The role of women journalists in strengthening democratic processes

“Many people think that in order to be powerful, a journalist has to reach a huge audience. No, in order to be powerful, a journalist has to reach the audience that can make a difference to an issue. It can be one person.”

— A speech at West Bohemia University, Pilsen,
Czech Republic, on 2 November, 2000
(Quoted in”Journalism and Citizenship”).

The role of woman journalists in strengthening the democratic processes cannot be underestimated. Firstly, the power of the press is noted to be more penetrating than the sword, and has even been known to make or break governments by swaying public opinion, and secondly because more and more women are entering the media profession, be it as reporters, editorial staff or in the more visible electronic media sector. Even if they have not broken the glass ceiling, woman journalists still make a difference. Said a roving reporter from Chennai, “I usually submit three copies that my boss wants, and then one copy that I as a woman hold dear to me.”

Democratic processes: a definition
“The success of democracy is largely measured by the public’s participation in the process and the responsiveness of the system to popular demands.”

— The art of teaching democracy: The theory, by Ruud Veldhuis

A democratic country has more citizen participation in the form of voting for elected representatives, implies more accountability of the government and protects the political and personal rights of citizens, including those in the minority.

John Patrick, an American social scientist and lecturer at Indiana University in Bloomington (USA) defines democracy as: “A political system institutionalized under the rule of law. There is an autonomous civil society, whose individuals join together voluntarily into groups with self-designated purposes to collaborate with each other through mechanisms of political parties and establish through freely contested elections a system of representative government.”

Citizens are those persons who live in a state permanently and enjoy civil and political rights. In return they are expected to owe allegiance to the State and the State is obliged to protect the citizen’s life, liberty, property and political rights.

A civil society that functions well is perhaps indicative of how well a democracy works. Whether democratic processes work better in homogeneous or heterogeneous societies is a matter of speculation, but India with her culturally and ethnically diverse groups is known to be the world’s largest democracy.

A sociological perspective
That democratic processes involve the interaction of the state and the citizen is beyond doubt, but which should have more influence has been a debate raging since time immemorial. While Durkheim believes that society is real, that it is an objective reality constraining us, Weber believes that it is the individual that is real and that society is an abstraction.

“Sociologically the state cannot be defined in terms of its ends. There is scarcely any task that some political association has not taken in hand, and there is no task that one could say has always been exclusive and peculiar to those associations which are designated as political ones…Ultimately one can define the modern state sociologically only in terms of the specific means peculiar to it…namely the use of political force.” (Politics as a Vocation, 1919). Friedrich Engels and Marx developed this idea by saying that the state is an instrument of force that is only needed when society is built on the conflict of classes

In “Politics as a Vocation” (1919). Weber also writes “there is only the choice: leadership-democracy (Fuhrerdemokratie) or leaderless democracy.” He defines leaderless democracy to be “the domination of “professional politicians” without a vocation, without the inner charismatic qualities that alone make a leader.”

Perhaps a symbiotic relationship between the government and the people is an ideal medium in which a Government by the people remains accountable enough to recall that it has been instituted for the people.

Woman journalists and democracy
“No press is truly free unless women share an equal voice.”

— International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF)

One must not assume that by virtue of being a woman, every woman journalist automatically strives to fight for women’s rights. There are many professionals who regard themselves as journalists first and women second.

However, those who are actively involved in the cause of women’s upliftment can surely make a difference, not only by actively encouraging more media coverage of women with more female-centric articles, but also by being more visible as reporters and covering what have been regarded to be hitherto male bastions, such as Barkha Dutt in Kargil.

Whilst women are increasingly reporting and presenting the news, they are rarely news subjects. This was the finding of the Global Media Monitoring Project 2000, which involved 70 countries. The startling finding is that while women account for 41 per cent of the presenters and reporters of the world’s news, they are only 18 per cent of news subjects.

