Tag Archives: Brenda Starr

Barbie Is No Journalist

Times like these I am relieved I have sons.

Barbie, specifically the I Can Be.. Barbie, has a new gig. News anchor. Dressed like Paris Hilton on her way to jail, this blonde beauty has it all wrong. Described as “wearing a posh pink suit with black accents and carrying a B news folder, camera and microphone, this savvy journalist reports up-to-the-minute news in signature Barbie style. The inspiring set also comes with a special code that unlocks career-themed content online, for even more digital play!”

Of course, the copy continues, this fashion doll has “a flair for journalism– and power pink!”

Dressed this way, Barbie would no more be the first one with the scoop than Elizabeth Hasselbeck would be the first one picked to interview a visiting dignitary over Barbara Walters.

But I guess a little girl can dream.  

This is where I get sick.

OK, so I grew up wanting to be Brenda Starr or Lois Lane. While everyone I knew wanted to be a ballerina or a fireman, I wanted to ask questions. And write stories like Brenda or Lois. But those idols looked like Golda Meir compared to the tart news anchor coming out in time for the holidays for just $12.99.

Never mind I have taught more than 1,000 woman in 14 years to be journalists at the Medill School of Journalism  and have emphasized and tried to role model for them what it means to be professional. I have had the dressing for an interview chat with students, most all of whom understand what not to wear to ask questions of strangers and cover a news conference. Occasionally, I have had the “have your shirt meet your pants” conversation for those students who like to bare a midriff in class. Never have I ever suggested they turn out for a story in a sparkly camisole, skin tight skirt, high heels and a jacket.

I have never told anyone or been advised that pink is a power color. What I tell students is you want to be remembered for your journalism, nothing else.

I guess as a journalist and journalism professor I can take solace in the notion that this News Anchor Barbie was the “first Barbie profession chosen by a global vote.” When you scroll through the other options– computer engineer, rock star, pizza chef (pizza chef?), dentist, kid doctor (can’t you call it a pediatrician?), race car driver (because there are so many of those), newborn baby doctor (again, what’s up with the pediatrician?), ballroom dancer (tell Bristol Palin it’s a real career), bride or babysitter– I guess News Anchor Barbie is a noble choice.    

My sons are now 21, 19 and 16 and heading toward real careers. Weldon will graduate in May from college with a double major and is headed to graduate school in Spain in translation. Brendan is majoring in business. Colin may go into sales. He’s still in high school.

When my youngest, Colin, was about 5, he said he wanted to be a jet ski driver. He insisted it was a career, I gather after the visit to the Wisconsin Dells. He assured me people would pay money to witness him  drive a jet ski in front of them back and forth, back and forth.  He knew to wear a wet suit. At least he would be dressed properly.

I am all for giving young girls a goal. I wanted to be a journalist from way back when. Probably since about 7 or 8 years old. I also wanted to wear pretty clothes and I dressed my Barbies, Midge, Francie and Skipper in all the teeny tiny tight dresses and plastic high heels my mother would buy. But I knew better than to think those two worlds could collide. I mean, seriously, Barbie totally dressed for Ken.  

Just as I know better than to stand in front of my journalism students dressed like Nicole Richie as ridiculed on gofugyourself, I know to interview someone dressed like a real journalist, not a Barbie doll.

Maybe next year Mattel will come out with Barbie I Can Be… Something Sensible.

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2010 and still not half the media world yet

A few weeks ago the American Society of Newspaper Editors Diversity Report came out with the latest depressing numbers. It’s worse now for women in newsrooms than it was last year. Thirty-seven percent of all newsroom employees were female in 2009, compared to 37.4 percent the year before. OK, not so much.

Except that I wrote about this in 2004 for womensenews  when the percentage of women in newswrooms was 37.23 percent. One step forward, a few steps back. Or maybe we are just running in place.  My lead then was:

 “Ambition defies the boundaries of gender. Opportunity is less democratic.”

I guess that could be my mantra.

There are the same percentage of women supervisors in newsrooms now as  in 2005– 34.8 percent, after a brief trend of minor increases. There are fewer women reporters, or 38.7 percent of  staff, compared to 39.1 percent in 2008. A woeful percentage of women are photographers, artists, videographers, or 26.9 percent, down from 27.1 percent in 2008.

 Recently businessinsider.com posted a story on the 12 most powerful women in new media, boasting that Tina Brown, Arianna Huffington and my old friend, Melinda Hennebeger, were part of a force of digital nature.   

Check out this breathless lede:

Media is not just a crotchety old man’s world. Women are making a huge impact, too.

As the media industry evolves, they are leading powerful companies, launching new ventures and redefining the future of journalism. And their success stories serve as models for those hoping to make a mark in this multi-faceted, risky business.

Isn’t it a little late in the 21st century to think it’s news that media is not just for men? I mean, how old is Brenda Starr? Seems condescending and a little ridiculous to keep saying it is not a man’s world. And a lot old.

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