Saturday, April 9, 2011

Ageism in Broadcasting

Early in Women in Broadcasting, Eddings discusses the 1977 United States Civil Rights Commission report that describes women as “Window dressing on the set” because they “were almost totally excluded from decision-making positions in TV”.  My first reaction to this description was how quaint.  Casually flipping channels on my cable box, I could see nearly as many women as men on any given news show.  Based on my informal survey, Eddings research must be outdated. Right?

When I think about women in the media, my first instinct is to go to Barbara Walters.  Mrs. Walters started out as one of the youngest producers in television, quickly rose to a writer for ABC’s Today Show, and then became the first female co-host in the early 70s.  Despite being a trusted source for 25 years, in 2004 –right about the same time that networks started transferring their programming to HD—Barbara
Walters retired giving as the official reason that she wanted to spend more time with her family.  Yet, she subsequently returned on the same network as an executive producer and co-host of The View. Did Barbara Walters really want to “spend more time domestically with her family”, or was it an excuse, like when celebrities check into the hospital for “exhaustion”? Did the network give her the new position as a trade off for leaving quietly?
The news source that I concentrated on is and specifically their spearhead Amy Goodman.  Democracy Now is an alternative media source sustained mainly through contributions from the viewers, similarly to PBS. With no corporate parent to oversee its content, the show’s indepth exploration of current events can be as unbiased as possible. At 54, Amy Goodman co-hosts an award winning series called the “War and Peace Report” which broadcasts daily.  Goodman is considered a principled journalist who fairly establishes both sides and instead of editorializing, lets the story tell itself.  Before co-founding Democracy Now, Goodman was tortured after witnessing a mass killing in East Timor in an effort to convince her to not write a story, which she of course did anyway.  Seven years later, she was beaten by Chevron’s representatives in Nigeria for aligning herself with the local villages who felt that their land was being contaminated by the oil company, so Goodman wrote a tell-all called The Exception to the Rulers: Exposing Oily Politicians, War Profiteers, and the Media That Love Them.  Age has brought her experience and confidence in her own abilities.
She is not the Stepford Wives version of perfectly coifed anchorwomen in micro skirts, as mimicked in the YouTube montage of Fox News Babes.
Compare that with a video of Amy Goodman being arrested at the Republican National Convention because despite having the proper paperwork, because the guards did not believe that she looked like an accredited reporter and instead charged her as an “instigator”.


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