At eight years old, Pamela Burke started her own little newspaper in her neighborhood. At a young age, she had a desire to bring the community together and connect people. Fast forward to today, where Pam has been in broadcasting and print media for more than 30 years.
As someone who’s drawn to journalism but did not start at eight years old (I’m only 14 years too late), I was drawn to Pam’s story. Who better to talk about journalism than someone who’s been invested in the industry her whole life? Pam sat down to talk with me about journalism, her anthologies, and her website, The Women’s Eye.
Getting started in the media industry
Whether you’re interested in pursuing journalism as a career or you’re just dipping your toes in it to see if you enjoy it, everyone starts somewhere. Pam started her journey where she really wanted to work: Time Incorporated. At the time, Time Inc. owned and published Time Magazine, Life Magazine, and Sports Illustrated, among other magazines. Working there was Pam’s way of getting her foot in the door and figuring out what she wanted to do. She determined that, to her, the most meaningful stories to cover are the ones that affect communities and people and make a difference.
That said, journalism and the media industry can be difficult to break into. And Pam recognizes that. To really make it in the industry you have to persevere and show a great passion for what you do; you have to stick to your goals, work long hours, and love it. You also have to recognize that where you start isn’t where you’ll be forever.
“If you want to get involved in journalism, or broadcasting or media, my advice is always just to jump in somewhere,” she says. “Because you can always move up or move around or move to something different. You don’t want to stay on the sidelines, you just want to try a lot of different things. And they may not always be perfect. Although I’ve enjoyed all of the jobs that I’ve had, really, I’ve learned from all of them, I find that people that get into a job that may not be the perfect job for them, in another year or two, they’re doing something else fascinating within that company. So don’t get ahead of yourself, just get in a job that you think you’ll like and work your way up or work your way out.”
There are so many different jobs within journalism, media, communication, and broadcasting that are interconnected, so don’t hesitate to get as much experience as you can.
Women can change the world
Many stories about women on the internet highlight women who are down on their luck, or tell negative stories. Pam noticed a need for stories about everyday women; the women who don’t get the coverage, who don’t always speak up, who don’t seek the accolades. Part of Pam’s career has been in producing programs and stories about women, their aspirations and their goals, and various aspects of what it means to be a woman. She wanted to see what she could do to produce a positive women’s magazine on the internet that would appeal to changemakers and highlight women who are doing extraordinary things. Her goal was to accentuate the action women take each and every day, discuss what motivates them, and get to the behind-the-scenes of their lives. This desire led to the creation of her online magazine, The Women’s Eye, and eventually her two anthologies, 20 Women Changemakers: Taking Action Around the World and 20 Women Storytellers: Taking Action with Powerful Words and Images. The online magazine and both anthologies highlight powerful, passionate, dynamic women. These are women who are collaborative, who are passionate about their beliefs, who have a sense of community, who are curious, who care about others, and who want to do good work.
Writing for The Women’s Eye, Pam and her team interview all kinds of women – from broadcasters to women working in the nonprofit sector, to artists and more. They opt for long-form articles (2000-5000 words) and 25-minute podcasts as a way to begin telling women’s stories. While writing about these incredible women for the internet was a start, Pam wondered what could happen if she grouped the women’s stories together in an anthology.
“People that might not see the website, could see them in a book and learn from them in a book. And I love books, also,” she says. “So, I thought it was just another way of connecting people.”
There are tons of ways to form connections. One is through social media, another is through documentaries, or formal groups, or books. Pam didn’t see any books like her anthologies out there, so she created them. To write her anthologies, Pam conducted over 300 interviews with people that she wanted readers of The Women’s Eye to know about. While she wasn’t sure how many people were reading her posts on the internet, she wanted to spread the good news of the women doing incredible work to help the world. It wasn’t easy to choose who would be included in her anthologies, but for Pam, the decision came in the form of a spark.
Heidi Levine, one of the women profiled in Pam’s forthcoming anthology, 20 Women Storytellers: Taking Action with Powerful Words and Images, was selected after Pam saw a photo Heidi had taken of women crossing the Syrian border carrying babies. Pam contacted Heidi in Israel to talk about her work, about the three children she was leaving behind to cover these stories, about how she puts herself in danger, and what it’s like to be a woman in combat zones. That was the spark. In other cases, the spark came from seeing intriguing books, word of mouth, or, hearing from the subject themselves.
