Pauline Frederick Reporting: A Pioneering Broadcaster Covers the Cold War

Pauline Frederick Reporting: A Pioneering Broadcaster Covers the Cold War

Pauline Frederick Reporting: A Pioneering Broadcaster Covers the Cold War

Pauline Frederick Reporting: A Pioneering Broadcaster Covers the Cold War


Pauline Frederick Reporting is the biography of the life and career of the first woman to become a network news correspondent. After no less an authority than Edward R. Murrow told her there was no place for her in broadcasting, Pauline Frederick (1908–90) cracked the good old boys' club through determination and years of hard work, eventually becoming a trusted voice to millions of television viewers.

During Frederick's nearly fifty years as a journalist, she interviewed a young Fidel Castro, covered the Nuremberg trials, interpreted diplomatic actions at the United Nations, and was the first woman to moderate a presidential debate. The life of this pivotal figure in American journalism provides an inside perspective on the growth and political maneuverings of television networks as well as Frederick's relationships with iconic NBC broadcast figures David Brinkley, Chet Huntley, and others.

Although Frederick repeatedly insisted that she would trade her career, glamorous as it was, to have a family, a series of romances ended in heartache when she did indeed choose her work over love. At the age of sixty-one, however, she married and attained the family life she had always wanted. Her story is one for all modern women striving to balance career and family.


Those of us who entered network news in the 1960s have been called pioneers in broadcasting. While we were few, one person was decades ahead of us: Pauline Frederick was the true groundbreaker, and she did it alone in the 1940s and 1950s.

When I started in local news in the mid-1950s, I was only dimly aware of Pauline. She reported mostly from the United Nations, and most often her voice was not heard. The men who ran the radio and television networks felt that a woman’s voice was not authoritative and would not be believed. She would do the interviews, but she herself was edited out. So, her work went mostly unnoticed by people like me at that time.

Her beat, while working for ABC and later NBC, was the United Nations, not a coveted post by most reporters. It generated little news that the main media outlets considered important. There would be occasional reports on radio, but if something major happened at the UN, the main evening news anchors would “bigfoot” the beat reporter and take over the story. Pauline cared enough about international news not to worry about the lack of visibility in that job.

The cult of personality and the publicity machinery for TV anchors and correspondents came later and was too late for Pauline. Besides, she was not a flashy performer; she was serious, attractive in a conventional way, and she generated little press. The more glamorous posts of White House correspondent or anchor got the publicity. Some of us managed to enter network news in the early 1960s. But it was not until the 1970s that women began to be hired in numbers by broadcasting organizations. This was no accident. It was in direct response to those of us who organized within our news organizations as the women’s movement emerged. We . . .

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