Czech journalist Jana Ciglerová – a media professional with experience both at home and abroad

Jana Ciglerová studied journalism in Prague and in London, where she started working as a UK correspondent for the daily Lidové noviny when she was still a student. She has since then written for an interesting variety of publications, including The Observer. Upon her return to the Czech Republic, she became the editor-in-chief of Elle magazine, later launched a women’s weekly and currently works for the daily Mladá fronta Dnes as well as producing a TV show. In this week’s One on One, Jana Ciglerová speaks about UK media, feminism and how she first became interested in becoming a journalist.

Jana Ciglerová
“I think there were two things. There was a guy who I really admired, and he was a journalism student. He was my skiing instructor and I fell in love with him and wanted so much to be like him. So that was one influence, and the other was Barbora Tachecí, she is a Czech TV journalist, and she was very fierce in her way of asking questions.

“I remember once, she interviewed Václav Klaus, in a way that he almost left the studio, or maybe he even did leave the studio, and she was fearless, I loved that, and I wanted to be so much like her.”

I believe you studied in the Czech Republic, but also in the UK. Can you tell me a bit about that time?

“I finished Czech journalism school, and one of my dreams was to study in an English-speaking country. And I found that there was a scholarship from the British embassy, the British government actually, and I applied for it and was the first journalist to ever get that scholarship.

“And that is how I got to London, and I got my M.A. there, I studied International Journalism, and it was the most fascinating year I ever had in my career, it was excellent.”

You later worked as the UK correspondent for Lidové noviny and also wrote for The Observer, can you tell me what that experience was like and how the UK media differ from Czech newspapers?

“That’s very interesting. Of course, you have your ideas and your idols and then you come to the actual publishing house, and you see them working, and you realize that it is pretty much the same everywhere. While I was still studying, I worked for Lidové noviny as a UK correspondent and that was a job I really, really loved.

“My aim there was to learn how to write in English, because it is very difficult to write in a foreign language, and that was something I really wanted to learn. And it was an accident, but there was a journalist who was doing an undercover story about bogus visa in London, and he wanted to have a native speaker come with him and pretend that they were applying for a visa.

"At the time, there were many fake language schools that would help students get visas, and then they would work rather than study. So he took me with him, and it was for the Evening Standard, back then it was still a respected newspaper. We did this story, and there was a full-page picture of me entering a fake language school. The article got a lot of exposure.

“And then all of the students in my program applied for internships with the most prestigious media, Guardian, Telegraph, etc. But I was the only one who got one, because I was involved in this story with my photo, and it was an important article that revealed how the bogus visa language schools operated.”

For a while, you also where the editor-in-chief for Elle magazine here in the Czech Republic, and later you founded Ona Dnes, which is a supplement of the daily Mladá fronta Dnes, aimed at female readers. Can you tell me what it is like to work for publications that are directed at a women audience?

“Both magazines were very different. Elle magazine is obviously a prime-time fashion magazine, and it’s mostly about fashion. I always felt that women’s issues were something that was very close to my heart, so when I was offered the job, I thought ‘No’. And then I thought, maybe I can do something there, maybe I can change something.

"And I tried to bring a bit of feminism onto the Elle pages, and introduce working women, and we did several articles on them. But it was not the right publication to promote women’s issues.

"So when Mladá fronta Dnes was planning to launch a women’s weekly, I felt that was my chance to create a magazine that I felt was missing on the Czech market, and we tried but of course Mladá fronta Dnes is again limited in its being a mainstream medium. So what I was trying to do was actually a smaller group of women than Ona Dnes aims at. So I founded Ona, and I launched it and I found the editor-in-chief and the staff, and then I let it go.”

You also recently were in London covering the royal wedding. What was that like?

“I begged my newspaper to let me go there. After all those years, it was again my favorite job, being a foreign correspondent for a Czech newspaper. The atmosphere in London was excellent. You could really feel that they have something we don’t have. They have something to be proud of, this love story to enjoy. Cool people, uncool people, everyone was in Hyde Park watching it.

Recently, you have also been involved in a project called Tah damou. Maybe you can describe your role in it and what it is all about?

“That is finally something where I can address the women I want to address. It’s a TV show, most of the time women are the ones discussing. It’s a sort of Czech version of the famous American show The View, and the women discuss mostly women’s issues, but the real ones, not the one that are dictated to us or projected to be women’s issues.

“And I feel that women are very strongly misrepresented in this country. There are no women in the government, there are very few of them in Parliament. And I thought that was a disgrace. And when commentators or analysts are invited to Czech shows, to comment on events, it’s mostly men. I wanted to show the Czech world that there are great, smart women, with interesting issue, with great ideas, and with issues that need to be addressed.

As a media professional working here in the Czech Republic, would you say that having a career in journalism is harder for a woman than for a man?

“Absolutely. But it’s the same in almost other profession. When you enter the world of journalism, you’re equal. When you work until you are the age of 30, you are equal. You climb up, men climb up. It depends only on your abilities. This is fair. But when the woman has children and the man’s career goes on, and the social and economic networking goes on, whereas the woman’s career stops or slows down.

"Even when she comes back after three or six years of parental leave, she can only work a certain percentage of the time, because taking care of the children, again, is mostly on her, so that is why it is difficult for women here, having a career. Because having children interrupts or even stops it, and when you go back, you earn 40 percent of your previous salary, so you can’t ever compare to men.”

What role do women’s magazines play in perpetuating certain stereotypes about women, and what do you think needs to happen to improve the quality of reading materials for women and maybe even making them a catalyst for change?

Photo: European Commission
“I think there have to be a lot of things implemented. The magazines are sexist; even women’s magazines mostly portray women as a sexual object. Most of the time, you have tips on what you should do about your appearance. And you have no alternative here, that’s what I find terrible. There is ageism, and lots of airbrushing, so you don’t get to see real women in the magazines.

"And when you get to the point that you have children and your interest maybe change a bit, you immediately fall into the category of being a mommy, and whoever is not enough of a mommy is branded as a mother who doesn’t love her children. So we can only change the stereotypes of how we look at women by correcting the current one, and by raising our voices against being stereotyped and sexualized.”

The episode featured today was first broadcast on May 30, 2011.