According to another survey more urban housewives —from 21.7 million in 1999 to 25.4 million now —read a daily newspaper at the cost of reading magazines. The reach of magazines has declined from 93.8 million in 1999 to 86.2 million in 2002, a 22 per cent loss, taking into account the population growth during the same period. Surely democratic processes are going haywire if women, who constitute about 50 per cent of the population, do not get adequate coverage, be it in the political or the apolitical spheres.

Highlighting stories on successful women, who in turn can serve as role models, is also something that woman journalists can be actively involved in. Although the 1995 Beijing Platform for Action (PFA) affirmed that women should have, at least, a 30 per cent share of decision-making positions, women have not yet reached parity in any of the world’s legislatures. In fact, in 1995, women represented less than 1per cent of all heads of state, top executives and land owners. They made up less than 5 per cent of UN ambassadors, less than 8 per cent of cabinet ministers and less than 12 per cent of all political party leaders. At the same time, they performed over 65 per cent of all unpaid work hours, accounted for 70 per cent of all of the world’s poor, and women and children made up over 75 per cent of the world’s refugees. (Waring, Marilyn. If Women Counted: A New Feminist Economy San Fransisco: Harper & Row, 1988.)

Woman journalists can also strengthen democratic processes by becoming involved in civic journalism, a journalism which involves an “explanatory” story frame to cover public issues instead of the “conflict” frame, which often reports two opposing viewpoints.

Civic journalism has increased public deliberation, civic problem solving, volunteerism and has led to changes in public policy, wrote Professor Lewis A. Friedland and doctoral student Sandy Nichols, of the Center for Communication and Democracy.

A US study, “Measuring Civic Journalism’s Progress,” analyzed 651 projects published between 1994 and 2002 and collected by the Pew Center for Civic Journalism. It traced the development of civic journalism and reported that about 85 per cent of the projects provided space for citizen perspectives. “The findings in this category are among the most unequivocal and important in our research,” the study noted. “Civic journalism clearly extended the reach of journalism, incorporating new voices of citizens that simply would not have been otherwise heard.”

Another important contribution could be focusing on journalism with a long-term impact. Reporters strive to get a good story for a quick byline, just as democratic governments tend to work on policies with a short-term impact in view of the next impending election. As a result, important issues that have global repercussions, such as environmental issues, are often put on the backburner. Journalists need to liaison with government representatives to concentrate on stories with a long-term impact, which may not necessarily merit a byline.

Journalists are the watchdogs of society and the newspaper is the fourth estate of a democracy. Journalists ought to make democratic processes work so that gaining access to government institutions is as easy as picking up a newspaper. And for this to take place a considerable amount of introspection within the press has to take place.

“Work at perfecting the journalism that democracy deserves…[is] worthwhile because the stakes are high…and both the citizens and the journalists need to see what they might be.”

— Journalism and Citizenship


The generation gap

There she was, the plump, loving mum who came and spent at week at her daughter’s university out of concern for second degree burns that the young girl had sustained when boiling water spilt on her while she was pouring tea. And so at every given moment the mother would lovingly change her bandages and warn her to be careful.
And then there was the pretty daughter. She was full of conflicting emotions: so excited about coming to a great university, and so embarrassed by her mum being around her, when all the other students had come to campus independently. One day when she was attending an open lawn party with the other freshers, her mum walked by and told her to be careful and not dance too much so that her burns could heal.
“Go away mum. I am with my new friends. You are embarrassing me,” she said.
The mother walked away, sighed, and thought of how she had sacrificed promotion opportunities at work so as to be able to devote more time to her children. And for what? For this day, when her daughter effortlessly put a group of new friends on a pedestal, and who chided her for dressing up in an old fashioned way.
The social exchange theory of Homas is based on the idea that all relationships are based on give-and-take. This perspective argues that people calculate the overall worth of a particular relationship by subtracting its costs from the rewards it provides.
I wonder what ‘reward’ this mother got for the relationship with her daughter?

Point to ponder

At times one needs to muster the courage to temporarily jump off the conveyor belt of life. Only by taking one step back can one stride two steps ahead.

