Catherine Combs

October, 2019


Why are organizations like the Alliance for Women in Media so important today?

By Vanessa Arredondo, 2019 Emerging Voices Scholarship Recipient

Women are making significant strides in media and mass communications. More women are directing films, becoming war correspondents and taking on executive roles. But despite an increase of gender diversity in fields where there has historically been none, women are still vastly underrepresented and undistinguished for their accomplishments in news media.

According to the Columbia Journalism Review, only 16 percent of all Pulitzer Prize winners in the 100 years of the award’s existence have been women.

A lack of representation and acknowledgement make it necessary to have organizations such as the Alliance for Women in Media (AWM). Every year, the institution awards its Gracies Leadership Award to women who have made significant impacts and inspirational contributions to the business. The annual Gracies Awards recognize women who are making positive social changes by increasing visibility for women and their narratives in media and entertainment.

The organization, created by women for women, not only celebrates the various accomplishments of women in media, but encourages, supports, educates and trains the next generation who wish to pursue a career in the industry.

Educating and supporting women to pursue a career in media is a fundamental goal for the AWM—and for good reason. According to the Women’s Media Center (WMC), women receive 37 percent of bylines and credits across all news platforms.

A study by the Pew Research Center determined that the percentage of white and male workers in U.S. newsrooms was higher than national workforce rates. The nation’s 135 most widely circulated newspapers have an overwhelmingly male and white editorial staff, according to the Columbia Journalism Review. This is all in spite of the fact that women continue to outnumber men in college and university journalism programs, according to the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication.

A lack of women in news means that many stories, especially those sensitive to gender politics, are reported with a male perspective. Studies show that men receive more bylines for articles about women’s reproductive rights. Additionally, a 2017 Washington Post Op-Ed states that, across all media groups, only 27 percent of the people quoted in a male journalist’s article were women.

Without female reporters, 50 percent of the population are less likely to be given an appropriate platform to speak. Equal representation can be easily achieved by hiring more women in newsrooms. Studies show that women are more likely to include women sources in their reporting. Increasing diversity in the newsroom allows for more well-rounded reporting.

Through organizations such as the AWM, women can network and meet talented, successful and up-and-coming women in the media industry who can guide them on how to start their careers or help them get their foot in the door. AWM allows women to raise each other up, look out for each other and celebrate the amazing things others might have overlooked.

Catherine Combs

October, 2019


Vanessa Arredondo, Ford Emerging Voices Scholarship Recipient

Vanessa Arredondo’s Scholarship-Winning Essay

I walked into the newsroom fifteen minutes after midnight, late, my apology ready at the lips. The lights were on; reporters and editors were frantically running around, yelling commands and information. The newsroom, that was usually quiet until reporters started trickling in at 3 a.m., was buzzing with excitement.

I had just walked into my ABC 7 Early Morning News internship half an hour after news broke of a mass shooting at the Thousand Oaks Borderline Bar & Grill.

As a student journalist, this incident has been the most significant media event in my life, because it is the first national breaking news story in which I was part of the news-gathering process, working alongside writers, editors and reporters. It provided me with a chance to put my knowledge to the test in a high-pressure situation, dealing with an incredibly sensitive subject. It also made me seriously consider how this career path can weigh on one’s mental and emotional well-being.

That night, I answered phone calls, monitored social media for official updates, watched the Air 7 helicopter feed in police rescue efforts, and contacted witnesses and families of victims to give us details about the incident. I tried my best to be sensitive, thanking people for speaking with me and wishing them well.

Thousand Oaks was about a half hour away. It was a city that people didn’t know about unless they had connections to the San Fernando Valley. To us, it was an affluent neighborhood, quiet and safe. Now it has become known for this.

My shift ended at 8 a.m., and I was off until Tuesday. I had a lot of time to reflect during that weekend, and I wondered: How do journalists do this every day? How can they see so much tragedy and continue with this career path?

