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Women In Society Essay, Research Paper
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 business.
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
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
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
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
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
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 want.
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 media and elsewhere. Here is a
talented, competent broadcast journalist who was unfairly
treated and took a stand. She comments on her experience,
“The men could be balding, jowly, bespectacled, even fat
and encased in double-knit, yet the women had to be
flawless. Moreover, there was the expectation that I
should pretend not to know certain facts just because I
was a woman” (Craft 1988, p. 10).
What is disturbing about Craft’s case is that it is
so blatantly obvious that she lost her job on the basis of
being a woman, being too old, and not being pretty enough.
At the time, out of all the anchors in the country who
were over 40, men made up ninety-seven percent of that,
with three percent being women who did not look their age.
Marlene Sanders writes that what is seen in Craft’s case
is “that wrinkles are ’seasoning’ in a man but
‘disqualification’ in a woman,” and that while this may
not be sexual discrimination, “it is a sad statement about
how women are viewed in our society” (Sanders and Rock
1988, p. 148).
The world of television news is an unstable one,
where women take chances, not knowing if or how long they
can thrive in the business. Marlene Sanders puts it
plainly, “The message is clear; we can all be replaced.
There are no guarantees of longevity, and no obvious
destination where news professionals can translate their
experience and knowledge into new and satisfying careers”
(Sanders and Rock 1988, p. 205).
Before she took the job at KMBC in Kansas City, Craft
was working at a smaller station in Santa Barbara, where
she had a positive experience. She says, “I was content
to be in a place where the emphasis was on getting the
stories and getting them right. Only once did management
mention my appearance, and that was to tell me to pull my
hair back a bit” (Craft 1988, p. 28).
Craft was attracted to the Kansas City station in a
larger market. However, she made clear before taking the
job that first and foremost she did not want to change her
appearance. They promised her it wouldn’t happen, yet
within the first week they had a beauty consultant piling
the make-up onto her face.
Sexual discrimination is evident in television news.
KMBC practically begged Christine Craft to come to their
station. “Women are rewarded more than men for changing
news shops often or for moving to larger markets more
because of their gender than because of their journalistic
qualifications” (Creedon: Smith, Fredin, Ferguson Nardone
1993, p. 174).
During the first trial, a former news producer at
KMBC, Sherry Chastain, testified, saying that her bosses
“instructed her to monitor the appearance of female
anchors and reporters, but never males…the male
counterpart was bald with a bad toupee and thick glasses,
yet nothing was ever mentioned about monitoring his
appearance” (Craft 1988, p. 118).
Diane Sawyer says that equal pay for equal work is a
more serious issue than aging on the air. The reason this
is such a difficult challenge is because the number of
women on a news staff, as well as their ages can be easily
established. However, salaries tend to be confidential,
and the dollar value of experience and other
qualifications are hard to determine. Therefore, while it
is possible that aging may not be a major issue for women
broadcasters ten years from now, equal pay for equal work
will most likely linger on (Hosley and Yamada 1987, p.
Some of the blame for all anchorwomen’s problems were
voiced by cynical male television executives in the
1980’s. Jon Katz, former executive director of CBS
Morning News, tells of another executive who had a way of
deciding which women to interview for anchor positions.
He would look at their tapes in the VCR for eight seconds
and he would ask himself, “Do I want to fuck them?” This
was his basis in deciding who to hire (Katz 1995, p. 158).
Catherine Crier experienced tinges of sexism at CNN.
A former lawyer and judge, she was criticized for being
just another pretty face entering the field of
broadcasting. She had no previous experience in
journalism, yet her political experience provided the
skills and knowledge necessary to succeed. She says,
“Journalists couched their reaction in terms of experience
and background, but those same journalists have failed to
voice similar criticisms of Pierre Salinger of Bill
Moyers, two men who jumped from politics into broadcast
news” (Fensch: McHargue 1993, p. 182). Crier says that
the gains of women in television news is being made very
slowly, and that “it is still a frustration for most
women” (Fensch: McHargue 1993, p. 184).
Jane Pauley is an exception to the negativity women
broadcasters often receive. The public loves her. “It is
precisely because Pauley is so down-to-earth and
easy-going that Americans loved waking up with her”
(Fensch: Holloway 1993, p. 249). She possesses the
feminine quality that is appealing to the mass audience.
She was replaced by Deborah Norville, a younger, blonder
woman on the Today show, and viewers were upset to see her
go. Now she is a success on NBC Nightly News.
There are certain qualities a woman needs to have in
order to be able to survive in television news. Ann
Rubenstein of NBC Nightly News says, “You must really
decide for yourself what you’re going to do and not do.
And what price you are willing to pay for whatever they’re
offering” (Fensch: Orenstein 1993, p. 128).
