SHE-LOGY: Television news anchorwomen.
“When I first started, all the women were blond, midwestern, had the same accent, all spoke American, and I was very, very different.”
This was the statement of Christiane Amanpour when she described what used to be the female demographic in her line of work. She said that looks are no longer the motivating factor today in her field. Judging by the reputation she has built for herself as world-renowned foreign correspondent and news anchor –recognized as the number 1 journalist most followed on Twitter among world leaders, one can assume that women have broken the proverbial glass ceiling in broadcast journalism. But how successful really?
CHRISTIANE Amanpour is CNN’s chief international correspondent (1992-2010) and anchor of Amanpour, a daily CNN interview program (2009-2010). She gained global fame with her reports on her home Iran and her historical coverage of the Bosnian crisis in the late 80s to early 90s. She is known as the fearless foreign correspondent who covered dangerous conflicts and possibly every major international crisis from the conflicts in Iraq to Hurricane Katrina in the US. She secured exclusive interviews, sometimes the first correspondent to do so, with world leaders from UK’s Tony Blair to Pakistan’s Pervez Musharraf, and known for tough interviews such as the one with Yasser Arafat.
After 27 years in CNN, she moved to ABC News to anchor This Week, a Sunday morning political affairs program. During her first two months as host, the ratings for This Week reached their lowest point since 2003. A year and a half later, with a 1% drop on the show’s ratings, she stepped down from the anchor chair and returned to CNN.
KATIE Couric has a similar story, if only for the ratings that ensued. Katie is dubbed “America’s Sweetheart” largely due to her co-anchor role for 15 years on The Today Show. She made history by becoming the first woman solo anchor of a network’s evening newscast when she took over the CBS Evening News. Although the show was already in the ratings basement when she took the chair, Katie never managed to improve the ratings. From an initial high of 13.6 million viewers (likely out of viewers’ curiosity for the pioneer female anchor), her viewers dropped to 5 million when she left.
While the likes of Christiane Amanpour and Katie Couric have taken women’s success in television news to new heights, one has to wonder if women have fallen into a “two steps forward one step back” tempo, just by looking at their ratings as an example. Perhaps, female anchors just don’t “sell” to the dominantly male audience of these respective shows? (I know it’s lame to again use gender as reason, but one cannot entirely discount it.) And what about Dan Rather, Couric’s predeccesor, and his speculation on the show’s drop in ratings? He commented that “The mistake was to try to bring the ‘Today’ show ethos to the ‘Evening News’ and to dumb it down – tart it up in hopes of attracting a younger audience.”
Have women really made it in broadcast journalism? Look at these two top-notch anchors. They can command a 7-figure salary, are recipients of prestigious awards, and have become a force to be reckoned with.
- Katie was compensated at a rate unheard of among news anchors, earning $16M per year.
- Christiane received a volume of coveted awards including Peabody, Emmy, Edward R. Murrow, DuPont, Woman of the Year, Courage in Journalism, and a spot in Forbes’ 100 Most Powerful Women.
- Katie’s interview with Sarah Palin, Republican Vice Presidential nominee in 2008, was cited as the cause of a turning of the tide of public opinion against Palin. Katie received the Walter Cronkite Award for Journalism Excellence for these interviews.
- Christiane challenged Clinton, then US President, during a foreign policy speech in Sarajevo, asking about his administration’s “constant flip-flops on the issue of Bosnia”.
Christiane and Katie have truly helped pave the way for women in journalism. But there is still more “paving” to do in this field. Below is an excerpt of the infographic at Women’s Media Center to show the gender gap in media.
- Although there are now several female news anchor, news is still anchored by men 60% of the time.
- Men more frequently report on all topics, but inequality is particularly pronounced in topics such as world politics, business and economics, technology and science.
There needs to be gender parity in this field. Media, being a major influencer of opinions and views, must include the voices and perspectives of women, particularly in global affairs and key events.
PAULINE Frederick said it best. News is gender neutral. That’s how she would deflect the questions to her about being the only woman in the newsroom.
Pauline, dubbed as the first lady of broadcast journalism, is the first and only woman in television news in 1946. She is the first woman news correspondent on network TV, who covered political conventions for ABC Television in the summer of 1948. She was hired away by NBC in 1953 to cover the United Nations. At the 1956 Democratic convention in Chicago, she was the focus of much media attention when she became the first female network anchor “man” at a national political convention. I thoroughly enjoyed knowing more about her in this article from Women’s eNews.org.
All of these women, the first class of females to enter the broadcasting field, owe their opportunity in some way to the first, Pauline Frederick. (Wikipedia)
SHE-LOGY is a blog project open to everyone who is interested to celebrate women this whole month of March. If you’re reading this, I extend that invitation to you to contribute post/s about the women you’d like to honor. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for reading this.