The shooting in Thousand Oaks made me realize that anything can happen anywhere. For a while, I didn’t leave the safety of my home. I thought about the sarcastic mantra “If it bleeds, it leads,” and was reminded of the freeway accidents we covered and the gruesome caught-on-video attacks that we pulled from the internet.

I spoke to journalists and professors about covering tragedy, and many told me they had to desensitize themselves early in their careers. Some had to step away from their jobs for a period of time after a particularly harrowing event.

Because of this incident, I reflected on what measures I would take to care for my emotional and mental needs. It made me realize that sensitivity is not antithetical to good journalism. I saw that people want and need to be heard, and journalists can act as facilitators to accomplish that.

As I continue my practice as a reporter for UC Berkeley’s student newspaper the Daily Californian, I find myself gravitating toward stories that underscore issues in communities. I would like for my journalism to serve as a platform for those who are underserved and struggling, for those who aren’t being heard. 

Catherine Combs

September, 2019


“Let Your Life Do the Singing”

By Rashida Jones, senior vice president for specials at NBC News and MSNBC, and Gracies Ambassador

O Hampton, we never can make thee a song,

Except as our lives do the singing,

In service that will thy great spirit prolong,

And send it through centuries ringing!

At 17 years and seven months, I first sang this phrase with hundreds of other students who matriculated to my alma mater, Hampton University. It is part of our school song, a song students learn as Freshman and never repeat again until they walk across the stage at graduation. 

The concept is a weighty one. Build a profile that represents who you are, so people have a clear picture of your brand without you having to utter a word. At 17 years and seven months, I had no idea what song I wanted my life to sing. I had no concept of what mark I wanted to make in my field or in my community. 

But I learned early on the importance of this philosophy and it’s one that has stuck with me decades later.

Your daily actions color how people view your work ethic and character. Volunteer for a work project and your bosses see you as ambitious. Go out of your way to acknowledge your colleagues on their big wins and others characterize you as gracious and kind. The opposite can be true-get caught up in office gossip and your peers see you as petty and unprofessional. Show up to meetings late and unprepared and colleagues may think you are lazy and don’t care about your work.  

It is not all about impressing others. In fact, it’s not at *all* about impressing anyone. It is all about choosing to make decisions that reflect the best version of you that you can offer. Are YOU happy with the story you tell? Do YOU feel like you are being your best self? Does YOUR life pay homage to those who have sacrificed for you to reach certain heights? 

As you think about the song your life is singing, it’s important you maintain a sense of authenticity while creating purpose. Do not create an artificial version of yourself. You will never be able to sustain the caricature and it’s demoralizing to not be authentically you. You just have to own it and be purposeful in how you represent yourself. 

We’ll treasure the dear happy days

We’ve spent here in life’s preparation,

Yet go with brave hearts upon our chosen ways,

Of service to God and our nation.

The ode ends with a charge to each of us to serve. When painting the picture of who you are and what you represent, if your greatest accomplishments do not reflect what you have done to help others, then you still have a lot of work to do. As women, it is our responsibility to ensure we are doing everything we can to help others find their purpose and help script the songs they want their lives to sing. It is our responsibility to bring someone else along for the ride.

Catherine Combs

August, 2019


Tracey Quezada’s Winning Entry for the 2019 Ford “Empowering America” Scholarship

Tracey Quezada, the winner of the 2019 Ford “Empowering America” Scholarship, submitted this video profiling Danielle Castro, a transgender, Latina activist. Tracey is pursuing a Masters in Journalism at UC Berkeley.

