The Decline of the Male TV Anchor

Apparently it's not just me.

Back when I was in college, I was involved in journalism in various capacities, in the classroom and at student newspapers. I couldn't help but notice in each place I went, women far outnumbered men. The Star-Tribune of Minnesota has picked up on a similar trend in the television industry. Men seem to be disappearing:

In TV news these days, a good man is hard to find.

At the networks, men still rule -- Katie Couric notwithstanding -- but at the local level, women have taken the lead. Nationally, they account for 57 percent of TV news anchors. [...]

The male disappearing act starts in the classroom. At the University of Minnesota this fall, women outnumber men 227 to 125 in the professional journalism major, which includes broadcasting. Ken Stone, a broadcast journalism professor who spent 20 years working in radio and TV news, has 10 women and six men in his advanced reporting class; he said that's as balanced as it gets.

Stone traces the trend to the 1970s, when women and minorities protested about domination of the airwaves by white men. One of his first journalism professors asked the men in his class to stand up, then told them, "Get a new career, there are too many of you." [...]

The TV news talent pool is so inundated with women that they find intense competition for jobs. "If she's really good, chances are there are 20 or 30 other really good females to compete with," Stone said. "It's way easier for a female to get a producing job than it is for them to get an anchor job." [...]

Some present and former broadcasting students are getting turned off because they don't think the profession has the gravitas it did in the days of Walter Cronkite and Edward R. Murrow.

"Twenty-five years ago, whoever was the best at delivering the news got the job, and I think today it's more glamorized," said University of Minnesota senior Adam Somers, who is focusing on a career in radio. "They're pretty much making stars out of their anchors, and that doesn't interest me."

Consider the piercingly blue-eyed CNN anchor Anderson Cooper. His face regularly appears on magazine covers, he made People magazine's Sexiest Man Alive list in 2005 and even has an online fan club.

Dan Wackman, director of undergraduate studies at the U of M, believes that television journalism is losing out on some of the brightest people: "They're going into business and engineering, because they can make a lot more money."

For Chad Hamblin, who once majored in broadcast journalism, it's not just about the money. Hamblin has decided to forgo the anchor chair to follow his dream in theater. During an internship at a local station, he said he was turned off by "all these anchors walking around caked up with makeup. I thought I might as well go into some actual entertainment as opposed to entertainment masquerading as news."

What I'm thinking:

  • There are political implications for this since women are more liberal than men. If men's numbers shrink in the newsroom, coverage will be more likely to be liberally biased
  • Minorities' numbers have not increased in journalism. Most of these new women are white. Very few are minority men.
  • It's ironic that the problem seems to be self-perpetuating. You'd think men would figure out where all the women are at during college.
  • I'll bet anyone $1,000 that the Prof. Stone quoted in the piece would never tell his white female students to get up and leave the classroom
  • It's ironic that sexual and racial diversity are big concerns within the media business but political diversity isn't. According to the groupthink, white men cannot think outside their backgrounds. Liberals who think Bush stole both his elections apparently can, though. Nonsense.
Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield, creator of NewsBusters and president of Dialog New Media, an internet marketing and design firm, left NewsBusters at the end of 2013