I. Introduction This master’s thesis represents study of female newspaper and magazine editors in Azerbaijan based on Western and Soviet definitions of journalism with explanation of local national features of this p



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Azerbaijani media can be generally divided in six categories: independent, semi-independent, oppositional, governmental, technical and extortionist. Female editors that work in government newspapers and magazines are highly trained and very experienced media professionals that in their majority have the old Soviet journalistic education. Prevailing postulate of government newspapers remained untouched by the breakdown of the Communist Party and the USSR. With a slight change of decorations it entered our days while in essence staying the same – devotion to the line of the ruling political regime and party.


Newspapers that fall under oppositional category, not represented in our current research, employ editors possessing variable educational background with journalistic one being a rare exception. Working in an oppositional newspaper means that editor, as well as any journalist must share ideas by sponsoring political party and be prepared to engage in smear campaigns against authorities as well as against rival political actors.
The semi-independent newspapers represent the most peculiar type of media outlets. This category holds newspapers that can be categorized as transitional between independent and politically biased. Even though officially newspapers in this category belong neither to government agencies or ruling party nor to oppositional parties in reality these papers through cobweb of under-the-counter financial relationships, cronyism or nepotism are connected with one of the opposing camps. Editors of semi-independent newspapers are usually media professionals hired to do specific job and keep newspaper attractive to the reader. Semi-independent newspapers always follow political attitudes of their owner and can swing their policy 180 degrees from critical stance towards Azerbaijani political reality to absolute conformity.
The third category unites editors of independent newspapers. Editors in this category are usually identical to publisher and act as pragmatics since independents cannot rely on sponsorship of a political actor and are dependable on newspaper sales and advertisement. (Valiyev 2008). That is why content of the newspapers, especially related to politics is produced as factual and balanced since editors guard their newspapers from fines and lawsuits.
The fourth category, not represented in our research, is represented by newspapers and magazines that are technical, scientific or devoted to some specific issue. Editors of technical press usually have education and experience background in a specific area of knowledge that they cover in their newspaper or magazine. These media outlets usually cover politics only in limited, related to their topic amount.
The last category is presented by extortionist journalism. Usually newspapers in this category are one man-show where publisher, editor and journalist are all the same person. Such “journalists” thrive on multiple law deviations committed by government officials, agencies, companies and firms. After finding out such fact these people contact respective actors and demand that unless they are paid they will publish the information (Valiyev 2008)
II.4 Selected methods of research and data collection n Azerbaijan

In our inquiry we used both qualitative and quantitative techniques of data collection with the qualitative method of in-depth interviews being our primary technique. The quantitative method in our research was represented by a simple questionnaire that we used to collect basic data about our participants. As we pointed out earlier, information about female editors presented in other publications was scarce and incomplete leaving us with pressing need to improve the impeded image of female editorial community.



II.3.1 Data collection

The data collection was implemented in two cities of Azerbaijan – Baku and Ganja32 between May - November 2011. During this period of time there were two attempts to implement the research. The first and unsuccessful attempt came in May 2011. It followed the pattern of the 2008 research when researcher Eldar Valiyev or his father – Ismayil Valiyev from Internews Azerbaijan contacted female editors with a request for an in-depth interview for purposes of the research. The following strategy successfully tested with male editors in 2008, however, brought unexpected results with female editors. Contacted female editors either refused to be interviewed stating that they do not enough time or asked to send them a written copy of questions. Unfruitfulness of continuing with this procedure became obvious in July of 2011 when the researcher received three answered copies where editors answered questions very briefly, in many cases the answers consisted of only yeses or noes. It became obvious that this strategy leads the research nowhere and needs to be reevaluated. Remembering Disman’s advice about female interviewers (Disman 2007) researcher hired three Azerbaijani female journalism students and gave them assignment to contact and interview female editors for the purpose of this research.


