By Katelyn Umholtz
After seeing the Storytellers page, a mostly male-dominated Facebook group for journalists working in video, Sarah-Blake Morgan of WBTV in Charlotte got an idea.
“MMJ, especially for females, is something that is really hard to understand or describe unless you do it every day and tote around a camera and equipment that is bigger than you and to hardly have time to put your stories together, let alone fix your hair for a live shot,” said Morgan. “I felt like we really needed our own space.”
A little over a month ago, Morgan created MMJane, a Facebook page for female MMJs to share ideas and discuss the industry. So far, it has attracted more than 400 women across the nation.
Morgan said she created the page as a place to encourage the many women in her field who have to take on more than they actually want to in this job. She knows, because she was once one of them.
“I was doing this because I had to and not because I wanted to,” Morgan said. “I started out in Lubbock, Texas as an MMJ. I had no shooting experience and no clue what I was doing.”
A frame capture from a Sara-Blake Morgan she posted on MMJane.
She relocated to Charlotte, and she said that was when she decided she would love her job and be great at it.
She wanted to spread her newfound attitude to other women who may have felt the same way. So far, she has received positive feedback.
“Mind you, I've only been in the business for five years, but girls younger than me who have just started were saying ‘Thanks for starting this page. It's really inspired me to do better,’” Morgan said.
Carolyn Hall Jensen, NPPA treasurer and photojournalist, is one person who has found the page inspiring.
“It's a fresh breath of air being surrounded by a community of women of different ages, experiences and skill levels that are just going out there and fighting the good fight all on their own,” Jensen said. “It's really empowering. I'm drawn to it because of that.”
Jensen said she simply enjoys reading everything the other women in the group have to share, whether it be tips, experiences or stories.
Morgan said the group serves as a forum for advice and sharing for all MMJ-related inquiries. More recently, she started “Friday Favorites,” where she said she encourages the women to share their own stories that they are proud of.
“That's been cool to see because they post the story, and people give feedback,” Morgan said. “I have a lot of mentors who are helping me now, and those people who have been in the business a lot longer than me are in the group. I encourage them to weigh in on stories.”
Jensen said everyone in this industry faces difficulties, and female MMJs are no exception. She said people are often shocked that MMJs are doing a two-person job. It’s even more shocking to the public when it’s a woman doing this.
“You read all kinds of experiences that these women have with comments made by the public,” Jensen said. “It's very eye-opening for a lot of people that a woman can do two people's jobs at the same time in an industry that's been stereotyped, and rightfully so, as a male's job,”
Morgan and Jensen both said that many women, including themselves, have experienced the assumptions that their work will not be as good because they are women in a male-dominated field. But this Facebook page does not let sexism deter them from doing great storytelling.
“For the MMJane page to exist, it has to be a forum for us to empower each other and to think that we can shoot just as well, if not better, as our male counterparts,” Jensen said.