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MOTHERHOOD: HOW IT AFFECTS WOMEN JOURNALISTS'EXPERIENCES
KANDRA C. DRAYTON
A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
MASTER OF ARTS IN MASS COMMUNICATION
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
Kandra C. Drayton
I would like to dedicate this research to my daughters
Kenisha and Kendriana for their patience and to my family,
especially my mom, for their prayers and never ending
Special thanks go to Kim Walsh-Childers, my committee
chairwoman, for her direction, guidance and encouragement,
and to Mindy McAdams, and Margot Opdycke Lamme for their
time and support. I also thank Marilyn S. Roberts for her
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1 INTRODUCTION... .........................................1
2 LITERATURE REVIEW....................................... 7
Gender Disparities. .................................... 7
A Change in Newsroom Policies ..........................14
Technology Makes Mothers' Jobs Easier..................17
3 METHOD....................................................... 20
Advantages of Qualitative Research.....................20
4 RESULTS... ............................................. 24
Mothers Newsroom Experiences ...........................24
Motherhood Effects Story Perspectives..................25
Motherhood Effects Journalists' Work Ethic.............26
The Balancing Act..................................... 27
So Many Stories Not Enough Time ........................29
Journalists Must Have A Dependable Support System......30
Supportive Management Brings Balance ...................30
Solid Family-Friendly Policies Help Retain Mothers.....31
5 DISCUSSION................................................... 34
Future Research............................................. 37
A RESPONDENT BIOGRAPHIES.................................. 39
B INTERVIEW QUESTIONS...................................... 43
C SAMPLE INTERVIEW............................................ 44
LIST OF REFERENCES ......... ..............................48
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH......................................... 51
Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School of the
University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts in Mass Communication
MOTHERHOOD: HOW IT AFFECTS WOMEN JOURNALISTS'
Kandra C. Drayton
Chair: Kim Walsh-Childers
Major Department: Journalism and Communications
The purpose of this study was to investigate the
effects of motherhood on women in newsrooms. While all of
the respondents agreed that the biggest issue faced by
women in journalism is juggling work and family
responsibilities, they also discussed feasible alternatives
that could ultimately retain mothers in journalism
professions. Among the suggestions were the implementation
of job-sharing policies, as well as flextime and onsite
childcare. Job-sharing occurs when two employees equally
share the duties and responsibilities of a full-time
employee. Flextime is time earned after working over the
normal work hours. However, many of the women interviewed
believe that those who enter the news business must have a
strong support system in place for their careers to be a
success. Interviewees agreed that those entering the
profession must understand, beforehand, that the profession
is not a traditional nine-to-five job, and in reality,
stories still have to be published or broadcast even when a
child is ill. Finally, the respondents believe the more
understanding upper-level management is about family-
friendly newsroom policies, the easier it is for women to
juggle family and a journalism career.
Family responsibilities are the biggest determining
factor in female participation in today's workforce. The
conflict between family and work responsibilities could
pose a potential problem for the journalism profession
because the news should be representative of its viewers
and readers. When covering newsworthy events it is
imperative to have a mixture of genders, ideas, backgrounds
and ethnicities. News stories and those who write and
present the facts should mirror the communities that are
covered; this should include women as well as mothers. A
survey conducted by Women in Journalism showed that mothers
are still being forced out of newsrooms by unsympathetic
bosses, and impossible hours (Perkins, 2001). However,
newsrooms need to be more than a group of workaholics in
their early 20s who have never experienced the joys and
pains of parenting or home buying. It is imperative to
bring to newsrooms the different experiences of the married
mom with kids or the 45-year-old African American dad of a
preschooler, as well as the 22-year-old rookie who can
easily put in 10-hour days.
According to a Redbook Magazine survey, the most
common concern of mothers who work full-time is that
they're shortchanging their children by not being there for
them(Paul,2003, p.169). A 2001 Gallup poll indicates that
the number of Americans who believe that a mother or father
should be home to take care of a child rose from 33 percent
in 1989 to 41 percent today(Paul, 2003, p.169). Statistics
from the Census Bureau reveal the percentage of mothers who
have infants and hold jobs fell from a record high of 59
percent in 1998 to 55 percent in 2000 (Paul, 2003,p.169).
A 2001 survey, made public by the Media Management
Center's Readership Institute, showed that having diverse
news staff aids in maintaining readership. In short, the
study revealed that certain content made readers read more.
Stories topping the list include an intensely local,
people-centered story, which includes news about ordinary
people and lifestyle news. The positive material results
were directly linked to the presence of women newsroom
managers. But the number of women in top-ranking positions
at newspapers is plummeting because those women are looking
for a way out and jobs that give them more time with their
families (Gibbons, 2002).
