An Exclusive with Diane Walsh
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GWPF:  Diane, you have been a freelance journalist for several years.  I was once in the presence of someone who was of the impression that freelance meant you don’t get paid for your work.  Kindly explain what it means to be a freelance journalist.

Diane Walsh:  Importantly, the services of freelance journalists are certainly paid.

In common parlance, it can mean working for more than one employer at a time or imply not necessarily committed to a particular employer long-term. Being freelance (contrary to assumption) does not necessarily mean being a casual and/or struggling. Freelancing does however tend to assume that the writer has a large degree of freedom and professional mobility.

 

A freelance ‘journalist’ usually means a person who is ‘an independent’, e.g. an independent contractor who works on a per-job basis – that is paid by the word or as agreed on completed column/article. In the creative industries, there is a freelance union in New York City and there are a number of press clubs that journalists can join to ensure guidelines for employers are followed.

 

My journalist work is either independent or uses professional associations or websites to get work e.g. paydesk.co  grnlive.com or Find me paydesk.co. In addition, I am a professional fund-raiser/public relations and watchdog communicator.

 

Personally, I like the term, independent investigative journalist because it communicates right off the top that I can be counted on to do deep background research. I have a quaint but enhanced summary on my home page which, as it so happens, answers this very question as to what exactly I do. I have worked as a journalist since 2007 and researcher/watchdog. Prior to that, I worked for government community services in the field of the developmentally challenged and criminal justice.

GWPF:  You have covered cross-border issues from Europe to North America.  Tell us about some of your experiences in covering diverse issues in your career.

Diane Walsh:  I have spent many years on the road, travelling to different cities covering stories. I have a deep connection to the Bay Area in California and the Seattle and North Seattle region where I was involved with QLGBT communities and new trends in solar, organic farming, electric vehicles, and covering social-justice issues related to disenfranchised populations. As a member of SEJ, Society of Environmental Journalists, I began to learn more about farming practices, animal welfare and cetacean containment.

 

In Europe and North America I have covered FGM beat extensively and also closely followed Canada’s domestic and foreign policy issues, namely security concerns, political parties and corruption stories. I believe I had a hand in educating about the Stephen Harper Government years, which along with hundreds of thousands of others, led to the defeat of his government – a seemingly Canadian-version of the U.S. Trump phenomena.

 

More recently since 2012, I have been involved in the Washington DC area studying archives. As of this week, I am now a member of the National Press Club. I hope to be able to be instrumental in bringing in a speaker on FGM who could speak at one of our luncheons.

GWPF:  Investigative Journalism can at times include dangerous situations.  Please share with us some of those investigative experiences.

Diane Walsh:  On the most dangerous situations was quite recently when I was in St Andrews, Scotland where I was shocked to encounter cultural relativists espousing the need for the researcher *to interview the cutters*.  This strong-arm angle of research-approach proposed, tantamount to being perceived as condoning the practice, was the very opposite of what I hoped to do whilst I was there.

 

Indeed I completed the UK Postgraduate Certificate in Social Anthropology and worked to raise awareness of the #EndFGM and #NOFGM movements.

 

But the degree to which Anthropology is embedded in things we probably don’t want to talk about here was disturbing to say the least. Coupled with the manner that the UK treats EU citizens and/or internationals at a time where much paranoia exists, I would say that psychologically it was one of the most dangerous situations I have ever found myself in.

 

Luckily I already hold BA and MA degrees* so I was keenly aware of how the system works and was successful in getting Sociologist Hilary Burrage’s Anti-FGM groundbreaking book into the University of St Andrews library. A coup indeed!

 

But suffice to say that much more needs to be done to raise awareness of the political challenges facing FGM activists in the ivory towers of the United Kingdom.

GWPF:  Do you still have your blog?  Tell us about it.

Diane Walsh:  Yes I have two blogs. My journalism/research/communicator blog is

indy.dianewalsh.com My artist/ hobbyist blog is   tiddletaddle.wordpress.com

I always appreciate readers who take the time to peruse the pages carefully as there is a lot there. I have been a writer and artistic creator for nearly 10 years, so as you imagine, with my optimistic personality, have diligently and craftily archived all my work on these precious blogs. My signature style is of accessibility and friendliness and I seek to make connections between the creative industries (i.e. the art and writing worlds) motivating political art and probing journalistic topics of my choosing.

 

But as President Obama said just recently to the Press Corps in DC, journalists have to do better. As an investigative journalist and network connector, I know all too well, the difficulties and so I was immensely appreciative of the plug he (perhaps unwittingly) ‘put in’ for ‘the investigative journalist’ as it happened on the very day I was admitted to the National Press Club.

GWPF:  You traveled all the way from Canada in 2014 to cover the first Walk to End FGM in Washington, D.C., hosted by Global Woman P.E.A.C.E. Foundation.  What inspired you to start reporting on this particular issue?

Diane Walsh:  I read and collate various organizations fighting FGM. I was particularly impressed with G.W.P.F.’s organizational skills, reach-ability, and clarity of mission. Many groups previously (and sadly – still – nowadays) water down their mission in order to scoop funding. I felt that your organization was genuine in its effort to eradicate FGM in the USA and not try and pretend that this is all about a discussion-only of circumcision.

 

I have been writing about FGM since 2009. More specifically as a correspondent leading up the 2012 United Nations FGM Global Resolution . I like to highlight an international consolidation of efforts. I found G.W.P.F. to be on the cutting edge in its willingness to partner with international groups toward the aim of the eradication of FGM.

GWPF:  And you were in post-graduate school in the U.K. for FGM research.  How did that go?

Diane Walsh:  Yes I finished and received my Postgraduate Certificate on Jan 25, 2016 which was as far as I chose to go with my funding op. I am still involved with students and professors to continue to raise awareness in Scotland, and all of the UK actually. I have not ruled out ongoing postgraduate research but mine would need to be entirely funded.

 

As an FGM activist, I have donated thousands of pounds and American/CDN dollars and I believe that it is now time for the Ivy League universities to step up and fund FGM research. This is why the Global Alliance against FGM based out of Geneva and around the world launched the University Chair Project to get universities on board with this endeavor.  It is important that FGM research of this nature is properly funded.

 

That said – I continue to have press bases in the UK and North America. In addition, I report on the valuable work of FM/AM, FGM, and VAW colleagues in Europe, USA, and Canada such as Educate to Eradicate. I have been a member of the Foreign Press Association (FPA) – London Office – since 2011 which gives me access to press-only communications, Whitehall events and various police-bodies communiqués.  My area of specialty is as a connector, a prober, a mover, and international conduit. I like to describe my work as an international consolidator of anti-FGM efforts.  I have been media-accredited by the United Nations 3x in both New York City and Geneva campuses and intend to continue my work on the global stage reporting on FGM.

GWPF:  How impactful do you believe your research on FGM is going to be for women and girls in the world?

Diane Walsh:  My work is on the internet and it’s hard to gauge the impact of one’s work. One can only hope to have reached as many sincere people as possible who are inspired to pick up the torch.

GWPF:  Tell us about your multi-media company, Mediageode GT, Inc.

Diane Walsh:  Mediageode is my D.B.A name and in this way, I contract professional services. It covers my research endeavors, journalism, and my content-creator projects.

GWPF:  What other issues beside FGM do you investigate and report?

Diane Walsh:  I have a long-standing column in Lower Island News on Vancouver Island and there I cover local issues to Vancouver and Gulf Islands British Columbia elections and interesting-people. I also do a lot of social media outreach and networking. It has an international/cross-border reporting beat, which I participate in.

GWPF:  One of the challenges we have in our work is getting enough media coverage on FGM.  Why do you think the media in the U.S. is reluctant to discuss and cover FGM?

Diane Walsh:  It is probably because to discuss it would then lead to the logical probe of FGM in America!  Mainstream media has a tendency to gloss over or not delve deeply-enough into the recognition of many threats to women and young people. FGM journalism-beat requires getting dirty, getting wet, getting even bloody sometimes. That is why I am pushing a media-consortium and corresponding global portal that tracks and taps the work and resources of the anti-FGM movement. Readers interested, feel free to inquire for more info.

GWPF:  As a journalist who reports on FGM, what advice do you have for other members of the media?

Diane Walsh:  When it comes to FGM, there is no such thing as objectivity. There are not two sides of the story. It is a bit like covering violence against women, you can’t write being in favor of bruising a woman’s face or giving her a black eye. You have to have the courage to fight upstream against cultural relativists who steer you away from deep coverage. I try and focus on FGM as a crime beat and as a child abuse that needs to be exposed to the light of day.

GWPF:  Where do you see your investigative reporting on FGM in 5 years?

Diane Walsh:  Hopefully a well-funded crime beat.

GWPF:  Do you foresee a day when FGM will be a thing of the past?

Diane Walsh:  Yes. Definitely, it is possible.

GWPF:  Do you have a word of courage for women who have experienced FGM?

Diane Walsh:  Yell from the rooftops! There is so much love out there, so many hugs, so many women who’ve themselves experienced deathly pain and lived – there is a community and there is a way forward from pain.

GWPF:  Lastly, do you have any advice for FGM activists?

Diane Walsh:  Stay the course. Continue to pressure government, the people will come. The movement is growing. The private sector support is not far off. Many with proper funds are already getting involved. Eradicate the lies. Challenge the cultural relativists. Join this global portal – global alliance against FGM, connect with G.W.P.F!           ~ @dwalshmedia  #GAFGM

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Diane Walsh 2

2016

U St Andrews UK Postgraduate Certificate social anthropology

UVIC CANADA Master of Arts interdisciplinary policy studies

UBC CANADA Bachelor of Arts political science

Join us next week when we introduce you to another fascinating woman.