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Women As News Anchors

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1688 words
Social Issues

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Women in all careers are striving to gain equality in the work force
today, and female television news anchors are definitely part of the fight. The
road to television news anchoring is a rocky one, where only a few women survive
and many fail. Where progress was once thought to have been made, there aren't
many females getting ahead in the world of television news. Today, there is a
very slow, if any, gain in the numbers of women who succeed.
There are many questions surrounding the subject of women in television
news, and I will attempt to answer relevant ones in this paper. How have the
women that actually make it to the top and succeed as anchorwomen, done it?
What does it take to make it? Why do those few endure it/enjoy it? Why has it
been and still is difficult for women? What are the expectations of women in
the field, as opposed to the expectations of men?
I am interested in this topic because I once aspired to become a
television broadcaster. I still have inspiration in me, but not quite as much
due to the negative and discouraging aspects I have heard about in classes and
in the media. I am not sure that I could be happy in a career such as this, and
I know there are great difficulties in "making it" in this profession. I have
read about the incredible ambition of successful females in television news, and
it seems like it takes a special kind of passion to want to keep up in the
I kept my questions in mind when gathering research material. While
focusing on the key questions, I was able to find information that led me to
form answers to them. Christine Craft's biography told of her individual
experience of being fired on the basis of her looks and her age. I realized
from reading her story that she had a "nose for news", a passion for telling it
to the world, and a unique spark that made her a good journalist, yet those
qualities weren't enough in her case. She took that passion and spark, filed a
sexual discrimination case and won.
Hard News: Women in Broadcast Journalism had a few chapters that were
relevant to today, and I could draw on some information for my paper. However,
much of the information was historical and not helpful to answering my questions.
Battling for News concentrated mainly on print journalism. There was
material about the first women in broadcasting in the 1950's and how they were
hired and fired.
Television News Anchors had very helpful information, in that there were
individual stories from anchorwomen telling of their experiences. This provided
stories about the women who have succeeded within the field--why and how. There
was a round table discussion conducted by The New Mother Jones magazine with
television newswomen Linda Ellerbee, Marion Goldin, Ann Rubenstein, and Meredith
Vieira. This provided first-hand opinions about what these women see going on in
the business.
Women in Television News was published in 1976, and thus, much of the
information was outdated. However, I was able to use some quotes from newswomen
about what they believe one must do to "make it" in broadcast journalism. I also
found some interesting quotes from a former vice president of ABC News regarding
women in the industry.
Waiting for Prime Time had valuable information about Marlene Sander's
experience and opinions of other anchorwomen and men. It covered possibilities
for the future of women in broadcasting.
Pamela Creedon's two books were helpful in that they discussed topics of
sexual discrimination in broadcast journalism and included a chapter by Marlene
Sanders, titled "The Face of the Network News is Male." Here she attempted to
tackle some problems women in television news face: what the problems are, why
they exist, and a bit about what needs to be done to cure these problems.
Liesbet van Zoonen's book included a chapter titled "Media Production
and the Encoding of Gender." It showed how society views women in the media.
The expectations of female anchorwomen in part stems from the overall view of
women on television--whether it be in a movie, music video, or soap opera. This
was relevant to my paper in answering the question of why there are certain
expectations of women in television news.
The textbook, Gender, Race and Class in Media had a few chapters
relevant to my paper. Larry Gross wrote a chapter titled, "Out of the
Mainstream: Sexual Minorities and Mass Media." He discussed various stereotypes
in our society that lead to stereotypes in all areas of our lives.
I found some of my sources from Oasis, and also used a couple of
magazine articles that were relevant to the subject. I focused on the questions
that I wanted to answer and drew points from the material that were relevant and
provided substantial evidence to answer my questions. I found that opinions and
thoughts of women who had been through the business were most helpful.
There was one big limitation I faced if I wanted to prove that women in
television news were discriminated upon based on sex and age. Women have been
fired from their anchor positions, and it has seemed that the reasons were
because of looks or aging. But this is hard to prove. In August, Carol
Schrader, a woman anchor from KETV-TV in Omaha, Nebraska was asked to leave.
She said that it was because of her age, although her bosses didn't say that was
the reason, stating that she wasn't doing her job. She was replace by a young,
blond woman. Also, when Marlene Sanders was asked to leave ABC, instead of
saying point-blank that she was too old, her boss told her she had outgrown the
profession. Lynn Sherr of ABC News was also fired, and she believed it was
because of her appearance, as no one told her why she lost her job. It isn't a
proven fact that every case of a woman getting fired from their professions were
fired because of their age.
The number of women news anchors is scarce. Only a few succeed, and the
reason for this is because what is expected of them is much greater than what is
expected of men. Women must work twice as hard, be twice as beautiful, and go
above and beyond their abilities. The television broadcasting business is
dominated by males, and, in turn, males have the majority of the power. Positive
steps have been taken by women, but they are still far from being equal in the
field. Advances are not being made quickly.
Some men in the world of television news say that women do have a
tougher time. Larry King had this to say:

I know that if I were "Loretta" King instead of
"Larry" King I would be nowhere near where I am
today. I would not have had a national radio
talk show in 1978, a national cable show of my
own, and a national column if I had started out
being the "wrong" gender (Craft 1988, p. 6).

Al Ittleson, former vice-president of ABC News, says that physical
appearance is important for both male and female broadcasters, but emphasizes
the importance of a woman broadcaster's looks:

Women are supposed to be beautiful. People
anticipate what a woman is supposed to look
like, so when they come to television-I haven't
seen an unattractive woman on television yet...
In fact, they're hired, I would say, probably
more because of the way they look and their image
than because of their background. A man with a
very strong journalism background and a man who
has broken stories...can get away with a little
bit of homeliness. Men aren't supposed to be
attractive. Women have a tougher time (Gelfman
1976, p. 53).

Our society pins importance upon women's looks. They are
required to retain qualities of femininity, yet must also be professional. van
Zoonen explains the different expectations of men and women in journalism,
saying, "one must assume 'femininity' as a feature of female journalists and
'masculinity' as a different characteristic of male journalists" (van Zoonen
1994, p. 63). The images that are instilled in society are carried over into
all aspects of life, and are prevalent in television news.
Just as our society is dominated by white, middle and upper-middle class
males, it is so in most professions. The men are the bosses in television news,
and this has made it difficult for women to gain prestige. The men place
expectations upon the women, and punish them if they aren't exactly what they
One good example of a case where a woman news anchor was fired on the basis
of her looks is Christine Craft. Craft was discriminated against because of her
sex, appearance, and age. She was fired from KMBC in Kansas City and told, "You
don't hide your intelligence to make guys look smarter" (Craft 1988, p. 66).
Along with this, she was fired because she was "too old, too unattractive, and
not sufficiently deferential to men" (Craft 1988, p. 66). Because her boss
directly told her these things, she felt she had been sexually discriminated
against. She won two court cases, winning a total of $600,000 in damages.
Craft's case opened the eyes of many anchorwomen, as well as others in
the ...

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Keywords: woman news anchors, famous female news anchors, who was the first female news anchor, most famous female news anchors, oldest female news anchor, longest running female news anchor in us

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