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(One of the reasons) why I stopped pursuing broadcast journalism

by on November 19, 2015

Throughout this unit, I thought that I would be more focused on my Asian identity as it pertained to diversity and marginalized groups in the newsroom. But after the readings, I realized that I much more identify with my role as a woman in the newsroom.

The New York Times article, “Life as a female journalist: Hot or not?” resonated with me on the fact that female journalists are heavily scrutinized for their appearances, rather than their content. Comments and critiques that focus on looks, especially sexualized feedback, strongly discourage women from working. As Amy Wallace puts it, “It seeks to intimidate and, ultimately, to silence female journalists who write about controversial topics.”

Take for instance, the 2014 event where a male Australian anchor conducted an experiment and wore the same suit every day on air for one year — and absolutely no one noticed. Anchor Karl Stefanovic did this in response to the constant criticism of his co-anchor, Lisa Wilkinson’s, appearance. Newscasters must conform to specific dress codes, mannerisms, and speech conventions if they want to succeed. We, as an audience, are more than aware that broadcast is a place for “pretty people” and networks will not restrain themselves when expressing what they are looking for in reporters. Women especially are criticized constantly for their appearances, which is only heightened when working in television. In regards to Wallace’s article, I think that while broadcast journalism portrays itself as a fabulous life of on-air reporting, it’s not exactly “hot” when your audience cares more about your looks than your intellect.

News outlets covered this event and some chose to focus on the larger issue of gender stereotyping, especially in broadcast, rather than the humor in the attempt to expose the problem. I still very much believe that this is a problem in the workplace, beyond just broadcast and with other news organizations. This one attempt at creating an equal platform for males and females was a start, but barely made a dent in how women are perceived and expected to look. The media perpetuates this ideal of beautiful, fit, and educated people as the ones from whom we trust to receive our news. When they’re not “perfect,” we notice… But it appears only in the case of women.

One of my favorite quotes regarding this is by Soledad O’Brien, the CEO of Starfish Media Group, saying, “They couldn’t hear me because my bangs were in the way.”

 

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4 Comments
  1. Mira, I 100% agree with you. I think one of the reasons I second guess my career path in broadcast is the constant “pretty” face the media wants you to be. It’s a shame that TV media has a focus on looks and not on intellect. Will this change as we evolve? I hate to say this, but probably not. At least not until women in the broadcast industry make a stand and fight for it.

    It’s also not fair that the media focuses more on females then males appearance. If a man wears something days in a row, like the Australian anchor, nobody seems to notice. If a women does this it’s the end of the world (too dramatic?).

  2. bowlerkathryn6 permalink

    This reminded me of an article I recently saw on BuzzFeed. It was about female meteorologists wearing the same $30 dress from Amazon. To be honest, I didn’t actually read it but I did look at the different pictures of women wearing this dress, and I was doing so I thought, “Who cares?” Why does the world care if these broadcasters are wearing similar dresses? It has no effect on how they tell the news, and I don’t really think so much importance should be placed on the appearance of news broadcasters.

    I think it’s interesting that you write about this as someone who was once very into broadcast journalism, because I’ve never been interested it in; I like print and online media. It’s a complicated issue because obviously when people are on television, they want to look good, and viewers want them to look good…but where do we draw the line? At what point does appearance beat the news?

  3. mollygates permalink

    As a woman, I can say that that is one reason I’ve never been interested in broadcast journalism. Although I’ve been told that I should look into it, by well-meaning friends who thought it could be fun, my inner response was always that I didn’t have the right look.

    I am comfortable with my appearance, but I wouldn’t want to be picked apart by those who would be watching me. It’s truly unfortunate that women in broadcast news can be judged more on what dress they’re wearing than by what stories they’re telling.

    The complicated question is how do we fix this? It’s a terrible thing, but I’m not sure what the answer is. Do we wait for society to evolve? Perhaps if more people opened their eyes to this unfortunate pattern in broadcast news, the attention could pressure critics to shift their views.

  4. I think this is a powerful discussion that needs more attention. Females across all spectrums of media are subjected to the male gaze. Doing research for my communications class I discovered this term “self objectification” where females see themselves only as objects of other’s desire. It takes people like you, a female who recognize this as a problem and is interested in opposing such a field, to make a change.

    Women who subject themselves to this gaze either do not realize it or have self objectified themselves. If this continues to happen nothing will change. I think female’s representation in media as a whole, among advertisement, entertainment and the news must be analyzed and recognized before the “ideal female image” can change.

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