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7 October 2019

US journalist focuses on challenges of the media world at QF talk

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But Magalie Laguerre-Wilkinson tells Education City Speaker Series that the news industry is now a better place for female journalists

A journalist who is part of the team that produces America’s most-watched news program has told a Qatar Foundation audience how she has had to overcome discrimination in the media industry during her career.

Magalie Laguerre-Wilkinson, an associate producer on CBS News’ 60 Minutes show, spoke of her experiences of prejudice in the workplace during the latest edition of the Education City Speaker Series, saying: “People have gone ahead of me in a way I deemed unfair, but you just have to speak your voice” – but she believes it is now a good time for women to be carving out careers in journalism.

Magalie Laguerre-Wilkinson’s talk focused on the challenges that news faces in holding people’s attention.

She also aired her views on the current state of news reporting – including coverage of Middle East issues by US networks – fake news, and the way people engage with journalism in the event at Northwestern University in Qatar, under the theme ‘Do I Have Your Attention? Journalism in the Age of Two-Minute Attention Spans’.

I experienced a lot of inappropriate things in my career, but I think today’s female journalists are lucky to be in the profession as it is right now.

Magalie Laguerre-Wilkinson

Speaking about the sexism she has faced in the media world, Laguerre-Wilkinson said: “I’ve been doing this for 30 years and, at times, it has been challenging to navigate, especially when you have an idea that you think is good, you pitch it, and you find out that people don’t say yes or no but instead a man will go behind your back to find out if it’s really worth covering – why do you need to do that?

“There are times when you’ll say something, and then someone will say the same thing in a different way and it’s received and embraced. So it has been a rollercoaster ride. But you have to focus on doing your thing, and that is what I have taught myself and how I have operated, because I have been in unfair situations.”

Since January 2005, Magalie Laguerre-Wilkinson has worked for 60 Minutes, the most-watched news program in the US

Answering questions from the audience at the Qatar Foundation (QF) partner university, Laguerre-Wilkinson said she felt “the reaction to ideas would often be very different” if those assessing them did not know whether they had come from a man or a woman, but added: “While it’s been, in many ways, an uphill battle, it’s much better now than when I started in journalism.

We have done a much better job of covering the normalcy and beauty of so much that comes from this region.

Magalie Laguerre-Wilkinson

Laguerre-Wilkinson – who has worked on 60 Minutes since 2005, is a reporter for New York’s CUNY TV station, and co-hosts Carnegie Council’s digital franchise Ethics Matter – said US news coverage of the Middle East has improved, albeit partly a result of more war correspondents being based in the region.

“We have done a much better job of covering the normalcy and beauty of so much that comes from this region,” she told the audience. “We have veered away from simply doing stories about hijabs and stories that repeat themselves, but we can still do better.”

The Education City Speaker Series brings experts in a range of fields to QF to discuss topics and challenges that directly affect people’s lives.

And she also spoke of her belief that “facts quash fakes”, saying: “When we show the facts and people speaking for themselves, that is all we can do – if someone already has their mind set on what they want to believe and is partisan, it is not my job to convince that person otherwise.

"My job is to continue doing what I do, and I go into every story with a blank slate.”

QF’s Education City Speaker Series is a platform for local, regional, and international thought-leaders from a range of fields to share their expertise and perspectives on topics that influence everyday life, and gives the community of Qatar the opportunity to interact with them. The initiative is now in its second season, which has previously welcomed Ovais Sarmad, Deputy Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework on Climate Change, with further talks scheduled before the end of the year.

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