Pam’s first anthology, 20 Women Changemakers: Taking Action Around the World, highlights 20 women and their efforts to find solutions to global issues. The book features global changemakers, women working on improving children’s lives, those who aid the less fortunate, women who advocate for special causes, and those who empower other women and girls.
In her second anthology, 20 Women Storytellers: Taking Action with Powerful Words and Images, the focus pivots onto storytellers – women in the media who don’t get much credit. This anthology highlights journalists, broadcasters, bloggers, and women in media who aim to connect people. They want to let inform the public what’s going on, how people are improving the world, how to make a difference and make the world better. These journalists are courageous.
“We had done so many stories on fearless women that are out there covering wars or covering brutality. They’re covering people that are doing good in the world, and they’re taking a lot of chances,” Pam says. “You don’t even know about them or who they are or what they’re all about. So I wanted to find out just for our own edification, what makes these women tick, why they do what they do and what they hope to accomplish by doing it. I felt that we had a lot of photographers, we had a lot of journalists, outstanding documentarians, who have done great work, and I wanted to highlight their achievements.”
Interviewing so many people has taught Pam that, with perseverance, you can follow your dreams, you can be inspired, you can accomplish incredible goals. The women featured in her anthologies are persevering; they don’t take no for an answer. She says that speaking to women, particularly the storytellers in her latest anthology, has made her more courageous.
Behind the scenes
Pam started The Women’s Eye ten years ago, because she wanted to take her experience in broadcasting and print and put it on the internet in an interesting way. However, she didn’t know much about how to do that. Her determination took her to the Cronkite School of Journalism, where she took her New Media course for eight weeks and learned how to build a website. From then on, she was able to work on the website and build her team.
Along with Pam, the team working on The Women’s Eye consists of Co-Editor/Contributor Patricia Caso, Radio-Podcast Host/Contributor Catherine Anaya, and Radio-Podcast Host/Contributor Stacey Gualandi. The team includes people that Pam has worked with in her past jobs in the industry or that she met through the Cronkite School, bookstores, and lectures. For instance, Pam and Patricia Caso worked together at NBC many years ago. Her team is built entirely off connections she’s made, and that’s one of the things Pam stresses: “You really have a great opportunity as you work to meet people that you will work with many years later. I still keep up with so many people, and if I need help, I know where to go. And that’s important.”
Anyone who has tried to network and keep connections knows it’s not always easy to keep in touch. Most of us are told to form connections with people we meet, but we’re taught to keep our heads down, keep our jobs, get ahead, and do our best. Rarely, if ever, are we taught to form a genuine connection. Luckily, we have the internet now, and we can email anybody anytime, or go on Facebook, or tweet. That makes it a lot easier. In Pam’s case, she noticed that, while the world of broadcasting and print media is big, there was a pretty good chance that if she worked with someone once, she would come across them again later on. Keeping connections helped Pam get to where she is now. With the help of her team, she built The Women’s Eye into what it is now and she put together her two anthologies.
To put stories together for The Women’s Eye, Pam and her team work hard to arrange the stories and the pictures in a way that is interesting and eyecatching. While that’s hard work in and of itself, putting together an anthology is a whole different beast. At most, it takes Pam and her team a few weeks to put an article together. On the other hand, between finding women to interview, proofreading, and obtaining photo credits, an anthology can take a year.
The work is worth it, though. For Pam, there are key takeaways from this work. “I want [readers] to be inspired to make the world a better place. Not everybody is inspired and not everybody wants to make the world a better place,” she says. “But I think it’s a great goal for all of us. We try to tell these women’s stories, but we also try to tell how they do it. What sparked them, how they were able to continue. So I think by reading about them, you get a lot of information as to what you can do to really create a good life for a lot of people around the world. I’m not saying it’s easy. Because I don’t get that feeling from all these women that it’s been that easy, but it’s a journey that they’ve all been on. And they continue it. And they have no regrets. They just want to make the world a better place.”