Some television stations have made it a priority to
ensure racial diversity and gender equality among their
staff. When a proactive approach is taken, racial
stereotypes are dispelled and viewers are empowered. When
news beats such as child welfare, education and women's
health are addressed an entire community could forever be
For instance the news team at KUVE-TV in Austin, TX,
has come extremely close to resembling the demographic
makeup of its community. KUVE and its managers have a
history of commitment to newsroom diversity. Women make up
43 percent of the newsroom staff (Papper, 2002). News
directors at KVUE-TV believe that if newsrooms don't hire
with the intent to reflect the community, they cannot
expect reporters to understand issues in the community.
This reality will also be reflected in newsrooms that don't
set policies to retain caregivers on their staff.
The problem that faces many women isn't getting into
the journalism business, but finding ways to stay in the
business without jeopardizing family responsibilities. Some
women have managed to find ways to handle the juggling act
with journalism and family but never without paying a
considerable career price (Pechilis,1998).
In the U.S., half of all TV news reporters and anchors
are women. Twenty-five years ago, women made up only 13
percent of the television news workforce. This dramatic
increase in the number of women in a once male-dominated
profession serves as one result of what is known as the
"gender switch," which occurred during the mid-1970s when
more women than men enrolled in college journalism and mass
communication courses. Research indicates that even though
women predominate in journalism undergraduate and graduate
programs by a 60/40 ratio, once on the job, they seem to
have an eye on putting it aside for a while, if not for
good (Pechilis, 1998). While it is not certain which
career paths former journalists take, it would be safe to
conclude that they would work in careers that offer more
traditional eight-hour work-days. Nonetheless, the most
common complaints made by women with families working in
journalism are the long hours, which interfere with family
time, and not having a life outside of work (ASNE, 2001).
Long work hours could be defined as days consisting of more
than 10 hours. An American Society of Newspaper Editors
study (2001) revealed that the irregular hours, which can
be defined as hours that are not consistent with a
traditional eight-to-10 hour work-day, and stress of the
job seem to affect women more than men, especially women
who are trying to raise families at the same time. Women
often argue that newsroom policies are not conducive to a
good work/family balance, and many are frustrated when they
feel themselves stagnating. The departure rate from
newspapers is higher for women than men, according to
research from the Newspaper Association of America
This thesis will address the results motherhood has on
women working in newsrooms and what causes mothers to
either stay or leave in the news business. Other principal
issues that will be addressed in the research will be
gender disparities and media policy changes that have been
implemented in some newsrooms across the nation to help
keep mothers in journalism professions. The third chapter
will discuss the qualitative method that was used to
conduct the research. The final chapters will describe the
themes that emerged from interviews with nine female
journalists with at least one child who either left or
stayed in the news business.
The following questions will be examined:
* QI. What are some of the contributing reasons that
mothers are leaving newsrooms?
* Q2. What do female journalists experience when they
have children? How does this contribute to them leaving
* Q3. What are some news organizations doing to
accommodate the needs of working mothers?
* Q4. Do mothers contribute to newsroom diversity?
* Q5. What alternative career options are available for
women who leave the industry?
An International Media Foundation survey (2002)
concluded that the majority of women journalists identified
"balancing work and family" as the number one obstacle they
encountered in attempting to advance in journalism careers.
Other disheartening facts that contribute to the increasing
number of women who are leaving newsrooms include the long
hours, lack of flexibility and the intensity of newspaper
journalism, often labeled "burnout job" and a "young
person's profession." These characteristics appear to take
a special toll on women in the field (Pechilis,1998).
Discrimination in the areas of pay, promotions and
assignments is another reason many women are leaving
newsrooms (Walsh-Childers, Chance & Herzog, 1996). Many of
the same situations faced by women in newsrooms mirror
those in the broader society, especially as they relate to
advancement and pay grade. A survey of men and women in
broadcast journalism showed that female journalists with
children have more diverse issues to deal with compared to
their male counterparts. Of 128 news anchors surveyed, 27
complained about the difficulty in balancing family and
work, racial issues such as hiring practices or treatment
of minority women and differential treatment based on sex.
Women also stated that they experienced discrimination with
salaries as well as promotions. In 1991, the median income
of women with 10-plus years of journalism experience was
$28,750, while men with compatible experience earned
$34,808 (Walsh-Childers, Chance & Herzog, 1996). According
to a 2002 ASNE newsroom employment census, the percentage
of women in daily newsrooms declined slightly from 37.35
percent in 2001 to 37.05 percent in 2002 (ASNE, 2003).
When women are presented with an opportunity to advance
in the newsroom, a certain number turn down the promotion
because they don't want to put a strain on their families
or home lives (Strupp, 2002). According to a study
released in June 2002 by the Media Management Center, a
training and research program at Northwestern University,
the percentage of top editor positions held by women at
major newspapers had actually declined by 2 percent over
the previous two years, from 25 percent in 2000 to 23
percent in 2002. The reasons for the declines vary, but
researchers say sexism and discrimination can be blamed for
only part of the disparity (Strupp, 2002, p.32).
