Fewer dudes in broadcast news

A new study finds that women dominate local and national newscasts.

Published January 17, 2006 12:08PM (EST)

A Monday Boston Globe article called "The Vanishing Anchorman" cites a new study by the Radio-Television News Directors Association that found that after dominating TV news for decades, the number of male newscasters is at an all-time low. The study included responses from 1,223 TV stations nationwide, and found that only 42.8 percent of news anchors are men, down from 46 percent in 1996.

The somewhat alarmist tone of the article spurred Shakespeare's Sister to ask, "How are we to understand the news if it is not delivered with the gravitas that only a proper baritone can convey?"

Some people quoted in the article speculate that the number of men in television news may be dwindling because salaries in small markets where young reporters have to cut their teeth are usually low -- about $20,000 annually -- and it can take years to move up to a larger market in a more desirable city.

Not that women like being paid badly and living in the sticks -- but they may move up faster. Why? Not because of their brains, their work ethic or their communication skills, of course, but because of how they look.

"If you dress up the average woman coming out of college and put on makeup, she looks like an adult. The average man coming out of college looks like he's going through puberty," Bob Papper, a professor of telecommunications at Ball State in Muncie, Ind., and the director of the study, told the Globe. "Sure, he'll get a job in a smaller market, but it will take longer for him to move forward, even if he puts on phony glasses. A lot of young men aren't staying in the business that long."

The gender stereotypes in the article don't end there. The Globe then goes the pop-psych route and interviews a therapist about the dearth of males in broadcast news. Shari Thurer, a Boston psychologist, adjunct associate professor at Boston University and author of "The End of Gender: A Psychological Autopsy," says that being an anchorman used to be a strong, masculine vocation. Now, not so much.

"In the era of 'Good Night, and Good Luck,' newscasters were macho and fiery. Now they have to be so neutral and unbiased that ... it doesn't seem manly. It's more respected to be a pundit than an anchorman because a pundit can have an opinion," Thurer adds.

Shakespeare's Sister's response? "Noted: Women are neither fiery nor opinionated by nature, so perhaps they're just better suited to the bland dissemination of factoids that masquerades as news these days."

By Lori Leibovich

Lori Leibovich is a contributing editor at Salon and the former editor of the Life section.

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