The second attempt brought the desired results and the students were able to implement 11 interviews ranging from 10:28 to 58:55 minutes. The editor of semi-independent newspaper Uc noqte Xosqedem Baxseliyeva refused to give interview due to time constraints yet, as an apology sent the student the filled out quantitative questionnaire.
The seven months of data collection required 920 AZN [904 Euro] and resulted in 15 questionnaires answered, 11 audio interviews implemented and 3 answered lists of in-depth interview questions. The last mentioned three are editors of Ganja based newspapers Gancabasar and Gancenin sesi and editor of Baku based medical newspaper Tibb.
Besides the above mentioned difficulties there was a list of smaller ones. Firstly, it was difficulty of long-distance communication between researcher – Eldar Valiyev located in the Czech Republic and field staff of the research – Ismayil Valiyev and three students Tahira, Matanat and Ulkar located in Baku, Azerbaijan. Majority of communication was done through internet, but many questions connected with the field work required usage of expensive international mobile phone calls33. Azerbaijani side used SMS to inform of difficulties and request for clarifications.
Second difficulty that we have encountered was familiar to us from the 2008 research and deeply rooted in Azerbaijan tradition of unpunctuality among locals. However, in addition to unpunctual editors who constantly shifted appointments we had to deal with sometimes much undisciplined female student interviewers and even had to reschedule an interview appointment because of an interviewer being late.
The third problem remained from our 2008 research. The students had problems to get to editors of some newspapers since their offices were located in Azerbaijan Publishing House34.

The last difficulty, that disserves to be mentioned is – shyness of one of the interviewers - Ulker. During her interview with old female editor of government newspaper she, seeing that the editor smokes a cigarette, hesitated due to negative connotation of female smoking in Azerbaijan to ask the editor related question.


However, despite of all of the troubles mentioned, we believe that the data collected presents a valuable contribution to media research in Azerbaijan and we are going to present our findings in the next chapter.

III. Empirical data and its interpretation

As it was stated in the previous chapter, the goal of this research is to generate a typology mapping Azeri female journalists working in newspapers and magazines and research their ethical and value orientations. To achieve this aim, the third chapter was divided in two empirical subchapters that consequently were divided into parts that represent different issues addressed by batteries of questions that were given to the respondents in addition to two subchapters: one for the introduction (currently being read) and the other for the conclusion. The first two parts contain data on gender, education and marital status of the respondents while the third provides overview of how important they believe university education is for an editor’s work as well as provides their assessment of editor’s role in Azerbaijani society. Data that we will analyze in the beginning of the first subchapter will allow us to compare female editors to their male counterparts, their self-view within journalistic community and their perspective on academic professionalism of Azeri journalists and journalistic education in Azerbaijan.


III.1.1 Age and marital status data

Since the subject of our research were exclusively female editors, the binary male = female opposition in the table was kept only due to a tradition and convenience of the table’s design. Vacancies of editor-in-chief and deputy editor in the selected outlets are predominantly occupied by female journalists representing the third age group (50-60 years old ). There oldest female editor (managing editor) works in a government newspaper and once already was, though unsuccessfully, approached during the first research implemented in 2008 and encompassing male representatives of this profession. The youngest female respondent, similarly to male editors, worked in a semi-independent newspaper and was 39 years old. In spite of being underrepresented in the categories of young and middle-aged editors, females followed their male colleagues in extreme poles where old and experienced females were gate-keeping and regulating government-funded media outlets while females from the youngest age category achieved that post in semi-independent newspapers. Surprisingly, only two female editors stated that they were divorced, with only one stating as a reason for divorce her work schedule while the second editor shared that it was due to farther unspecified biological problems in child conception. As it can be seen at the graph #1, majority of selected female editors managed to keep their marriages despite their busy work schedule and majority of the married ones are mothers to two kids. One of the two single female editors that also was listed as one of the two youngest gate-keepers that took part in our research, had a wedding on February 14, 201235 thus reducing number of single editors to one.


