On the evening of 5 September 1975, 150 women occupied the offices of the Canberra Times, protesting about an editorial hostile to participants in a national conference on 'Women and Politics'. This action, at the production site of the Australian capital's only broadsheet newspaper, provides a context for this themed issue's focus on gendered labour and media. We review recent perspectives on contemporary labour, and note that a persistent theme of this research is that recent changes in the media industries have seen the devaluation of professional work cultures as work in such industries has become more precarious. These changes are set against legacies of the devaluation of women's work within the media, and negotiations of spaces for women to carve out media careers, which are explored by contributors to this issue. The article concludes by drawing out the need for a historically informed position on the gendering of media labour.