Tracey Quezada’s Winning Entry

Catherine Combs

August, 2019


(Dis)ability is Not Inability

By Julia Morrison, 2019 Loreen Arbus Foundation & AWMF Scholarship Winner

If all determination is through negation, then disability is not inability, nor is it a lack of strength, desire or resolve. (Dis)ability is an opportunity to explore what it means to be a human being in all of our infinite glory. The Latin prefix dis- means ‘apart’; disability as apart from ability, but not as mutually exclusive. What may constrain a person in one area may liberate them in another through the gift of profound insight. Some of humanity’s most important discoveries were born from the minds of those who struggled with disabilities, people whose experience of time & the universe were unlike the experiences of others. Among those who have contributed groundbreaking insight to humankind include dyslexic Albert Einstein, who gave us the theory of relativity; theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, bound to a wheelchair & dependent on a computerized voice, transported us to other dimensions of space-time with a theory of cosmology; A Beautiful Mind mathematician John Nash Jr closed gaps in game theory with his internal life rich with numbers & schizophrenic characters; Thomas Edison, America’s greatest inventor of the motion picture camera, electric light bulb & more, made use of a hearing aid; & life-long disability advocate Helen Keller, who touched the lives of millions with her unparalleled vision for peace & radical progress even though she couldn’t see or hear a thing. I believe that Ability is a philosophy of life rooted in the spirit of the scientific method, for better it is to try, fail & try again, then never to have tried at all.

Language is the key, but where is the door? The words we choose to define our lives, ourselves, & each other are inextricably tied to the outcomes we receive. Words take shape, giving form to ideas like seeds give sprout to trees in an old growth forest. My speech impediment led me to study my voice & language, practices that serve me well as the artist, actress & writer I am. I may not have pronounced clearly my ‘R’s’ until the age of thirteen, but that didn’t stop me from speaking poetry as a child or my truth loud enough to send the man who molested me years earlier to prison in third grade – the same year I started speech therapy. To some, I could have been from New England, while others insisted I spoke like a baby. Random kids I’d never seen or met before would demand I entertain them a few sentences as I’d try to pass in the hallway. They’d sneak in one more laugh, meanwhile I’d find another time & place pretending to be dinosaurs with a few friends on the school’s front lawn. But even my best friends couldn’t resist the temptation to interrupt me mid-sentence to showcase their best rendition of “I park my car in Harvard yard” & wait for me to say it in turn. “C’mon, say it: I pahk my cah in Hahvahd yahd”, they’d push until I’d cave like the prehistoric bones in my velociraptor body.

The year preceding my graduation from speech therapy was wild: my brother & I were homeless, Columbine happened, Clinton faced impeachment & my Grandma died while the whole world watched, anxious with anticipation as Y2K came & never showed up. But I was used to things & people not showing up by then. As someone who overcame my impediment later in life & a child of foster care, I was surprised to learn that 70% of children in the foster system struggle with an impediment or disability. I am beyond grateful for my school for identifying my speech impediment & getting me the therapy I needed. I even looked forward to the hour I’d spend every Friday during my Physical Education class working on my speech while my peers ran a mile around the racetrack. Instead I got to be inside perusing images, shapes, colors, & syllables while practicing my ‘R’ sound in a small room wedged between the main office & the boys’ bath woom – excuse me: room. To this day I slip up in speech when I’m anxious, but my therapist taught me there is nothing we cannot achieve when we take our time & articulate our target outcome into a series of clear, identifiable steps. Figuring out how different parts of my tongue fit into the corners of my upper cleft & met my individual teeth was like finding a whole new landscape within myself – a body map defined yet free from border. In facing my struggle, I discovered new parts of my Self.

I believe in the power of film to ignite social change, catalyze catharsis for self-growth & most importantly: heal. I hope to use my story to help people. Music, myth & metaphor are the three most powerful signatures in the world, which is why I cherish the art of cinema. I aim to maximize my focus over these next few years in my educational career so I may pay this debt forward in the aspiration of helping others. My next great challenge is to honor the girl I raised to turn the page & deliver her story to the big screen. As an actress, artist, & activist, I can appreciate that some of the greatest moments in our lives have the power to render us disabled: the butterfly in our stomach that takes our breath away, the cries of a man as he screams “I can’t breathe’ that render us speechless, or the depressive spell that seeps into every facet of our lives & cripples our spirit. Whether it be physical, that moment we jumped & took a risk, or something intangible, extreme vulnerability harbors an ancient wealth, 1 a secret gem unique to each individual that only she can mine, for in the struggle of its discovery holds the truth behind what makes the human spirit the most dynamic force in the world, as the butterfly strengthens its wings breaking from its cocoon to fly.