Table 7: Socio-demographic characteristics of selected editors

Age

%

N

Education

%

N

Family status

%

N

25–39

13.33

2

University degree

80

12

Single

6.66

1

40–49

26.67

4

Institute

13.33

2

Married

60

9

50-60

33.33

5

 College

6.66 



Divorced

26.67

4

60+

26.67

4

 

 

 

Widow

6.66

1

TOTAL

100

15

 

99.9

15

 


99.9


15



III.1.2 Education of respondents

In our 2008 research we had to state that selected male Azerbaijani editors of nationwide newspapers had different levels of education [ranging from secondary school to university degree] as well as varying professional backgrounds where journalistic education was hardly overshadowed by one of the political science.


Contrary to that female editors of Azerbaijan represent highly educated individuals. In fact, none of the female respondents, as it can be seen in the graph #4, had limited education in a form of a secondary school diploma. Majority of women interview in our research (87%), graduated with a form of undergraduate or graduate university diploma. To make the contrast with their male counterparts even sharper, selected female editors received predominantly journalistic education. Provided data allows us to make an assumption that female editors represent better educated workforce than their male counterparts that gives them an advantage in their excise of specific tasks related to journalistic profession and necessary to run their media outlets. Thus, selected journalists possess standardized normative knowledge necessary for them to uphold professional standards in their profession. Editors themselves highlighted during their in depth interviews that receiving a journalistic education was not only important for a work of a journalist but taught them to work with materials and critical thinking.
III.1.3 Editors and their stances towards journalism education

S.A. graduated from Baku State University as a journalist and currently works as an editor in chief of semi-independent newspaper Xalq Cebhesi36. Her media career started 32 years ago, when she being 5th year student at the BDU started to work as a journalist in 1980. Before S.A. achieved editor in chief position in Xalq Cebhesi newspaper she went through hierarchical system of six different newspapers in her career as well as was co-founder of a newspaper Karvan. S.A. is firmly positive about importance of journalistic education for a work of a journalist and especially of an editor.

A person who intends to work in Azerbaijan [as a journalist] and aspires to be an authority in what he does, must possess higher education degree in journalism. It is really important to have journalistic education. I mean, there are people who did not study journalism in a university and still managed to gain authority and can produce good articles, but never the less journalistic education is a must. For example, I had such role models as my university teachers: Gulu muallim, Tofiq Rustamov, Shirmamed Huseynov, Jahangir Mammadli and I think that without passing through their school it is impossible to become a skillful journalist.”

F.H. who studied at the same university and works in Azerbaijani media for more than 40 years, currently occupying position of a department editor in a nationwide government-run daily newspaper clarifies S.A.’s point.



It is possible that [journalistic] higher education will not give you writing talent if you lack it, yet you will obtain knowledge of other thins, widen your view of the world around you and form you. Journalistic education is important because it will allow you to work on material and do literary editing of materials already written. The truth is that even spending four-five years in a university gives you something, not to mention that you aspire to work as an editor or editor-in-chief. For me an editor without higher education is a nonsense.

However, editors that came to the profession from other sectors of social sciences are less subjects for categorical championship of journalistic education’s supremacy. M.H. graduated from Baku State University in 1971 with a degree in philology and right of the university bench started to work in one of Azerbaijan’s oldest surviving newspapers Vyshka37 [Ru trans. tower] where worked for 40 years making advance from a trainee correspondent to an editor-in-chief.



For things to go smoothly in a newspaper, of course, it is highly desirable for an editor to have journalistic education. However, in our profession there are sometimes people, for example I know one who studied medicine and possesses better journalistic skills than I am. There are many such talented people around. I myself came to this profession from teaching. I was a village school teacher. In those days, journalism course in Russian was taught only as distance learning course and I did not want to do it that is why I studied philology that was taught in Russian language. Yet, I always wanted to be a journalist.

A dissonant voice among our female respondents was S.S., a female editor in Baki Xeber semi-independent newspaper that studied library science in a college and came to the profession as a result of a coincidence. Though other editors, especially those without university diploma in journalism stated that journalistic education is not important to enter journalism as a profession S.S. downplayed importance of higher education in general.