Book review on Rational, Ethical and Spiritual Perspectives on Leadership: Selected writings by Peter Pruzan

Journal of Human Values
Volume 15, Issue 2
October 2009 issue, pp 199–201
Title of the book reviewed: Rational, Ethical and Spiritual Perspectives on Leadership: Selected Writings
Author of the book: Peter Pruzan
Peter Lang AG, 2009, 322 pages, price: US$ 65.05, £ 38.00

Ethical and spiritual paradigms in organizational set-ups are becoming important considerations for academicians and business leaders today. Faith and fortune are now no longer envisaged to be mutually exclusive, and the role of spiritual quotient (SQ) in complementing IQ and EQ at the workplace is being increasingly acknowledged.

“Rational, Ethical and Spiritual Perspectives on Leadership,” volume 7 of the Frontiers of Business Ethics series, is an anthology in which Pruzan showcases his writings over the last 20 years. The book is aimed at “reflective practitioners and theoreticians in the field of leadership philosophy.” The author explains this is not a ‘how to do it’ book nor a traditional textbook, but rather aims to provide reflective leaders with an insight into the significance of leadership-philosophical concepts, predominantly the concept that successful leadership is not restricted only to wealth generation, but also consists of contributing to the fulfillment of all those whom one serves as a leader. As the book unfolds, there is a discernible evolution in the author’s mindset from rational to ethical to spiritual perspectives on leadership.

Pruzan is the co-author of “Leading with Wisdom: Spiritual-based Leadership in Business,” an engaging book replete with case studies of 31 business leaders from 15 countries, bound by the common thread of being high achievers in their respective fields while operating from a spiritual basis. The introduction of this book is one example of Pruzan’s selected writings.

Although the book description on the back cover erroneously divides the book into seven interrelated themes, the book is in fact organized into six themes, as detailed by Pruzan in the preface, and as also reflected in the Table of Contents:-
1. Morals and ethics
2. Ethical accounting
3. Values and Leadership
4. Identity
5. Responsibility
6. Spiritual-based leadership

