The Changing Face of Broadcast News

By Andrew Gauthier 

Editor’s Note : ‘From The Field’ is a regular ShopTalk column that offers first-hand reports from the front lines of broadcast journalism. Today’s editorial comes from Rita Andolsen, the News & Information Center Director at WKYC-TV. In light of the recent RTNDA study on women and minorites in the TV news workforce, we asked Rita to share her perspective on being a woman in the TV news industry (according to the study, 71% of news directors are men).

My first news director set the tone for me more than 20 years ago. If you worked hard and proved yourself, the rest would come.

I still remember that first day in the newsroom when they outfitted me with all the gear. It was a small market, and one-man (or woman) band was the rule. The camera, record pack and tripod were so heavy, I almost fell over. But I learned how to balance it all and within weeks, I could carry the gear plus a light case up and down a flight of steps. That was the expectation for all reporters, male or female. I learned valuable lessons in that small Texas market that I still live by today. Work hard, prove yourself, and look for opportunities to grow.

The face of broadcast newsrooms has undoubtedly changed, with more females in leadership positions than ever before. In the Cleveland market, 3 out of 4 news directors are female. Progress? Absolutely, but you wont find the same in all markets.

Its never been more challenging to work in television news, especially from a technology and staffing standpoint. Economics have forced us to change the way we operate, with a leaner staff and fewer resources. We must staff our newsrooms with smart people who can multi-task and who are willing to diversify their skill set to work on multiple platforms. That in part, is why women are moving forward. They get it. Women have always multi-tasked, juggling homes, families and careers. They are a natural fit for what our business needs right now. Over the years, Ive seen a growing number of women make the choice to work from behind the camera. To produce newscasts, manage breaking news, run editorial meetings, and oversee newsrooms. And they do it well. They work really hard and have proven they are good at multi-tasking, adapting to change and handling the pressure. Theyve grown into todays newsroom leaders.

Has there been inequality? Without a doubt. Are there still people who have a hard time accepting females in leadership roles? Yes. Are we being paid the same as our male counterparts? Not always. But I know were making progress. And weve made it with the help of women and men alike, who were smart enough to take a chance on us and grow us and promote us. Women who set the example for us; not afraid to lead and to make tough choices. Men who were not afraid to create opportunities and let us become leaders. Ive benefitted from both and believe its important to carry that forward.

I spend a lot of time with college Journalism students and have mentored a fair number of young producers and reporters over the years. I tell all of them that I can teach and mentor and guide them, but the one thing I cant give them is the hands-on knowledge they gain working in the newsroom, in the control room, and out in the field. It takes time to learn the ropes. It also takes time to change the mindset that result in inequality. Its not perfect, but rather than dwell on it, I choose to celebrate how far weve come and to work to create opportunities to move forward.

Rita Andolsen is the News & Information Center Director at Gannett owned WKYC-TV in Cleveland, Ohio where she has worked for nine years. She oversees the markets #1 News & Information Center, committed to multi-platform content delivery.

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