Do Middle-Aged Female Anchors Have Targets On Their Backs?

Research doesn’t show that older female news anchors are downsized more often than men, the Baltimore Sun reports, but anecdotal evidence does point to women anchors being held to higher physical standards.

“If viewers are reacting more favorably to younger women in station focus groups and other forms of research, it can make a difference in who gets fired and who doesn’t,” the Sun says.

The issue is in the news because Baltimore’s WBAL did not renew the contract of Marianne Banister after 15 years of co-anchoring a program that led ratings in its timeslot.

“I want to make this clear: This is not my choice,” she said. “I’m not retiring. I’m not leaving to ‘spend more time with my family,'” she told the Sun.

She said the issue behind her termination was financial.

Sally Thorner, another female anchor, who left WJZ in 2009, said she would agree. “Look, I have my antennae up for that [gender discrimination], and I have to say I don’t think that’s what’s going on. … No, the answer is no — no, no, no, no, no. It’s budgets. It’s dollars and cents.”

Yet even if Banister’s age and gender did not influence her layoff, those factors may make it harder to find another job in TV news, another former Baltimore female anchor said.

“I do believe that a fortysomething or fiftysomething woman probably has a harder time getting rehired than a fortysomething or fiftysomething man. I think it’s harder for her to find that second chapter on TV,” said Mary Beth Marsden, formerly of WMAR.