Each section begins with a short write-up in which the author explains the raison d’etre of the theme in relation to the evolution of his thoughts over the years, followed by an introductory essay to whet the reader’s appetite. As a second generation, middle class Jew born into a family in New York that put an overt emphasis on logic, Pruzan was drawn to metaphysical conjecture. He began delving into rationality, then morality, followed by ethics. In practical terms this spurred him on to begin various initiatives such courses in Maths and Business Economics and also in Philosophy and Business Economics at the Copenhagen Business School.
Pruzan’s visit to India in 1989 was a defining moment of personal spiritual awakening, and led him from “A path from myself to mySelf, a path from becoming to being, a path that ends where it begins, at the wellspring of rationality, morality and spirituality.”
In section one on Moral and Ethics questions raised include “What is ethics?” “Is it for the individual good or collective good? Pruzan concludes by saying that ethics is relative and that each subculture maintains its own set of values. He also writes about ethics as a tool for promoting consensus in organizations.
Pruzan questions the belief that ethics cannot coexist with free market competition. In fact he concludes just the opposite: that only if enterprises develop ethics can private initiatives survive in the long run.
In the context of business ethics in Denmark, Pruzan was instrumental in establishing the Department of Management, Politics and Philosophy at the Copenhagen Business School in 1995. He writes, “Establishing a department with ‘philosophy’ was quite a revolutionary step for a business school.”
In part two, Ethical Accounting is described as being a symbiosis between theory and practice and is said to be based on values shared by an enterprise and its stakeholders, be they employees, shareholders or clients.
Part three is on Values and Leadership. In the first essay “When values are not money” Pruzan writes of how in our rush to achieve material wealth we forget existential wonder. He lucidly expresses this as, “It is paradoxical that it is liberation to feel duty bound; freedom is no longer the ability to do whatever I want to do, whenever I want; but intuitively to know what I should do and to have the courage to act accordingly.”
In this section it is acknowledged that socialization as a process is not just confined to the formative years of our childhood, but is also shaped at the workplace. Three perspectives of values are elucidated, namely internal focus (business ethics and human resource management), external focus (corporate branding and marketing) and a long-term business focus (corporate social responsibility and strategy). This section concludes that values-based management pays off, for example in retaining loyal employees, and that the language of money is too narrow.
The fourth section on Identity questions “Who am I?” with regard to the individual and the organization. It also focuses on questions such as does an organization have a consciousness? What is the conflict between economics and ecology and how can this be resolved?
The fifth section on Responsibility asks what is responsibility, can an organization be responsible and why be responsible in the first place? The answers presented include that responsibility should expand from controlling others to serving them. In this context wealth creation is purported not to be the goal, but the means for spiritual fulfillment and service to society.
Pruzan presents differences in life perspectives as: “… if life were a pie, spirituality would be one slice of the pie. From the spiritual-based perspective, however, spirituality is the pie itself. Work, family, leisure and health are all the ‘slices’ of spirituality, they are all contexts for growing spirituality.” True responsibility, he says, is not learned but is directly related to deep-rooted motivation from within.
In the sixth section on spiritual-based leadership, there is a discernible shift in Pruzan’s thoughts from an academician to a believer in a higher guiding principle. In this concluding part he challenges traditional managerial perspectives on leadership, which focus on the maximization of owner’s wealth. He dwells on developments in the theory and practice of leadership in Scandinavia and in India, while surmising that the best form of leadership is a combination of the Western approach to leadership with the Eastern values of an ideal leader, such as non-attachment, selflessness and santhi (having equanimity and peace of mind).
In these six sections of the book while many issues have been brought to the fore, certain questions remain unanswered, such as if true responsibility is not learned but is rather imbibed from inner self motivation, then how can an organizational head encourage all his team leaders to be responsible? Also, if ethics is relative to each subculture, then this could give rise to a conflict of ethics, in that the perception of what is right in one subculture can be interpreted as being intrinsically wrong in another. How can one reconcile this conflict?
The choice of topics, lucid language and the short selections make this book an interesting read for the discerning reader. A few more selections from the empirical study of his earlier book “Leading with Wisdom: Spiritual-based Leadership in Business,” would have been appropriate.
“Rational, Ethical and Spiritual Perspectives on Leadership” is to a large extent an appropriate fit in the Frontiers of Business Ethics series, which aims to represent writings that convey a new ethical model for transforming business into humanistic, sustainable and peaceful forms. The selection of writings cover several issues, themes and questions which would be valuable to the business leader delving into this sphere for the first time. To the seasoned academician, however, many of the concepts such as that of ethical accounting and spiritual-based leadership (SBL) may not be new. There are several writings on SBL, one of the latest being “Understanding Leadership Perspectives
Theoretical and Practical Approaches” by Fairholm, Matthew R., Fairholm, Gilbert W, in which Leadership Perspectives are presented through five distinct orientations namely scientific management, excellence management, values leadership, trust cultural leadership, and spiritual leadership. Academics would also be familiar with the Hindu perspective on leadership values at the workplace, elucidated in detail by S K Chakraborty in “Ethics in Management: Vedantic Perspectives” as long ago as 1995.
What distinguishes this book from others of its ilk is the way in which Pruzan masterfully weaves intricate concepts with his own life experiences. It is through this that he is able to forge a new ethical model in which theory and practical converge.

Book review by Payal Kumar
Doctoral scholar, XLRI
Vice President, Editorial & Production
SAGE Publications India Pvt. Ltd

• Chakraborty S K “Ethics in Management: Vedantic Perspectives.” 1995. Oxford University Press
• Fairholm, Matthew R., Fairholm, Gilbert W “Understanding Leadership Perspectives Theoretical and Practical Approaches” 2009
• Pruzan P & Mikkelsen K P “Leading with Wisdom: Spiritual-based Leadership in Business,” 2007, New Delhi, SAGE India Publications

Reducing change management complexity: aligning change recipient sensemaking to change agent sensegiving

Kumar, P. and Singhal, M. (2012) ‘Reducing change management complexity: aligning change recipient sensemaking to change agent sensegiving’, Int. J. Learning and Change, Vol. 6, Nos. 3/4, pp.138–155.

