Angry journalists

Deborah Hill-Cone wrote in the Herald on Monday:

As a young female journalist I was probably sadly before my time in shamelessly trying to schmooze my way to notoriety of any kind like an overpainted attention-seeking goose. Back then, how I would have loved to have been in Andrea Vance’s position, the famous Fairfax journalist who brought down a Cabinet minister. How glorious to be feted for your special powers of turning a powerful man to mush, leading him to say he “made errors of judgment” while in your thrall.

Whether their relationship was romantic or not scarcely seems to matter. Although it does seem disingenuous for Vance to now play the victim. Whatever the background, Vance still exhibited a degree of influence – for that week anyway she was more powerful than any politician – that made her the envy of her colleagues.

Especially those who are a little too dangerously in love with the romantic image of their profession – they are the noble crusader, the Katharine Hepburn wisecracker, the reincarnation of Martha Gellhorn. Even if these days being a female reporter is more like being an “It” girl than a hack.

You have to be good at putting on the different personas that are expected of you, whether that be vampish, coquettish or as “enchantingly nasty” as Rita Skeeter. Most often young female journalists still seem to be cast in these starring roles by older tweedy men. It is in the classic tradition of Pygmalion – anyone remember Maddie in House of Cards?

I wonder how many female reporters in the parliamentary Press Gallery have unresolved “daddy issues”. (Oh I know they will all deny this strenuously, they are tough, independent and staunch. I’d have said the same, too.) I just can’t help thinking it would be progress if female journalists were writing their own parts rather than continuing to play the role of temptress to male politicians.

It is no surprise that this outraged a huge number of female journalists, and rightly so. It’s offensive to both Andrea and her colleagues. wrote a great response:

I’m angry. I’m not sure what’s come over New Zealand in recent weeks. It’s like we’ve decided to take out the prize for holding the most sexist and misogynist views towards women in the media.

As a FEMALE (I’m also blonde and quite small, but don’t hold that against me) reporter with just ten years experience working in a variety of media in New Zealand, Australia and London, I’m gobsmacked. Yes, I’m over 30. So in the words of some commentators, my career is over.

The reality is by the time you get to my age and you’re still in the media, it’s easy to feel positively ancient. Many of my colleagues last just a few years before the bright lights of PR, marketing or pretty much anything else beckons. Despite what so many seem to think about journalism, it’s not easy. Every man, dog and blogger out there is ready to criticise our every move and it’s even worse for those of us in the press gallery.

We work hard, have spent years studying, many of us still have huge student loans, we work late night and weekend shifts for low pay. In the end many of us sacrifice family, friends and an ordinary life to do it. You don’t do this job unless you love it.

I’m not complaining – ask anyone who knows me and they will tell you I am proud to say I am lucky enough to have the best job in the world and I absolutely love it.

But the treatment dished out to female reporters is frankly disgusting. The vitriol thrown at the very talented Andrea Vance in recent weeks has been abhorrent. She is a very, very good journalist. I’m not afraid to say that I’m jealous of just how good she is. The comments and insinuation following her stories on the GCSB leak have left me, and many others, infuriated.

For some, it seems the idea a female reporter would (shock horror) manage to get a story purely by working hard and being tenacious, is impossible. Surely some sort of seduction or honey trap was involved? How else could this possibly have happened?

It’s not just the treatment of Andrea that has shocked me. It feels like it’s become open slather on female journalists, particularly those of us in the press gallery. Apparently we all have “daddy issues” and we flirt and flutter our eyelashes to get stories. We’re all temptresses. If only it was that easy.  I myself have been belittled and had my abilities questioned because I’m young, blonde and female – that clearly means I can’t get a job based on my any merits other than how I look. The four years at university and experience at numerous media outlets count for nothing.

I’ve bolded what I think is the key thing.

Katie’s excellent column got retweeted by a large number of journalists, especially the female ones. This led to to ask what was the collective term for a group of angry female journalists. The replies included:

  • A swarm
  • Lovely people who we all admire and love. And respect.
  • I don’t know but I can’t wait for Alasdair Thompson to blog on the subject.
  • a sisterhood?
  • a group of really pissed off journalists
  •  I’d like to declare a moratorium on the use of the word “posse” as any part of a description of a group of female journalists.
  • can we just give DHC a term instead?
  • I’m still holding onto hope a NZ female journalists collective is created. So “collective” is nice.
  • A court. A giggle. A pert.
  •  The term for a group of goldfinches is a “charm”. But bird references.
  • a valkyrie?
  • The press gallery?
  • This was discussed among the Gallery tweeps a few weeks ago, upon discovering a group of male journos is a Pride.
  •  A bulletin? A column?
  •  An umbrage? A vexation?
  •  i like “a glaring”. it’s also a word for a group of angry cats
  • A fury? A vengeance? A wrath? or maybe best described as a Gallery?
  • an agency?
  • a group of pissed off female journalists is a “poutrage”

My favourites were “a valkyrie” and “a poutrage”.


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