I don’t think that you necessarily need to have higher education for the job. We have professionals that are working with high school diploma. Journalism is such a sphere where stylistics is of the utmost importance. We have more than enough editors that made a name and are well-known even though had no specific journalistic education.

N.Y. who studied economy in an institute and along with S.S. represents the only two editors that posses institute diplomas is also in favor of language mastery over normative knowledge in a form of formal journalistic education.



One who aspires to work as an editor needs to know Azerbaijani language well. Firstly he needs to know grammar and secondly, he needs to feel the language. It is very important for editor’s work.

In our 2008 research report we have mentioned that among other findings our in-depth interviews with editors of twelve daily nationwide newspapers showed us deeply rooted problems with journalistic education quality in Azerbaijan. Some editors stated that they do not want to have young local journalism school graduates since as one of the editors put it, “their newspaper is not a learning facility” (Valiyev 2008). Female editors share negativity of their male colleagues regarding modern journalistic school noting that the failure of the system causes lack of professionalism and thus lack of respect towards journalists from general public. For example I.T. who studied journalism at Baku State University and worked for 33 years in media describes elite status of journalism students.



First of all, I obtained education in this sphere (journalism). Back in those days journalism faculty was considered one of the most prestigious. Students were not accepted in large numbers. For example if other faculties were accepting 75-100 students, journalism faculty accepted only 25 students.

To sum up this part, it is worthy to mention, that current research provided us with data, that allows us to state that educational cleavage among female editors is almost non existing and they present a homogenously well educated and experienced group of professionals that in majority received journalistic education in the Soviet era. Moreover, there is no gap that we found among male editors,, where educated and experienced journalists worked in state funded or government operated newspapers while less experienced and lacking journalistic education editors worked in semi-independent or oppositional newspapers. Female editors’ dominion are state founded or semi-independent newspapers. None of our respondents was affiliated with an oppositional newspaper and none had a degree in political science, the second major education field represented among male respondents. On the second place among female editors was philology, course considered in the Soviet times to be a second path towards journalistic career.


III.1.4 Work experience

Our research shows that female editors are not only better educated but also are generally better experienced than male editors. To remind the reader, male editors that participated in the 2008 research worked in media minimally 3 and maximally for 33 years while for female editors these values are 12 and 41 years respectively. Majority of female editors belong to the third experience cluster 30-40 years in mass media or in other words, majority of female editors worked even several decades before the independence of Azerbaijan in 1991. The oldest editor works in a state funded newspaper, however second oldest editor works in semi-independent regional newspaper and thus it would be wrong to draw parallel with male editors, where a group of old editors were to be found exclusively in a pro-government newspapers. However, two youngest females [both 39 at the time of the data collection] worked for semi-independent newspapers.


Notably, even the second research was unable to answer one of the most interesting questions – what is an average salary of Azerbaijani editor and especially a female editor. Thus, we are unable to prove or falsify statement that female professionals even though more experienced receive lesser salary than their male counterpart doing the same job. Tax evasion through double accounting when a real salary may far exceed official one as well as taboos imposed by Azerbaijani mentality and traditions are still there. Even though three years past since the original 2008 inquiry, researchers did not receive positive feedback during initial questioning and decided not to include salary amount question into the battery of questions leaving the issue open for future researchers to explore.
III.1.5 Job satisfaction and motivation of female editors

Our anonymous survey brought rather interesting results, seven editors as a reason for entering journalism checked the first box, stating that their journalistic career was a product of the education they received and 7 stated that they are where they are due to a coincidence of circumstances. None of female editors in our research selected the third option – the pragmatic existential reason for becoming a journalist or in other words they did not come there only for the money that the job offered.


Since majority of editors started their work in Soviet times, the most common issue for that group was Soviet censorship and lack of freedom of speech that they encountered in the beginning of their journalistic career. The best description of the censorship practice gives A.S. that started her career 31 years ago.