Implementation of change in an organisation through culture can
elicit a wide array of reactions from organisational members, spanning from acceptance to resistance. Drawing on Hatch’s cultural dynamics model and on Wegner’s social theory of learning, this paper dwells on an underdeveloped area in the extant literature, namely understanding change from the perspective of the change recipient, and then analysing how this is linked to the broader framework of organisational change. It is suggested that in order to drive meaningful change strategy, change agents need to learn that sensegiving imparted by them needs to be closely aligned to the sensemaking of change recipients at three levels of analysis.

What good is bad mentorship? Protege’s perception of negative mentoring experiences

Payal Kumar and Stacy Blake-beard, The Journal of Industrial Relations, vol 48, no. 1, July 2012, p 79-93

Scholars have only recently begun to study the darker side of mentoring, also referred to as dysfunctional mentorship, toxic leadership, or negative mentorship. Within this domain, the possibility that there may be benefits for protégés at the receiving end of negative mentoring experiences, and also the likelihood that some protégés may be more inclined to negative mentoring experiences than others, is virtually unchartered terrain. To explore this in detail, social exchange theory, which posits that relationships are formed by the use of a subjective cost–benefit analysis and the comparison of alternatives, is drawn upon to examine the implications of protégés’ perception of negative mentoring experiences. This is followed by hypotheses, the development of a model, reasons for why this area has important implications, and suggested future areas of study.

Keywords: Negative and dysfunctional mentoring, mentor, protégé, personality traits, gender

Gendered scholarship: exploring the implications for consumer behaviour research

Payal Kumar & Sanjeev Varshney, (2012),”Gendered scholarship: exploring the implications for consumer
behaviour research”, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion: An International Journal, Emerald, Vol. 31 Iss: 7 pp. 612 – 632

Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to explore the possibility of whether more representation of gendered scholarship could enrich the traditional framework of consumer behaviour – a discipline that lacks consensus on epistemology and is also starved of theory building – by means of critical introspection leading to new managerial solutions, new methods and theory building.

Design/methodology/approach – The quantitative approach involved a content analysis of three leading journals in the consumer behaviour discipline from 2006 to 2010: the Journal of Consumer Research, the Journal of Consumer Psychology and the Journal of Consumer Affairs, in order to ascertain how much research represents a gendered perspective. The qualitative approach involved analyzing the papers from a gendered perspective, to see if the papers were more conceptual or based
on applied research, and to gauge the type of methodologies used.

Findings – From 2006 to 2010 it was found that only an average of 2.4 per cent of 369 abstracts in JCR, 4 per cent of 224 abstracts in JCP and 5.8 per cent of 138 abstracts in JCA are from a gendered perspective. Approximately 25 per cent of the papers are steeped in applied research, while 75 per cent verify existing theories or expand to them.

Research limitations/implications – The authors’ qualitative analysis brings forward new results, namely that the very feministic perspective that has the potential to bring forth greater introspection in the consumer behavior research, namely feminist postmodernism, is in fact the least represented, with only one such paper out of 731, which is a possible wake-up call for feminist scholars. The authors conclude that the scope of the traditional paradigm can be enlarged by gendered scholarship.

Originality/value – The paper represents a major effort to present the importance of including gendered perspective articles in marketing journals, to provide an analysis of the lack of a gendered perspective in papers published by three leading consumer-based journals, and to determine whether a gendered perspective can enrich the traditional framework.

Keywords Consumer behaviour, Research work, Journals, Epistemology, Feminism, Gendered scholarship, Theory building, Research methodology, Feminist narratives, Postmodernism