An interesting story caught my eye yesterday for two reasons; 1) it dealt with TV news anchors, which I was in another life and 2) the focus was on middle-aged women, which I am in this life right now!
The piece centered on the departure of another seasoned, female news anchor – this time in Baltimore and how much of a role, if any, her age and gender played in her departure. Marianna Banister was let go after 15 years on air and while station management says it was purely an economic decision (anchors who’ve been in place for a many years typically make a healthy salary) even viewers questioned whether something more was at play.
A brutal and real fact is that TV is a visual medium and it’s not kind to aging women. Once upon a time I was 29 and anchoring the news in Dallas, Texas. The men I worked with were much older than me, a dynamic seen on TV screens around the country. And silly me, I thought I would never age. Guess what, I looked up and in a flash I was middle-aged. In the process of living, learning, marrying, having babies, ten years went by, seemingly in an instant and I was over 40, a dangerous place for women who make their living on TV. Why is that?
I have two theories. The first has to do with money, a legitimate issue in these times of shrinking newsroom budgets. But if it were solely about money, wouldn’t the male anchors also be in jeopardy? I’m not saying they aren’t, they just don’t seem to be in AS MUCH jeopardy. And even if they lose jobs, many of them land gigs in other cities, sitting next to whom? Younger women, that’s who (by the way this is a phenomenon seen more in local news; national newscasts do have mature women represented).
Am I bitter? I would be if wanted to go back to the world of TV news but I’d rather be kicked squarely in the butt with a frozen boot. But I am concerned about what this says about the role of maturing women in our society. Are we good only while we can make babies? Does the gray hair on top of our head mean more to those making decisions than the gray matter inside it? I think, at least in the case of many TV news operations, sadly, the answer is yes.
Okay let’s debate. Are middle-aged women in the target zone? Are they shunted aside too frequently for younger women? Does is happen to women in other industries with the same frequency? And are men equal targets? Has it ever happened to you? Let me hear ya!