Hard work and undying ambition are important
qualities of anchorwomen. Mary Alice Williams, of CNN and
NBC, gave it her all the first day she went to work for
NBC, “appearing on camera, as an anchor of the evening
news breaks, and by the end of her first three weeks she
had anchored every network news show” (Fensch: White 1993,
A passion for telling the news is important, and is
one reason why the successful women stay in the field.
Diane Sawyer explains,
“I really love what you learn every day in the
business. I love the breathtaking way we walk
into people’s lives and ask them anything we
want and then leave. For a moment you have
available to you the whole universe of a person’s
life-the pain and the suffering and the joy and
the struggle. You can learn from it and take
it with you and then come back the next day
with somebody else. That’s what I like to do”
(Fensch: Zoglin 1993, p. 278).
Sawyer’s never-ending ambition carried her from news
correspondent to network star. While working for CBS
Morning News and covering the negotiations to free Iran
hostages, she “would sleep all night on two secretarial
chairs so I could get up at 4 a.m., stalk the halls and
see what I could get” (Fensch: Zoglin 1993, p. 284).
The will to endure any obstacles and believe in
themselves keeps the few successful anchorwomen going.
Sally Quinn, CBS anchorwoman says
You’ve got to have self-confidence. If I didn’t
have an enormous amount of self-confidence, I
would have been destroyed by this whole
experience…You can’t learn to be a perfect
anchorwoman in one day, and I knew that I wasn’t
going to be perfect and that people were just
going to crucify me because I wasn’t perfect”
(Gelfman 1976, p. 75).
Michael Gartner, NBC News president, explains what is
important in television news anchoring. “You have to have
a special combination of person to be the focal point of a
successful show. You have to be a good journalist, and
you have to be able to deliver the message-which a print
person doesn’t have to do-in person, in somebody’s house”
(Fensch: Zoglin 1993, p. 281).
Barbara Walters is an exception to the rule that
older women do not succeed in television news. She is a
successful television newswoman who is well over the age
of 40. Even she had to take the hard road to make it to
the top, starting out as a secretary at a small
advertising agency, working in public relations and then
in public affairs for CBS. Walters recognizes the tough
times women in television news face. She says
You have to work harder. It’s been said before,
but it’s true. You are taken less seriously and
you are very often scorned by your own co-workers
…it’s a tougher job for a woman because a woman
has to be awfully good. She really does. A man
can be much more excused” (Gelfman 1976, p. 88).
Women are not rising to the top quickly in television
news, although there is slow improvement, and anchormen
say they are fine with the idea of women at the top.
Walter Cronkite says of a woman anchor in the future,
“Fine, why not? I think it likely…I think by the time
the next change comes, the next generation of anchor
people, I would think that the barrier would be down and
that women would have as good a chance as men” (Sanders
and Rock 1988, p. 198).
Yet there are still roadblocks standing in the way of
women striving to make it to the top. They begin at
low-level jobs, such as researchers and logistics persons
and hope to take the right paths to get to the top of the
ladder. Sanders writes, “For years there were few women
above the level of researcher. While that has changed,
the amount of frustration for those who do not move ahead
has driven many people out of the business altogether”
(Sanders and Rock 1988, p. 198-199).
Lesley Stahl of CBS News points out that anchorwomen
are most often workaholics, with a never-ending drive to
do their job. She says
It’s one reason we do succeed in this business.
We just give it everything…Maybe it’s because
our kind of personalities are attracted to this
industry, compulsive, deadline-oriented people
who keep pushing ourselves to see how much work
we can do. We love work…It’s not just a symptom
in the early stage, it goes on” (Sanders and Rock
1988, p. 81).
Society’s expectations of female news anchors is very
much like that of any woman in a powerful and successful
career. While the women must portray a glamorous, yet
friendly image, expectations of men in the business are
not near as high. Jon Katz says in his article
The men who anchor today look, dress, and act
almost precisely the same way they did 50 years
ago. They only have to reflect a single trait
to succeed-gravitas. They wouldn’t dream of
being intimate, glamorous, or coy. Nor would
anyone expect that of them” (Katz 1995, p. 162).
Katz goes on to say that men who make it in the
business usually never fail. He says of anchormen, “Old
anchors never fade away. And they can’t be killed by
mortal means” (Katz 1995, p. 164).
Sadly, forward movements aren’t apparent today by
women in television news. Forty years ago, a female
gaining the anchor position on the evening news was a leap
forward. Today “it feels more like a step backward, an
attempt to stuff accomplished, contemporary women into an
ill-fitting straightjacket” (Katz 1995, p. 164).
It is apparent that women news anchors face many more
struggles than men in the field. It takes a unique
individual to fight through those struggles and strive for
what they want most: to relay news throughout the world.
Equality with men is far from being reached, but a few
females have stood their ground and hopefully made a
difference for others that follow. If people open their
eyes and realize there are plenty of women who are just
as, if not more, competent than men at holding an anchor
position, women could gain respect within the field. For
now, the few women who find success and are willing to
endure the hardships that come along will likely survive
in the business, at least until age hinders their physical
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