On my last day in speech therapy, my therapist paused, expressing concern about my ‘-ing’ sound. I let out a sigh resounding throughout the hallway, closing the door behind me as she pulled out a deck of cards I’d never seen before. I read them off for her one at a time:











“How’s that,” I begged her, “is that good enough?”

She smiled & said, “You’re good to go”.

Catherine Combs

June, 2019



TODAY’s Sheinelle Jones to Host and Pop Artist Brynn Elliott to Perform
on June 26 at Cipriani 42nd Street

The leadership of the Alliance for Women in Media Foundation (AWMF) announces that Erin Moriarty, “48 Hours correspondent, will be honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 44th Annual Gracie Awards Luncheon to be presented to her by Susan Zirinsky, president and senior executive producer, CBS News. Hosting the luncheon will be another television news veteran, Sheinelle Jones, co-anchor of “Weekend TODAY and co-host of the “3rd Hour of TODAY.” The annual Gracies Luncheon set for June 26 at Cipriani 42nd Street in New York City honors individual achievement and outstanding programming at the local level for television and radio, public radio and students in television, radio and interactive media.

The Gracie Awards recognize exemplary content created by, for and about women in all facets of media and entertainment. Given this year to Moriarty, who has covered some of the biggest crime and justice stories for three decades for CBS News, the Gracies Lifetime Achievement Award honors a woman in media who exemplifies and embodies the essence of the iconic trailblazer, the late Gracie Allen, the namesake of The Gracie Awards.

“The Gracie Awards celebrate the bravery of storytellers to share relevant, compelling content while pushing boundaries to create an environment of equality,” said AWM/F Chair Christine Travaglini, President, Katz Radio Group. AWM/F Executive Director Becky Brooks added, “Throughout her 40-year journalism career, Erin Moriarty’s well-researched, diligent approach to covering stories about crime and justice, about consumer issues and much more has been consistent and illustrates why she is so worthy of this Lifetime Achievement Award.  Through the Gracies, we are incredibly proud to honor and celebrate outstanding talent and content by, for and about women.”

Highlights of Moriarty’s award-winning career include:

  • Moriarty earned a law degree from Ohio State University in 1977.
  • In 1986, Moriarty began her career at CBS News as a consumer correspondent for “CBS This Morning” and “CBS Evening News with Dan Rather.”
  • She has served as correspondent on CBS News’ “48 Hours” since 1990.
  • She also reports for “CBS Sunday Morning.”
  • A three-time Gracie Award winner, she has also won nine Emmy Awards.

Due to her training as a lawyer, Moriarty has covered some of the most important social and legal issues in the last three decades, including cold cases, DNA testing of evidence in death-row cases, wrongful convictions and spousal abuse.  She was also part of the team that covered the Newtown, Conn. elementary school shooting, which earned CBS News a DuPont-Columbia award. 

“This is an incredible honor to receive this Gracie from the Alliance for Women in Media,” said Erin Moriarty. “It is truly humbling to be recognized with this award and to join the list of notable women who have come before me. It is because of this organization that I, and so many others, have flourished in our profession.”

Gracies Luncheon host Sheinelle Jones is a co-anchor of NBC News’ “Weekend TODAY, a co-host of “3rd Hour of TODAY and she hosts “TODAY’s” digital series, “Through Mom’s Eyeswhileco-hosting “Off the Rails”, a Sirius XM radio show with NBC’s Al Roker and Dylan Dreyer.  Jones joined “TODAY” in 2014 and has since covered breaking news events and human-interest stories.  Prior to joining “TODAY”, she served as co-host of FOX’s “Good Day Philadelphia.”

“It’s an honor to host the Gracies and to be among the most inspiring, empowering and talented women in our business,” said Jones. 

Performing at the Luncheon will be singer-songwriter Brynn Elliott.  In the past few years, Elliott has signed with Atlantic Records, graduated from Harvard University and played over 250 shows.  Brynn has performed on the “TODAY” show, MTV’s “TRL”, and “Live with Kelly and Ryan” and has spent the last year touring with artists such as Why Don’t We and AJ Mitchell. 