When I was working in the “7 days” newspaper the censorship was still around and a censor was looking after the newspaper’s content. That was the most disillusioning thing that I have encountered. I am mentioning the “7 days” newspaper as an example since there was a collective of professionals that wrote according to facts and their word had some weight. There were no bias statements to be found in that newspaper. I was writing critical articles that were based upon facts but after they were given to a censorial review the articles were coming back with white blank spaces where censor decided to ban the content. Censor was returning a beautiful article in a devastated form and that was making me really angry.

According to T.I. along with institutionalized censorship journalist in the Soviet Azerbaijan had to practice high degree of self-censorship and match her writing according to the communist ideology.



At the beginning, when I just arrived in journalism I was writing as I wanted but they kept correcting me and turning it into a template and stencil articles. I was really disappointing at the start, but then I got used to it.

Female editors, who came to the profession in the 90s stated that the most disillusioning aspect was low payment and value of journalistic work in the 90s. T.B. who works in mass media for 14 years recalls:



It was few years since we gained independence when I first came to profession I was surprised by low welfare of journalists and of those who worked in mass media. Most of them were in a state of bankruptcy and only those who loved this profession continued to work..

Among other things that fresh female journalists have encountered was brutality facing journalists in Azerbaijan. S.S. that came to journalism in the second half of the 1990s recalls:

I have started to work in 1998. At that time the most disappointing thing for me was to see how journalists were being beaten while covering some story. I mean they were going somewhere, working on their story, writing a report, uncovering something and as a result brutally beaten. As a young journalist I was considering that the same can happen to me.

Despite, initial hardships and disappointments female editors feel generally satisfied with their job. Yet, there are some that do not see editor’s office as a goal they have desired to achieve but as a necessity. M.H. considers her post as a necessary sacrifice for the well being of her newspaper where she has spent here entire career.



Editor’s chair never attracted me. I was chosen in the worst times ever, when Vyshka was in real straits. I didn’t want it. I am a creative person, I like to write and I never had anything to do with management. Ever since I was chosen to be the editor-in-chief I have no freedom. Just sit here all day and work goes on and on, one paper after another. That is why I say, I had to take this job since when I was selected in 1995 the “Vyshka” was literally sinking.

In our 2008 research with male editors we derived three types of motivation for being an editor in Azerbaijan that we can apply here as well. In the first category resided editors like N.M. praising creativity and freedom to express their own vision of how their newspaper should look like. The second category of editors believes that their actions as agenda setters might influence processes in the Azeri society and actually shape social discussion on pressing issues. U.A. editor-in-chief of a state-run journal:

Work of an editor attracts me first of all due to agenda setting process. I select agenda, I can say what is going to be in today’s edition, what is more actual. In other words choosing process is what attracts me.

M.H. is followed by her older colleagues N.M. and R.X. that both highlighted that for them the main joy in their work is to be on top of the decision making process, selection of topics as well as of newspaper staff. Still, even though, most of the female editors involved in our research received formal journalistic education and started their career well before the break up of the Soviet Union only two of them according to their answers shared the old-school understanding of influence as they did during the Soviet times. Editor-in-chief T.I:



Importance of my work is first of all opportunity in assisting development of social thought and provide correct direction for that thought to follow. I think that this is what the editor’s work is about.

Having covered motivation of the female editors we feel obligated to offer our readers some insight into their assessment of female journalists in the realm of Azerbaijani mass media and the ways they can possibly influence processes inside of Azerbaijani society. Our research did not come up with significant differences in assessments of influence between female editors and those male editors who took part in 2008 research. However, some female editors noted that females are pushed aside by their male colleagues. F.X:



You know, none of the largest newspapers, that are read and have power and influence in Azerbaijan have women as their editors. You know, I have brothers, fostered two sons, I have a husband but yet, I want to tell you that men lack what woman has in her spirit – completeness. That’s why there I see a need for women. For example, for 25 years late editor Chalida Chasirova lead magazine Azerbaijani woman. It was a marvelous magazine that provided real portrait of women in Azerbaijan. It is still published today, but they turned it into a catalogue that serves interests of some limited group of people. That’s why I regret that today in Azerbaijani press women that have experience and can say their own word have no place. For example there is organization Writers’ union of Azerbaijan that exists already for 65 years and during that period there was no woman chairman. The same refers to the Union of journalists of Azerbaijan. Why there can’t be a woman chairman?! Or in Artists union? Why do they push out women from those organizations?!

