Former CBS News correspondent Julianna Goldman wrote a fascinating story for The Atlantic out today that’s about the intersection of television news and motherhood, and how difficult it is for many working moms and women who may want to become moms to stay afloat in the field of TV news. Including Goldman herself.
Goldman recalls struggling with the prospect of signing a three-year extension with CBS News. Being a general assignment reporter means you could be forced to hop on a plane and cover a breaking news story at a moment’s notice.
“Covering a forest fire or a mudslide is rarely compatible with being home for back-to-school night,” she later writes.
The time spent away from my kid had to feel like it was worth the sacrifice. So I decided to ask for a sort of role that would recognize my value and professional ambitions while also providing me some small measure of predictability over my schedule. I thought my asks were minimal; I’d been “leaning in” for 15 years in the news business. Yet during negotiations, I was basically told I wasn’t “there yet” and I should have been happy that I had been offered a new contract at all. Even as my manager told me that she was sympathetic to the struggles of a working mother (being a mother herself), she reiterated that the offer was final.
Goldman ended up not signing the three-year contract with CBS News. She felt she had been forced to choose between motherhood and a career in TV journalism. She chose the former.
Goldman talked to a number of moms working in the business for the story, some on the record and others who wanted to remain anonymous. Some are current TV newsers, while others are former.
“In a highly competitive broadcast world, [anti-mom bias is] still there, even if it’s unconscious,” Robin Sproul, who spent 25 years at ABC News, 21 of them as the Washington bureau chief, told me. “You can be in meetings and the person talking to you firmly believes they don’t have ‘working mother’ in mind when they’re talking to you, but it is there. It becomes a big part of who you are.”
In her discussions with former CNN anchor Campbell Brown and other sources, Goldman found that the obstacles to success in the business are more extreme for on-air correspondents, who have more unpredictable hours and need to keep up an appearance, as opposed to off-air producers, or anchors with set timeslots. And in the case of morning show hosts, the key demo is women 25-54, so “being a mom can be an asset,” Goldman was told.
Perhaps the most provocative part of Goldman’s story is her statement that not one female correspondent in NBC News’ Washington bureau is a mother. She writes that the most recent one was Norah O’Donnell, but she has been at CBS News since 2012.
But that’s not totally accurate. According to an NBC source, two of NBC News’ Washington-based political reporters, with both on-air responsibilities and news gathering duties, are moms.
Goldman goes on to report that there’s “an unease” among the younger female correspondents in NBC News’ Washington bureau who would like to become moms someday, according to a producer there who said she wanted to remain anonymous. “No one wants to be the test case, because it hasn’t been a common concern, and people are so committed to their jobs, they’re worried about being able to juggle it all,” the producer told Goldman.
According to the source, there are women at NBC who very much would like to be mothers and who feel very supported in that process.
Per Goldman, NBC News was among the networks that did not respond to a request for comment on her story.