Does Sex Make a Difference? Job Satisfaction of Television Network News Correspondents

Article excerpt

Women have been employed in national television news since the 1960s, but there is a question about gender balance now. This study surveyed correspondents at national television news networks. The results showed that on average women were significantly younger and less experienced than men, which affected women's salaries. Women were less satisfied than men about their work environment, and after controlling for years employed at their network, women also were less satisfied with their jobs overall.

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Women reporters are some of the most recognizable female faces on television, even receiving quasi-celebrity status as more Americans are turning to television as their primary news source. The 1997 Roper survey of Americans' news consumption habits reported that 69% of respondents got most of their news from television and 47% used only television as a source. Television was also the most credible source as 53% would be more inclined to believe what they saw on television when it conflicted with other media, 30% higher than newspapers. Joe Foote, professor at the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Oklahoma, has been studying the field of television news for more than twenty years. He said researching female correspondents is similar to examining elites in other professional settings, but their "extraordinary public visibility" gives them an added dimension. "Because the content and slant of stories on network news are heavily influenced by the correspondent who reports them, the gender of the correspondent may also influence the way a story is reported," he said. "The high visibility of the correspondent creates a role model effect that can influence public perceptions about the status of women in general" (personal communication, December 10, 2002). The way that women are shown on the air and how they communicate their messages to the audience is important because most Americans get their news from television and have their perceptions shaped by correspondents' roles.

This study is a survey of correspondents at ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC, and PBS. Previous studies have examined all U.S. journalists (Weaver & Wilhoit, 1996) or only conducted interviews with correspondents (Marlane, 1999). This study is the first to exclusively examine national television news correspondents and conduct both a quantitative and qualitative examination of job satisfaction for these elite males and females in the communication field. This article also highlights differences and similarities between male and female correspondents and explains the impact these findings may have on women in the field as well as television news viewers.

Background of Women in Network Television News

During World War II, women joined the work force in large numbers and changed the work atmosphere. However, television journalism was slow to adapt to this change, especially at the national level. During the late fifties and early sixties, some female pioneers in communication established themselves in network news, but it was not until the seventies that women made significant entry into the profession (Foote & Price, 1999). At that time, the Federal Communication Commission ordered all businesses that made more than $50,000 and had 50 or more employees to mirror the gender balance of their communities, thus creating the Class of '72 from the many women who were hired in television news (Sanders, 1998).

Women were hired as correspondents throughout the eighties, but their overall visibility on the evening news was low. Foote (1985) found that, when examining the number of times correspondents appeared on the air in 1983-1984, women correspondents comprised 30% of the bottom 30 correspondents but only 10% of the top 30. Because of lack of air time and other factors, several women from ABC even interrupted an executive meeting to talk about the mistreatment of women correspondents (Marlane, 1999). …

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