The National Gracie Award honorees were recognized at the Gracies Gala, May 21, at The Beverly Wilshire in Beverly Hills. A full list of recipients may be found on the Alliance for Women in Media website. For more information about the 2019 Gracies Luncheon or to secure tickets, please visit HERE.

About the Alliance for Women in Media Foundation and The Gracie Awards – The Alliance for Women in Media Foundation (formerly known as The Foundation of American Women in Radio & Television) supports and promotes educational programs, and scholarships to benefit the media, the public, and allied fields. The Alliance for Women in Media Foundation has created partnerships and joint initiatives with the Emma Bowen Foundation, NCTA, NAB and other organizations that are philosophically aligned with the mission of the Foundation. In addition to giving $20,000 a year in scholarships to deserving female students, the Foundation also produces nationally acclaimed recognition programs, including the Gracie Awards that exemplary honor programming created by, for and about women. For more information about The Alliance for Women in Media, please visit: and follow on Twitter, Instagram (@AllWomeninMedia) (#TheGracies), and Facebook. Sponsors of The Gracies Luncheon include Beasley Media Group, CBS Corporation, Cox Media Group, Cumulus Media, Discovery, Inc., Entercom, Hofstra, iHeartMedia, Inc., Katz Media Group, Lerman Senter, NAB, NBC, NCTA – The Internet and Television Association, Sinclair Broadcast Group, Tegna, Townsquare Media, and vCreative.

Catherine Combs

May, 2019


The Gracie Awards Livestream

Click on the link below to tune in to the fun:

Catherine Combs

April, 2019


Natalie Edelstein, 2018 Ford “Emerging Voices” Scholarship Recipient

For my final blog post for the Alliance for Women in Media, I wanted to express my gratitude for the organization and all that it does to advance diversity and inclusion in the industry.

Formed in 1951, the organization was known as the American Women in Radio and Television and was a part of the women’s division of the National Association of Broadcasters. That same year, Marguerite Higgins became the first woman to win a Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting. It was a historic time for women in the industry, however women were not being recognized to the same degree as their male colleagues, nor did they have the same professional opportunities.

As time went on, the Alliance for Women in Media continued to develop new ways to advance opportunities for women. In 1960 the alliance became the first professional broadcasting organization to establish an educational foundation, and in 1975, they began an annual award program recognizing the people in the media that represented the changing roles, issues, and concerns of women. Around that time Cosmopolitan Magazine relaunched as a magazine for women with Helen Gurley Brown as its first Editor in Chief and a few years later, Barbara Walters became the first female news anchor on network television. In 1978 Boylan et al v. The New York Times became a landmark case for female journalists. The ruling allowed women the same promotion opportunities as men as well as equal pay.

Despite these groundbreaking moments, there is still work for the Alliance to do. A report from the United Nations, that utilize research spanning more than 100 countries, found that 46% of news stories, in print and on radio and television, uphold gender stereotypes, while only 6% highlight gender equality. According to another global study spanning 522 news media organizations, behind the scenes, men still occupy 73% of top media management positions.  Additionally, while women represent half of the world’s population, less than one third of all speaking characters in film are female.

From 1951 to today, the work the Alliance for Women in Media does is vitally important to the longevity of the media industry. Their scholarships support young women across the industry at schools all over the nation in their pursuit of journalism, communication, film and other degrees. The Gracie Awards allow those who work tirelessly to better the industry a moment of recognition and the programming and events the Alliance works on allows women to network and learn from experts in the industry.

I feel immensely grateful to have been selected to represent the Alliance this year. The scholarship I received has helped me pursue my MA in Strategic Communication and better understand the media landscape and the issues facing the industry today. I look forward to participating in events with the Alliance for Women in Media long after my scholarship comes to an end.

