Women are routinely asked and expected to modify how they speak in order to not come across as too direct or harsh, says journalist Ann Friedman. But in pursuing her life’s work, she’s found greater confidence in her professional voice, and that her personal interests resonate with the female followers of the podcast she co-hosts with her best friend.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Next, our Brief But Spectacular series, where we ask interesting people to describe their passions.
ANN FRIEDMAN, Journalist: Women are frequently asked to couch their opinions in a lot of filler words, which is why I find it so interesting that we are simultaneously seen as unserious when we use phrases like um, you know, or like, because, frankly, if you say things directly, without a lot of “oh, you know what I think” sort of padding around them, it’s difficult for both men and women to hear.
I don’t think it’s just men that have a hard time hearing direct especially criticism when it’s coming from a woman. Knowing it doesn’t really change the fact that, like, in the real world, women have to do a lot more emotional labor to convey their opinions and decisions and ideas.
I am one of those boring people who has only wanted to do one thing for my entire life, which is be a journalist. It’s pretty impossible to equip someone for a 10-plus-year career in media right now. You’re going to get fired or laid off at some point. It will happen. And you probably are going to have to learn a bunch of new skills.
You probably are going to have to come to terms with the fact that you’re not only going to write long-form magazine articles in the style of 1960s “Esquire.”
I didn’t wake up one day and say, you know what, I should have a podcast. I have a good friend here called Gina Delvac. She had said for a long time to me and to my friend Aminatou Sow, hey, you guys have a great chemistry, you would be great podcast co-hosts.
I think it was somewhere around where we came up with the name. I guess we just create a fun, safe place for ourselves and discuss the things that we are interested in. And it turns out that a lot of other women are interested in those things, too.
Voice is one of those things that when you talk about it in a classroom or with a group of writers, it can feel very big and abstract. I think, when I was earlier in my career, I had more doubts about my validity as a writer and a journalist. And I made my more effort to copy the tone of the places that I was writing for, inasmuch as they had an institutional tone.
And the longer that I had been working and the more confident in my opinions or my reporting or, frankly, like, my career and my place in the world, it gets easier to write the way that I speak.
If someone can’t hear the substance of what I’m saying because of the tone I say it with or because of the little filler words that I use — which, P.S., men use, too, we all use — then that’s their problem.
My name is Ann Friedman, and this is my Brief But Spectacular take on finding your voice in journalism.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, just say it, that’s the message.
You can watch additional Brief But Spectacular episodes on our Web site, pbs.org/newshour/brief.