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by Salatha Helton, staff writer
|The statement is still true, despite the fact that more women
are being hired as directors, producers, executives, and reporters
and more women than men graduate from college with journalism
degrees (Women and Media).
Since the 1950s, when television news began to be highly publicized,
men have been in control of media regulations and the format
of news, partly because of the traditional roles men and women
had in society. Men were expected to work regularly to provide
for the family, and women were expected to stay at home and take
care of domestic duties.
Also, the networks wanted mature, assertive, and experienced anchors. Women in
news tended to be younger and inexperienced; their male counterparts had been
on television longer, and had built up credibility (The House that Roone Built).
In the 1950s, according to the Center for Media Literacy, men were believed to
be more knowledgeable about sport stories and hard news, and generally were given
the lead over women. Top news networks such as NBC, CBS, and ABC, had an obvious
preponderance of male reporters, while women were anchors or reporters only on
local television channels (Cooper, “Can a Woman Deliver the News?” 2003).
The first female anchors, Pauline Frederick, Liz Trotta, and Barbara Walters,
were hired in the late 1950s and early 1960s; however, men continued to dominate
news, resulting in a tug-o-war between women and networks (Women and Media).
Although, equal rights and equal treatment are guaranteed constitutionally for
all citizens, women anchors had to fight in the newsroom to be heard. Women anchors
wanted to report on the same stories as men, but the women weren’t seen
as aggressive or authoritative (Center for Media Literacy).
According to the Missouri School of Journalism Web site, most women news anchors
in the 1970s worked at independent stations rather than affiliates of ABC, CBS,
and NBC television networks (www.missouri.edu). In 1970, women demanded a change
in news by filing class-action lawsuits against NBC and CBS, stating that there
was a lack of women employees. During the same year, networks were also warned
by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that they needed to address this
obvious imbalance of men and women. Two years after the warning, women still
accounted for only 12.8 percent.
One obvious consequence of this lack of gender diversity was noted in 1977, when
the U.S. Commission of Civil Rights examined broadcast news and reported that
only 2.4 percent of news stories related to women.
Complaints from viewers concerning the lack of women reporting on television,
and the networks fear of the FCC’s warning, prompted executives to hire
more women in the 1980s. Unfortunately, it didn’t prompt those executives
to treat women and men anchors equally. Women were expected to maintain certain
beauty standards and to be younger than men (The House that Roone Built).
Despite the networks hiring more women, their overall contribution was low because
males still had such a huge impact in news. By 1989, the news continued to show
a lack of women stories: 13.7 percent at ABC; 10.2 percent at CBS; and 8.9 percent
at NBC. (Women and Media).
Broadcast television didn’t begin to show a significant imnprovement in
the role of women in news until the ‘90s. During this decade, women worked
in higher positions as news directors and general managers. According to a study
conducted by professors Charles Warner and James Spencer at the University of
Missouri, in the ‘90s, 39 percent of all TV sales staff, 7 percent of sales
managers, and one out of four general managers hired were women.
Although, studies have shown a small change in the media, women are still not
equal with regards to male anchors (Women and Media). According to the Radio
Television News Directors Association Foundation (rtnda.org), men make up 87
percent of television newsrooms, and women comprise only 13 percent.
Moreover, on average, female anchors are 10 years younger than male anchors,
and earn $10,000 to $20,000 less than men (Effects of Exposure…). Speculators
believed that women would finally make it in news when Tom Brokaw announced his
retirement from NBC in 2004; however, when Brian Williams was announced as his
replacement, many wondered if women would ever reach the top jobs
Then Dan Rather stepped down this year, but Scott Pelley or John Roberts were
named prospects for his replacement. According to womenenews.com, a Web site
that details women’s rights and accomplishments, eligible women anchors
have not been considered for either Brokaw’s or Rather’s positions.
Barbara Walters opened doors for the women in news today, and with her no longer
regularly reporting for primetime, it may be difficult for others to fill her
shoes. Female anchors have been around for decades, and fought hard, but it’s
safe to say that we still have a long way to go to be heard.
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