The Old Boys’ TV Club

This election was a major milestone for women. But where were the female faces on TV?

I watched the election coverage with Jessica and Vanessa from Feministing, and Deanna from Alternet, and we all noticed the overwhelming maleness and whiteness of almost every TV commentator. Looks like the New York Times caught on, too:

On a night that crowned Nancy Pelosi as the first female speaker of the House and Hillary Rodham Clinton as the Democratic front-runner for the 2008 presidential race, the tableau of men talking to men all across prime time was oddly atavistic — a men’s club from around 1962.

On NBC Brian Williams, Tim Russert and the emeritus anchor Tom Brokaw formed a triumvirate of pinstripes and percipience. Charles Gibson and George Stephanopoulos of ABC were so cozy and old-school across their giant, donut-shaped desk that they only perfunctorily turned, via satellite, to the network’s veteran Congressional correspondent, Cokie Roberts.

The panel of commentators that Fox News assembled to back up Brit Hume looked like a funereal barbershop quartet: Bill Kristol, Juan Williams, Fred Barnes and Morton Kondracke. (Even at 6 o’clock this morning, Fox reporters still seemed to be in denial: Steve Doocy, a “Fox and Friends” anchor, asked a guest what a Pelosi-led House of Representatives would look like “if” she became speaker.)

CNN’s Anderson Cooper did turn for help to Candy Crowley, who was sandwiched between John King and Marcus Mabry of Newsweek, but the panel behind them, CNN’s so-called “brain trust” (Bill Bennett, J. C. Watts, James Carville and Paul Begala) looked like a police lineup on Mount Athos.

And the group that MSNBC chose to play backup to Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann was only a little more coed: the NBC correspondent Andrea Mitchell was wedged in alongside Joe Scarborough, Eugene Robinson and Howard Fineman.

Too bad the article is pretty sexist in and of itself. It refers to the only TV “hissy fit” as happening between men — because we all know that the term “hissy fit” automatically assumes that a woman is the one throwing the fit. It describes Katie Couric’s blog as “chatty” (can anyone imagine, say, Matthew Yglesias being described that way?). It refers to Katie behaving “coyly.”

If only lipstick and pearls made one a better journalist.


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About Jill

Jill began blogging for Feministe in 2005. She has since written as a weekly columnist for the Guardian newspaper and in April 2014 she was appointed as senior political writer for Cosmopolitan magazine.
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14 Responses to The Old Boys’ TV Club

  1. luolin says:

    NPR and Air America had women co-hosts, if I recall correctly. I was half asleep, trying not to be optimistic, in case I jinxed the whole turnover.

  2. Matt Yglesias does get chatty. His politics and philosophy theory post can be a strong gust of wind. Nothing against Matt. His philosophy posts do read like this Onion article.

  3. elle says:

    oh, and did you hear either the msnbc or cnn crew (i was flipping channels and sleepy) admit that while hillary was talking, they couldn’t help focusing on bill? one of them actually said, “she’d better get used to it.”

  4. Penny says:

    Oh Jeez Louise. On this evening’s news up here in Ontario our supposedly lefty national radio station found time to mention that the husband of the new head of the World Health Organization is also a doctor, but Did Not Even Mention Nancy Pelosi! Shame, CBC!

  5. mk says:

    NPR always has female co-hosts. But their experts, like everyone else’s, were pretty much all men.

  6. MARes says:

    That was Chris Matthews, elle, and he also said that men don’t respond when women make strong speeches because they always sound shrill. He repeated these words of wisdow about 10 times, too. KO looked at him like he was crazy and finally shot back something like “Well, no man or woman would ever listen to anything you have to say, Chris.”

  7. Louise says:

    C-SPAN also had a woman moderator, taking calls- my apologies; I didn’t catch her name. NBC had Andrea Mitchell and Doris Kerns weigh in yesterday, though.

  8. Soren says:

    I saw a discussion, I forget where, about what Hillary Clinton should do now there is a woman speaker of the house!

    Why should she do anything different because of this? Is there only room for one female in the top of the democrat party?

  9. Ledasmom says:

    Well, Soren, you just know they’re going to wear the same dress some day, and then the roof will fall in. Or something.

  10. Katie says:

    CBS had a bunch of women — when their coverage started, 3/5 of their experts were female, and I noticed a BUNCH more of their correspondants were female. We watched a lot more of that channel.

  11. Regina says:

    I don’t know if this is too off topic, but did anyone else see Couric’s interview with Pelosi? There was a point when Couric started putting patronizing words in Pelosi’s mouth about how she felt as a female politician (saying that Pelosi considered herself a democrat first and a woman second, or something), and Pelosi had to severely correct her.

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