CNN As Equals Gender & Elections Series

Entry type: Portfolio

Country/area: United States

Publishing organisation: CNN, As Equals

Organisation size: Big

Cover letter:

In 2020, CNN received a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to build a team to advance its already-award winning work in gender journalism that started in 2018. With a new dedicated team and resources, headed by Eliza Anyangwe, From January 2021 As Equals set for itself the goal of not just telling stories about women but telling engaging, human-interest, visually strong, multimedia stories about patriarchy: uncovering the winners and losers of sexist norms, practices, markets etc. We set out to focus on underreporting stories, from underrepresented voices, prioritizing deeply reported features, explainers and investigations over breaking news.

Headquartered out of CNN International’s EMEA office in London, team is composed of reporters in Nigeria and India, a senior video producer leading the development of video content, a producer working on our collaborations, panels and other ways to engage the public, policymakers or media peers in the stories, and editors in Amsterdam, London and Nairobi.

We are an all-woman team inspired by the work of newsrooms dedicated to public interest reporting and engaging storytelling on any subject such as ProPublica; we are focused on the “majority world” like media organizations such as Rest of World. We believe deeply in collaboration, working closely with other team at CNN from data and visuals to TV programmers and newsgathering, and working closely with non-journalistic organizations who provide us exclusive information, important context and access to strong characters.

Description of portfolio:

As Equals gender and elections series was a year-long project based around one important question: “with this election, what is at stake for the women (and gender minorities) in this country?” The expression that women are “half of the sky” is commonly used and yet when you look at media coverage of elections, the needs, concerns and aspirations of half of the population never feature highly in the election agenda. Media producers and audiences rarely consider (outside of exceptional horrific events) what life is like for women in any particular country. The objectives of this project was to answer that question indiscriminately for every national election of 2022; to have a quick way to understand (in)equality in each country through a data graphic; to make that graphic shareable so that it could be embedded in journalism produced by other CNN teams – so you needn’t explore the gender components yourself to have them; and catalyse discussion on the gender elements of an election as a direct consequence of CNN casting its powerful spotlight on the topic.

As ‘As Equals’ managing editor, I was lead on this project, working closely with the visuals editor, the staff and freelance writers that covered each story, and the newsgathering colleagues across the world who would be covering the election in more traditional ways.

Centering women’s lives in election coverage was a challenge as was finding reputable sources of transparent, gender disaggregated data and up-to-date sources on demographic information in all the countries we covered. The solution for the latter point was to be flexible: rather than use the same metrics in every graphic, we would represent visually what was available, recent and relevant.

It became necessary to read many reports and compare research from human rights organizations in the country and international institutions (UN, WHO). Where quantitative data was lacking or out-of-date, we used qualitative social research about the minority groups featured (for example queer and indigenous people in Brazil) to stand up the reporting.

Metrics and impact:
The data widgets were featured in numerous other CNN stories for which we cannot specify the reach but recognise the value of multiple outlets for the information.

We were not able to cover all the elections (some snap elections were called for example, giving us no time to prepare) but we reported 7 stories, which received a total of over 450,000 unique visitors. (We have included just five stories in the portfolio submission).

Off the back of our reporting, journalists who authored the analyses were invited to comment on air, for the Amanpour show on CNN and France 24 in English as was the case for our French election analysis writer, Megan Clement. The France 24 package used the identical title to our story.

The stories were picked up and shared by human, and women’s rights groups, policymakers, academic institutions, Politics Twitter

Project links: