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Published on Mommy Tracked (http://www.mommytracked.com)

Lisa Stone

 

Lisa Stone

Lisa Stone was a longtime journalist, a new mom and a new divorcee when she took a big risk. She left the traditional male-heavy newsroom in 1997 and delved into the world of the Internet in part to have more flexibility to care for her son, then just a year old. At the helm of numerous blogging networks, she became the first Internet journalist awarded a Nieman Fellowship by Harvard University. Frustrated by some mainstream media’s discussion — and exclusion — of women, particularly women bloggers, Stone and friends Jory Des Jardins and Elisa Camahort Page created a bloggers’ conference for women in 2005, and BlogHer [1] was born. The go-to website for women, BlogHer reaches more than 14 million women monthly through its website, annual conferences and publishing networks. After raising her son alone for eight years, Stone and her partner, Chris Carfi, moved in Brady Bunch-style in Half Moon Bay with three kids between them.

 

 

 

 

You were a working single mom for many years. What were the biggest challenges?

 

Sleep deprivation and solitude. During that time, as I was supporting my son, I felt I was never done working. Never. For one four-year period I slept an average of three to four hours a night, a huge mistake that really damaged my health. The smartest thing I did was to apply for and accept a nine-month fellowship that allowed me to pick up my son from kindergarten every day. That was a life-changing blessing for which I am grateful to this day.

 

Did you have to make professional sacrifices to be a more present parent?

 

A friend once said to me, “You know Lisa, you're good. I think the only thing holding you back is parenthood.” This was a friend who, like me, loves reporting live news. But she was wrong about me, because I don't feel held back by anything. I made some very deliberate choices that I'm happy with — the kinds of enviable choices, let's face it, that an employable grown woman with a four-year college degree and no special health needs for herself or her child can afford to make.

Once I decided to have a child, at 29, I knew that to be the parent I wanted to be, I was making a decision not to pursue certain jobs. I have specifically gone after competitive opportunities where I felt incredibly excited to contribute — and also believed I could be present as a mother in a way that was appropriate for his age. I walked away from the newsroom and the daily news cycle. I didn't try to travel overseas or too regularly. I chose Internet jobs to control my schedule and amazing employers who would work with me. But I was there for my son in the way I wanted to be there for him. Now that he's 13 and really on his way to adulthood, I'm just glad that I'm the one driving him to and from school most days so that I can extort a conversation! And when I do have to travel, I suspect he doesn't mind the alone time he gets with his stepfather and his grandparents.

You have said that you love the word "mommy." Why do women still struggle with that term and has the Internet helped them embrace that or made it worse?

 

I cannot speak for other women but I have never interpreted “mommy” as diminutive … because I hold my own mother, Janet Stone, in such esteem. She is one of the smartest, most talented and uniquely insightful women I have ever met, and “mommy” was my first name for her. It's a personal badge of honor for me, a name I always hoped I could earn myself.

That said, I once had a meeting with a traditional media outlet where their head of sales rolled his eyes at me and said, “Listen, soccer moms and mommybloggers just aren't our target. We seek a much more upscale demographic.” I smiled, nodded and thought about the mind-blowing purchasing power and consumer demographic of the mothers BlogHer surveys. Who has the last laugh? We do: That same organization now has two high-profile women blogging about motherhood on their site.

 

Do you think traditional media has failed women?

 

Yes and no.

No, because thanks to newspapers, magazines, radio and television, I've gotten to experience the talents of women like Nina Totenberg, Lauren Zalaznick, Tina Fey, Gwen Ifill and, yes, Oprah, from the comfort of my own sofa. These are women who make me laugh, cry and swear, so superb is their ability to report and tell stories. And these women tend to raise the bar for all media professionals when they do, regardless of gender.

Yes, because today women still constitute the minority of writers for op-ed pages in major metro newspapers. We the female people of the United States alone represent the majority — overall, of voters, of consumers and of Internet users. And yet when it comes to public debate over the future direction of this country on the newspapers that have formed the backbone of our democracy and been used to demonstrate leadership, we have barely clawed our way into double-digit representation.

Fortunately the Internet has arrived, and women are blogging and using social media to discuss every topic under the sun, from pregnancy to politics. Of the 10 most popular posts on BlogHer.com in 2008, fully seven were about the presidential election.

The Internet is a meritocracy for women whether we have children or not — and women are no longer waiting for permission or validation from traditional media. We're publishing ourselves and each other. So the new question is: How can women fulfill our potential in new media? Internet users have an insatiable appetite for new, creative voices, and I just love that.

What does BlogHer offer women?

 

Our mission is to create opportunities for women who blog to gain additional exposure, education, community and economic empowerment. We are working to spotlight women who blog and give them an opportunity to grow their readership, their influence and credibility, their personal brands and networks and ultimately their pocketbooks.

 

How has starting BlogHer changed your life, good and bad, especially as a parent?

 

I actually do want it all — I want to be Martha Stewart and Marion Wright Edelman and many other people — but I have accepted that I just cannot do it all at the same time. Despite the wild hours and regular travel, I think BlogHer also has made me a better parent because I relentlessly schedule my time with the kids.

 

You said recently that your favorite blogs to read are ones that you wish you had when you were a single mom with a baby. What were you searching for?

 

I was searching to be less lonely. I was not a single mother by choice, which I think is a different situation. I experienced divorce, disappointment and recovery. Parenting by myself was the loneliest thing I've ever done. I desperately needed a place I could discuss how to manage flying solo. I made a decision at the time never to discuss my situation at work or with the mothers in my mom's group — the community where I lived was just too small. I also think I would have found what I needed most but didn't know to search for: Friendship, camaraderie and women who write so funny you cannot stop laughing. Or reading them.

You work in the online world and you met your partner online, so you’ve experienced a lot of positives from the Internet. But are there some things about the blogging world you don’t like?

 

I have no idea how many women have e-mailed and telephoned me about attacks via IM, IRC chat, message boards, e-mail and blog comments. These attacks use language that describes detailed rape, dismemberment, profanity and indescribably sick images. The goal? Abuse and humiliation of women. These assaults are happening to women blogging in every corner of the Internet — food bloggers, political bloggers, feminist bloggers, tech bloggers, entertainment bloggers and — perhaps especially – mommybloggers. The truly sad part: In every medium I've worked in, women get more than their share of the hate mail.

Now, I don't believe in a universal code of conduct across the Internet. The First Amendment is sacred to me as a journalist. But hate speech is forbidden on BlogHer. I think every community that wants to take care of its members is served well by a guideline that clarifies what will and what will not be tolerated.

 

What do you see as the next step for BlogHer and for the blogging world in general?

 

Women online — and mothers online — are coming into a period of wonderful acknowledgement of our power as writers and as consumers. According to BlogHer's 2009 Women and Social Media Study [2] by BlogHer, iVillage and Compass Partners, women are nearly twice as likely to use blogs than social networking sites as sources of information and recommendations. This is not news to marketers who are paying close attention to the power of women who blog.

Our goal at BlogHer is to continue to help women who blog earn credibility, respect, exposure and earning power. BlogHer is extremely excited to continue the growth of services and opportunities we've brought to the community in 2009 — most recently via BlogHer Food '09 [3] and our new suite of My BlogHer tools, including Chatter [4], BlogHer's version of Twitter. There's more to come!

 

What do hope your son gets to understand about you as a woman, a mom and as an entrepreneur when he grows up?

 

That he was my inspiration.

 

 

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BlogHer co-founder and working mother Lisa Stone was interviewed by Vicki Larson, Around the Watercooler [4] contributor. She is a journalist and single mom.

 

Hey, social media mavens! If you liked our Working Mom interview with BlogHer [5] co-founder Lisa Stone, be sure to check out our chats with Celebrity Baby Blog [5] [5]founder Danielle Friedland [5] and Cool Mom Picks [6] co-founder Liz Gumbinner [6]. 


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