it can be distinguished from more fact-based reporting.
“In every decision you make, in every strategy you make, ask yourself a question: Where are girls?”
This is a statement from one of The With and For Girls Collective’s teenage activists, quoted in an article for Inside Philanthropy, and it rings true for philanthropic organizations around the world.
The growing influence of women on philanthropy is starting to draw attention, in the best possible ways. As more women work together to enact true social change, and as more female pioneers lead the way toward a more gender-equal future, mainstream media outlets are beginning to observe and comment on the trend.
Watching the news in 2019 can sometimes be an exercise in self-restraint. So often, we find ourselves gripped by unpleasant stories that have far-reaching implications, particularly for women.
At the same time, women’s voices are heard more widely in 2019 than in previous generations. Just look at the #MeToo movement, Nike’s “they call us crazy” advertisements, or the thousands of women who marched into DC’s Freedom Plaza on January 19th. These movements are a reminder that the world is not limited to what we see on the news — women around the world are banding together to make their voices heard, and when women unite to enact social change, incredible things happen.
Gender-lens projects coming out of Washington, D.C. these days are rare, but here’s a great one. The National Endowment for the Humanities has just awarded the American Film Institute a $350,000 grant toward a study on gender parity in the history of American film. The funds support a survey of the roles of women in the over 100 years of American movies that are in the database in the AFI Catalog of Feature Films. The collection has amassed over 500,000 listed credits on all these productions.
The database is complete for the years 1893-1993 and is abbreviated for films released after 1993. It covers all Hollywood films and independent works that made theatrical release. My own single entry is here.
Women’s leadership is getting more strategic support to improve gender equity in journalism. Recently, Take the Lead announced a new program that is launching with support from both the Ford Foundation and the Democracy Fund. The program is called 50 Women Can Change the World in Journalism, and is aimed at “harness[ing] the collective power of women in journalism to build a more just and equal world,” according to a press release announcing the new endeavor.
Starting this year, 50 women journalists will engage in online and immersive learning with the program. The cohort will work to “re-envision journalism,” a profession dominated by women, but where women rarely make it into the top spots or earn as much as men.
“Women represent more than half of the journalism workforce, but are chronically underrepresented or misrepresented in journalism leadership,” said Gloria Feldt, Co-founder and CEO of Take the Lead. “Inequities within journalism must be rectified.”
To chip away at this inequity, the new journalism program will provide support and ongoing partnership with its first cohort of fifty professional journalists stationed around the country in publishing outlets. “Cohort members for this first #50WomenCan journalism program include many leading figures in communications,” says Feldt. “From The New York Times to The Center for Investigative Journalism to NBC News, our attendees are coming from the industry’s top media outlets.”
The Ford Foundation’s support for this project grows out of its mission to address equality in society. “Gender equity in journalism, as it is in any profession, is needed to ensure that all voices and viewpoints are heard, reflected and respected,” said Farai Chideya, Program Officer for Creativity and Free Expression at the Ford Foundation. “50 Women Can Change the World ensures this will happen.”
“When the Nation Institute was founded more than 50 years ago, we were a modest organization affiliated with the Nation Magazine — but that name no longer reflects the breadth and impact of what we do today,” said Taya Kitman, Executive Director and CEO of Type Media Center, regarding the rebranding of the organization.
Type Media Center, the rebrand of the 52-year old Nation Institute, will be dedicated to “world-class independent journalism and publishing”and will be a nonprofit media company with two major programs rebranded as Type Investigations and Bold Type Books.