Women reached statistical parity with men on the anchor desk in the early 1990s, and their ranks have been climbing since. The number of female anchors reached a record high last year, accounting for 57 percent of the positions in a nationwide survey conducted by the Radio and Television News Directors Association. Just as impressive are the gains in the rest of the newsroom. Women account for more than half of TV reporters (58 percent) and such middle managers as executive producers (55 percent), news producers (66 percent) and news writers (56 percent).Farhi takes us through the possible reasons for this trend but what's most intriguing is whether it's having any impact on the news itself. At least one observer suggests it is:
At the bottom of the career ladder are even more women: Almost two-thirds of bachelor's degrees in journalism and mass communications were awarded to women in 2004, according to research by Lee Becker of the University of Georgia. These days, when educators like Becker or Craig Allen of Arizona State University look over their broadcast journalism classes, they often don't see a single male student looking back.
"Young men are just not interested," says Allen, who runs the broadcast news program at ASU's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism. "There's been almost an evacuation of men from this field."
When Andrew Tyndall, who publishes a newsletter that tracks network news, recently compared "CBS Evening News" broadcasts from November 1968 and November 1998, he found striking differences. In the earlier era, he says, the subjects tended to be limited to government, politics and the Vietnam War, and it was unusual for a woman to be a news source (a report about the Catholic Church's policy on contraception, for instance, quoted only men).
By the late 1990s, subjects that had all but been ignored years earlier -- abortion, child care, sexual discrimination in the workplace -- were part of the serious news agenda, he said. Women also regularly reported the news, and were often interviewed on it.
Tyndall found something even more remarkable when he looked at the brief tenure of Elizabeth Vargas as the lead anchor of ABC's "World News Tonight" (Vargas went solo during this period after newsman Bob Woodruff sustained serious injuries in Iraq three weeks after being named co-anchor). The hallmark of the Vargas era, he said, was an increased emphasis on "sex and family" issues, those presumably with a strong appeal to women. In March and April, for example, ABC devoted more time to stories about contraception, abortion, autism, prenatal development, childbirth, postpartum depression and child pornography than CBS and NBC's nightly newscasts combined, Tyndall found. Since being replaced by Charles Gibson, the number of such "family" stories has tailed off on "World News Tonight."