By Julia Rentsch, Staff Writer
The world is full of stories, and AnnaMarie Houlis, a passionate budding journalist, is out to tell them. Dedicated to giving a voice to the voiceless, to championing gender equality in the media and to producing quality journalism, Houlis is well on her way to increasing awareness for the problems that plague women around the world, stories the public needs to hear.
It started with a wish: in her own words, Houlis wanted to “make a creative space where women without voices could tell their stories.” To do just that, in August of this year she founded the news blog Her Report, a platform dedicated to disseminating articles that deserve to be read. Her Report is not a place for sensationalism, but rather a place that reflects reality.
Houlis, a senior at Gettysburg College, is a Journalism & New Media major and Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies and Writing double minor. On the blog, she goes by her lifelong nickname Re. As a self-described “insatiably passionate travel journalist with a women, gender, and sexuality beat,” Re spent her Fall 2012 semester in Rabat, Morocco shadowing Ghitta Laskrouif, a Moroccan designer working in the country’s struggling creative economy, who nonetheless went on to win the top prize at FestiMode Casablanca Fashion Week 2012.
During her travels, Re noticed that the majority of Moroccans either preferred to wear the traditional long and loose caftan robe or various popular Western fashion brands. On international fashion runways, however, fabrics in the Moroccan style—that is, brightly colored textiles with intricate tessellated patterns—are all the rage.
“I wondered how Moroccan-inspired designs could be so hot around the world, and yet real, indigenous Moroccan designers could still be operating as unknowns,” said Re. “I spent four months in Morocco investigating the creative economy and the stifling identity bind that ensues with it.” Speaking of the culminating article she wrote about the identity issue, she says, “I’ve never been more proud of anything I’ve ever written.”
Seeking opportunities to publish her article, Re secured interviews with various prominent news sources such as “Vogue” in Turkey. After initial interest in her article, however, each publication ultimately declined to accept it, due to claims that its content would not be of interest to their target demographic. Not to be discouraged, she continued to submit her article to countless other publications, but again saw nothing but rejection. At that point, Re had a revelation: “Because no one would give me the power to voice that story, I realized that I had to take it,” she said.
Taking her already established love of blogging and blending it together with her desire for a news source that takes into account diverse points of view, Re created Her Report, on which she self-publishes stories that she believes the world needs to hear, “but until now had no place.”
Currently, the blog contains six news stories originally written and reported by Re, herself. Some poignant issues the articles deal with include human trafficking, gender equality, education for girls and rape culture, the reporting for which all involved personal interviews with women whose lives have been changed by these issues.
Recently, Re talked with model Elle Evans about her role in the controversial music video for Robin Thicke’s hit “Blurred Lines,” whose content has been accused of being sexist and exploitative. Another recent article details the account of a half Muslim, half Christian mother of four from Oregon who dared to speak out against misogynistic, rape-supporting Facebook content, but is now being deluged with violent threats against herself and her family.
“As of now, I am the only one writing for it,” Houlis explains. “I wanted to make sure that each piece was unbiased, well-structured, and newsworthy. As [Her Report] grows, I might pick up assistant writers, but for now my main focus is original reporting.”
Re first realized what a crucial place original reporting holds in the media world during her time abroad. In Morocco, Houlis learned what women regularly had to endure in regards to sexual harassment and degradation by men.
“[On the streets of Rabat], men would slap my butt, and yell disgusting things,” she said. “It is not a problem at home, so I would not have known how bad it was had I not gone there. In order to report accurately, you have to have the experience firsthand.”
With her combined tenacity for good reporting, readiness for adventure and whole lot of heart, Re is on her way to making Her Report into a highly regarded news source.
“We all have different problems, not one problem that defines us all as women,” she says of her motivation for the site. “We have to learn from each other what those problems are, in order to support one another.”
Check out the website at www.HerReport.org!