Catherine Combs

April, 2019





Local and Student Award Winners to be Honored at the Gracie Awards Luncheon on June 26 in New York City Honored at the Gracie Awards Luncheon on June 26 in New York City

LOS ANGELES (April 16, 2019) – The Alliance for Women in Media Foundation (AWMF) announced the winners of the 44th annual Gracie Awards to take place May 21 at the Four Seasons Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Los Angeles. The event will recognize such esteemed honorees as Sandra Oh, Tisha Thompson, Rachel Maddow, Connie Britton, Elizabeth Perkins, Patricia Arquette, Leah Remini, Robin Roberts, Laura Lynch, Rachel Bloom, Angela Yee, Maura Tierney, Hoda Kotb and Savannah Guthrie, along with some of the most talented women in television, radio and digital media. Local and student award winners will be recognized at the Gracie Awards Luncheon on June 26 at Cipriani in New York City.

Becky Brooks, Executive Director, Alliance for Women in Media Foundation stated, “Our leadership is proud to honor the best of the best who embody the spirit and intention of the Alliance for Women in Media Foundation’s Gracie Awards.” Christine Travaglini, President, Katz Radio Group and Chair of the Board of Directors continued, “In the more than four decades since the inception of the Gracie Awards – what stands out in 2019 is bravery. The courage of storytellers to share poignant, relevant and compelling content. This will be a year of true celebration.”

The Gracies recognize exemplary programming created by, for and about women in radio, television, cable and interactive media. Honorees are selected in national, local and student markets, including both commercial and non-commercial outlets.

In the fourth consecutive year as Executive Producer, Vicangelo Bulluck will spotlight these prolific women in the industry who continue to inspire and support others, break down barriers, and lead by example in creating opportunity for future generations.

Sponsors of The Gracies include Ford Motor Company, Crown Media Group, CNN, CBS Corporation, Discovery, Inc., NCTA – The Internet and Television Association, NPR, Premiere Networks, SiriusXM, Katz Media Group, Sun Broadcast Group, Beasley Media Group, Cox Media Group, vCreative, Entercom and Hofstra University.

To see the full list of winners, visit .

Catherine Combs

March, 2019


Natalie Edelstein, 2018 “Emerging Voices” Scholarship Recipient

As I sat and watched the 91st Academy Awards from my couch on Sunday, February 24th, I couldn’t help but notice that the awards this time felt a little different. Seeing women like Yalitza Aparicio and Regina King nominated for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress, respectively, was a truly exciting moment and got me thinking about the importance of representation. While Hollywood still has a long way to go, some of this year’s biggest blockbuster hits, like Crazy Rich Asians and Black Panther, have done a great job elevating the conversation about representation in the media.

Carlos Cortes, author of The Children Are Watching: How the Media Teach About Diversity, offers a significant example of why representation matters in his article “A Long Way to Go: Minorities and the Media”.  Cortes examines a 1986 episode of The $25,000 Pyramid, where one contestant was attempting to give his partner clues to help him guess the word on screen correctly and earn money. During this specific episode, the word “gangs” came up on the cluer’s screen. Cortes explains, “without hesitation, he fired out the first thing that came to his mind: ‘They have lots of these in East L.A.” (a heavily Mexican-American area of Los Angeles).  Responding at once, his guest celebrity partner answered, gangs. Under competitive pressure, two strangers had immediately and viscerally linked “East LA” with “gangs.” Cortes goes on to explain that representation in mass media is to blame for this immediate association of gangs and a predominantly Latino part of Los Angeles. Cortes states that “the entertainment media have offered a comparatively narrow range of other Latino characters, while the news media have provided relatively sparse coverage of other Hispanic topics, except for such problem” issues as immigration and language. The result has been a Latino public image — better yet, a stereotype — in which gangs figure prominently.”

Cortes’ assessment is an important one. It is the job of media professionals to make sure everyone sees themselves accurately represented in movies and news stories, and while we are far from a perfectly representative media landscape, we are making great strides to tell better, more inclusive stories. Media professionals across the country must continue to make commitments to tell more diverse stories so that more young woman can look at their televisions and say, “She looks like me”.