The straight-forward answer to this question provides F.N. :



I will speak frankly with you, members of the opposite sex are really jealous. For example, if a female journalist is awarded with some sort of merit degree they start to behave rudely towards her. They are really jealous of her and start to put spokes in her wheels, trying to complicate everything for her. It happened to me a lot and it cost me a lot of nerves, time and effort to overcome that. On the other hand, I would like to note that at the same time, with few exceptions, there are not a lot of skilled female journalists. Our males talk about gender equality but it should be in all areas, including journalism.

M.H. as one of the most experienced journalist in our research recalls, that even in “better” Soviet times female journalists had to fight for their job.



This is really hard profession for a woman. In Soviet times they did not allow a lot of women to do journalism because she had to move a lot, go to remote villages, from door to door, etc. My husband at the beginning was against, he was arguing that I will have to go to different factories, enter different houses, interview different men and I insisted that that is my job.

However, not all editors agree with that formulation. T.B who came to the profession in the 90s and after Azerbaijan became independent state says that there is no difference to which sex you belong.



I don’t think it matters in Azerbaijan if you are a woman or a man. If people know your writings you will be known, if not or in case if you are a beginner then there is no difference. Journalist works with people in the society and the most important thing is how you present yourself rather than what sex you belong to. Personally when I think of my influence I know that since I am not only journalist but also a writer and a poet people will listen to me. And if I go to some bureaucrat he will listen to me, and I can ask him something.

The same answer we received from the youngest in terms of experience female editor U.X.



I think that there is no actually a difference if an editor of a newspaper or a magazine is a woman or a man. There is no difference. The only thing that matters is their skills.

Getting back to the influence assessment, female editors generally believe that they have influence in society. For example we received almost identical answers from N.M. and R.X. where they wrote that they believe to have influence on what is going on in the society. A more lengthy answer provided S.S.



We are influencing processes that go on in our society by bringing to discussion social problems that later find their solution. It gives us joy. There are sometimes issues concerning pressing social problems and I am proud to say that we see their solution. And it gives us a stimulus that somewhere, somehow we helped to solve those issues.

Not all editors, however, are positive about influence that their profession has in the society. N.Y. editor of semi-independent newspaper:



In case if you talk about influence on high ranking government officials then the influence is almost zero because they feel above everyone and thus don’t care what is written about them. They can easily shake it off. The lower ranked officials are more opened towards media, but unfortunately they do not do it for common citizens but for high ranking officials to notice them and raise their salaries as a reward. I would like to highlight, that in my opinion in Azerbaijan there is no mass media that can influence public opinion.

There were also voices, similar to those of 2008 research that saw the biggest threat to low influence of modern journalism not in current political regime in Azerbaijan but in low quality newspapers and journalists that lower trust and legitimacy of journalism institution. N.M.:



You know, in terms of influence it does not matter if you are a woman or a man. After the independence journalism profession has lost its image and went down really low. The reason to that was that people that had no idea about this area rushed in the profession and started to present themselves as journalists. In my opinion they besmirched the name of the profession and I do not think that it will be easy to remove that stain. Now are different times. In Soviet times journalists were almost untouchable, they had different status and now they are like everybody else. I do not think that journalists have big influence. I just do not see it.

And the same as in our previous research editors voiced concern over existence in Azerbaijan of extortionist journalism that even more reduces trust in journalistic profession. The newspapers that are labeled to be extortionist have primary goals and motivation different from all of the cases mentioned above since their sole motivation is extortion of money by threat of publicity. Such “journalists” thrive on multiple law deviations committed by government officials, agencies, companies and firms. After finding out such fact these people contact respective actors and demand that unless they are paid they will publish the information (Valiyev 2008)





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