Is 2008 The Year Of The Female News Anchor?

Illustration for article titled Is 2008 The Year Of The Female News Anchor?

The ever-brilliant Rebecca Traister has a new piece on Salon today in which she talks about the triumvirate of breakout female news anchors this campaign — and, to my unending jealousy, scores amazing interviews with Campbell Brown and Rachel Maddow, if not Katie Couric. Traister's thesis is that, in part, this is their break-out year because, in no small part, as women they're able to ask tough and more insightful questions of the two female candidates that have defined this election year. What do Maddow and Brown have to say about that? They are unconvinced.Brown, whose awe-inspiring on-air whupping of Tucker Bounds caused the McCain camp to yank an McCain interview out from under Larry King, later took to the airwaves to decry the McCainiacs' sexism towards their own candidate. She went from being another mental placeholder to having her rants serialized under the heading "No Bias, No Bull." Could Olbermann have ranted more successfully about sexism, or spanked Bounds so thoroughly without being called a bully? Definitely not. But when asked if it might have to do with her gender, she demurred:

"I don't agree at all," Brown said by phone when I presented her with the thesis that there was a connection between the number of female candidates in the presidential race and the number of female newscasters making waves. "I think there are women who are getting attention," said Brown. "But that's about the journalism, not because we're women. There's a lot of good journalism out there right now."


There's also a lot of shitty "journalism" out there right now, too. Maddow feels much the same way about her own rise to superstardom, but she does allow that it might have something to do with the kinds of issues we're talking about this year.

"Gender issues are at work in an obvious way, not only because of Palin and Clinton," said Maddow, "but because this is not turning out to be a terrorism election, it's turning out to be an economy election, and so people talking to Americans need to be able to talk about the economy. And when you ask that question 'What do women voters care about?' there's always abortion and equal pay, but really, when you talk to women voters, you talk about the economy." Maddow points out that since women make up the majority of the electorate and tend to vote in greater numbers than men, they "always ought to be in the driver's seats, but in this election, they really are." So maybe, she posits, the success of female interlocutors is so great this year because viewers want to hear from people who they believe understand their issues, and "women have a facility for talking about the economy with credibility."

Reading this, I wonder if Maddow's female colleagues over at CNBC might disagree, especially given the preponderance of male anchors over there. But, what it comes down to is, whether it's accidentally their year or because of the candidates or the issues involved in this campaign, these women have solidified their reputations as, as Traister puts it, "kick-ass" journalists and will have plenty of time to prove that 2008 was just the first year they left their male colleagues eating their dust. Ladies Of The Nightly News [Salon] Earlier: CNN's Campbell Brown Turns McCain's Accusation Of Sexism On Its Head Rachel Maddow: "I Need To Focus On What I Think So That I Can Stay Original"


Erin Gloria Ryan

You can't forget about Elizabeth Hasselbeck and the amazing journalistic inroads she's made via shrieking and making doofy faces.