How to spot a real female journalist

In the movie <i>Anchorman</i> Christina Applegate played the only competent and professional person in a newsroom of deranged, egotistical men.

In the movie Anchorman Christina Applegate played the only competent and professional person in a newsroom of deranged, egotistical men. Photo: Leigh Henningham

I did my journalism cadetship ten years ago, but sometimes I wonder if I have yet qualified as a ‘‘serious’’ journalist. Thankfully, a column written for The Age by retired journalist Geoffrey Barker has cleared it up for me. Barker’s piece, which rails against the superficiality and ‘‘empty chatter’’ of the ‘‘post-pubescent babes’’ who litter commercial television journalism, makes a clear distinction between serious and non-serious lady-journos.

The latter have breasts which are ‘‘pert and perky’’ and teeth of ‘‘arctic white’’. They have degrees from ‘‘undistinguished’’ universities and they are cheap to employ. The others (we’ll call them the clever hags) work for the ABC and SBS.

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Every woman knows the best way to test the sag of her bosom is to place a pencil under it. If it clatters to the floor, you are perky of breast, and a bad journo. If it doesn’t, well, you may not be as pert as you once were, but you can comfort yourself with the thought that you are more likely to win a Walkley award.

Barker’s piece, which has this morning gone viral in a ‘‘Oh dear God, really?’’ kinda way, purports to be a criticism of the vacuity of television news journalism. He says these blonded girlies with their perma-tans and their boobs (did I mention the boobs? So perky...) do not relay proper factual accounts of news events. They have no idea how to gather information and when they attempt to convey it, they are ‘‘barely coherent’’. They are narcissists whose primary interest is in celebrity, not in the noble pursuit of public interest journalism. You can’t expect ‘‘the babes’’ to speak truth to power or to hold politicians to account. They’re too busy pouting at the camera and adjusting their bra straps.

If one is being charitable, one imagines Barker was trying to make the point that some television news is sensationalised and superficial. This may well be true, and maybe there is an argument there, but it is utterly drowned in the sexist sea of Barker’s babes-versus-boilers language, in which he equates attractiveness with stupidity and a lack of intellectual seriousness. Which makes him sound more like a Talibani than a former Fairfax journalist who, one presumes, occasionally had to work with women.

There probably is an interesting debate to be had about the pressures on women in television to maintain a certain appearance, and the fact that there seem to be more older male faces on our screens than there are older female faces. Not having worked in a television newsroom (Perhaps I am not pretty enough? I’ll send Geoff a headshot and he can let me know.), I am not best placed to comment on that.

That debate is probably best led by female television journalists. I know plenty of them well equipped to do so - they’re smart, ambitious and passionate about their jobs. All journalists have to start somewhere. I spent hours writing entertainment listings and weather stories, and I’m glad I didn’t have to maintain a perfect blow-dry whilst doing it.

The young women on television who cover floods and fires, who do live crosses outside court-rooms and chase crooks down streets may well be attractive. That’s not what will stop them from growing into excellent senior journalists. It’s the views of newsroom dinosaurs like Barker that will do that.

http://www.theage.com.au/comment/switch-off-the-tv-babes-for-some-real-news-20130501-2it0o.htmlGeoffrey Barker's piece on TV Babes

26 comments

  • Bravo! Great retort.

    Commenter
    sparker
    Location
    Sydney
    Date and time
    May 02, 2013, 4:11PM
    • To be honest and as much as i hate to say it the differance between this artcile and Tracy Spicer's kinda proves his point

      Commenter
      ben
      Location
      sydney
      Date and time
      May 02, 2013, 4:50PM
  • My daughter is an aspiring journalist. An attractive outgoing girl with a variety of interests, fit and healthy, HSC 99%, media degree (cut off mark 98.6) from some undistinguished place called Sydney Uni, fluent in 2 other languages, freelance writer. How on earth is her dear old dad going to tell her she may need breast augmentation to get ahead in her chosen profession?

    Commenter
    a don
    Location
    sydney
    Date and time
    May 02, 2013, 4:22PM
    • Holy crap i didnt realise media needed a 98.5% so you need to be nearly as smart as someone goig in to be a doctor to get into a media degree. That is astonishing.

      Commenter
      H
      Date and time
      May 02, 2013, 4:56PM
    • Wow didnt know it required 98.5% to get into a media degree, and i got into engineering with a lowly 90%. i guess it takes a lot of smarts to be able to create spin in the media.

      Commenter
      H
      Date and time
      May 02, 2013, 4:58PM
  • Like Geoffrey Barker, (Switch off the TV Babes for some real news SMH May 2) I am a retired journalist and in recent years cringe whenever I turn on commercial television news and see the parade of newsroom lightweights he so superbly describes.

    I have worked for news editors who would have been incandescent with rage at the confection that these bimbos pass off as news reports. Most, if not all their reporting, are follow-ups to print media stories; I can't recall ever seeing one of these commercial babes actually breaking a story. and, incredibly, the newsroom anchor often thanks them for their time!

    A commercial channel afternoon news presenter defines the word vacuous. Emotionless, she can deliver news of a tragedy with the emotion of someone reading a laundry list. But she looks good!

    When I see someone of the caibre of ABC journalist Sally Sara, standing in the midst of a humanitariun nightmare such as a Somalian refugee camp, I take heart there are real reporters still around.

    Rod Comish

    Commenter
    Rod Peterson
    Location
    Belrose
    Date and time
    May 02, 2013, 4:28PM
    • How could you so be far off the mark? The article railed against the superficiality of news delivery, particularly by attractive youths (I believe I read both male and female) who have barely reach adulthood. Such youth has no real historical or political understanding of the news they report. But the real point was that such news is generally packaged in cheap paper and dripping with sugar. It might as well be packaged by Macdonalds.

      Furthermore, as far as attractiveness goes, feminists have been railing against the superficialiality of it for as long as there have been feminists. You might like to read some of their work such as The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf.

      Commenter
      Journeyman
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      May 02, 2013, 4:30PM
      • Careful, journeyman, you do not want to get in the way of the Sisterhood rising ...
        Pity there are simply too many members of the same gender that very craftily utilise their looks and curves to get ahead in life, talent or level of intellect not required. Maybe the outraged sisterhood wants to take those individuals aside for a quiet word. Start with Pop music videos of female 'artists'. ...

        Commenter
        Brenda Loots
        Location
        Sydney
        Date and time
        May 02, 2013, 4:51PM
    • Well said Jacqueline! Yes, any opinion GB had on the quality of commercial TV journalism was lost in a wall of dinosaur sexist claptrap! Onya

      Commenter
      Ms Patonga
      Date and time
      May 02, 2013, 4:30PM
      • I'm 23 years old, and blonde, and a legal journalist for a huge media organisation. The amount of total rubbish I have to put up with, based solely on my appearance, is mind boggling. I get it from within the office; yesterday, I did a coffee run. This is not my job: we have a receptionist for that kind of thing, and it's not what I consider necessary shitkicking to make my way up. I get it in court ("What's a pretty little thing like you doing here?") and I get it from people I meet that refuse to believe I'm not an entertainment reporter.

        The notion that being attractive and being smart are mutually exclusive is age-old, and sadly remains endemic. However, as Jacqueline points out, the idea that a respected industry figure, who has presumably worked previously with women, would abuse his access to a widely-read news source to perpetuate this ludicrous stereotype is extremely disheartening.

        Commenter
        Pseudonym
        Date and time
        May 02, 2013, 4:30PM

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