But if women want the privilege of being a successful
journalists and good mothers they will have to advocate for
themselves. While men dominated managerial positions at
the Boston Globe, a lot of pressure for change came from
reporters and editors seeking flexibility and balance in
their lives. But it was up to those desiring flexibility
to come up with an offer that would not be refused. They
devised a plan that included an outline of their work
schedules, pointed out potential problems and provided
solutions (Selvin, 1993). The Globe was not the only paper
trying to achieve a balance between work and family. In
1992, The New York Times formed a paper-wide work/family
committee and presented a list of policy options and
concerns to management (Selvin, 1993).
A study conducted by Erika Engstrom (2000) indicates
that being a mother seems to pose an especially difficult
challenge for female television anchors. Female anchors
who participated in the study mentioned how the evening
work hours intrude on family time as well as the difficulty
in juggling their roles at work and home. Even those
without children acknowledged that balancing a demanding
journalism career and family needs could be extremely
difficult. Those without children acknowledged the
hardships of female journalists with children with such
comments as: "I don't have children, but I don't know how
those who do handle it all"and"I am not a mother because I
can't imagine being able to successfully do both." "I
would be failing in both duties if I were a mother, too"
(Engstrom, 2000). Several female anchors mentioned that
they have had problems with management based on their
having a family.
Both family and work expect you to be there whenever
they need you. I can't always do both, and I think that
my employers hold it against me. Management says it
understands, but neither understands nor forgives when
there's a news emergency and Mom is needed elsewhere.
(Engstrom, 2000, pp.72)
Unfortunately, some women have left the news industry
altogether, at least partly out of the need for a calmer
lifestyle. Geneva Overholser, The Washington Post's
ombudsman and syndicated columnist, left to teach
journalism at the University of Missouri. Overholser said
she had been offered plenty of editing jobs that she would
have accepted years earlier but that she wanted to spend
more time with her teenager at home who is now a teenager
Many women are now joining the growing ranks of
freelancers because they feel there is no alternative.
Others who work as freelancers by choice point out that
what they gain in flexibility they lose in benefits, such
as maternity leave and pay (Perkins, 2001).
ABC anchor Barbara Walters said some changes have been
made in the news industry to retain women with children.
Walters said things are changing, and the fact that many
newswomen bring their children to work is more acceptable
today than it would have been 30 years ago.
I used to say that if I had ever brought my baby into
the office, it would be like bringing a dog in that
wasn't toilet trained. Certainly on the morning shows
you have Joan Lunden who used to bring her children in,
Katie Couric who had the baby there and Kathie Lee
Gifford who didn't do a news program but we heard they
work until their ninth month. (Marlane,1999 p.143)
Cindy DiBiasi, a former reporter for WUSA-TV, a
Gannett-owned station in Washington, D.C., is one of the
countless women who found that the birth of a second baby
and the impossibility of arranging a short workweek to
accommodate her family destroyed her career. In 1989,
DiBiasi became a medical reporter, but before she started
her new position, she learned she was pregnant. She used
the birth of her son as a news story. However, prior to
her son turning one, her father became ill, and she had to
be with him in Illinois; then her nanny was ill. She
recalled some advice:
A long time ago a female reporter told me that whenever
my child got sick, I should always say it was me who
was sick. I remember thinking that's bull ----. How
could they want me to be dishonest? But now I wasn't so
sure. (Crittenden, 2000, p. 100)
DiBiasi's story illustrates that the most popular pattern
of family planning in the United States and other wealthy
countries--two children spaced not too far apart--is
incompatible with most women's careers. Even if a new
mother and her employer can cope with one child, the second
child is often the final straw. The career cost of
children has become so high that many American women are
not having children at all (Crittenden, 2001).
Andrea Mitchell, an NBC reporter, said she regrets
making her job her life. "The major sacrifice was not
having children. So I think that's a major sacrifice, not
having children during my thirties when I should have."
Susy Schultz, a reporter with the Chicago Sun-Times,
said women should weigh their options prior to choosing a
career in journalism.
I don't think that women go in saying 'I'm going to
dabble' ... The stark reality of what this business
demands of your time hits them smack dab in the eye in
the middle of their career. (Pechilis, 2002, p.2)
Schultz was confronted with that reality in the early
1990s, with the birth of her first son. She took the first
year off, knowing that many co-workers never expected to
see her in the newsroom again. When she did come back, the
award-winning former metro reporter was demoted to a full-
time position on the home pages, despite her inexperience
in interior design. Nonetheless, the job was flexible and
allowed her to be home with her child (Pechilis, 2002).
Linda Hughes, Edmonton Journal publisher believes the
real problem is the issue of long hours. Hughes said
juggling a journalism career and family takes good
coordination, which is something that the journalism
professions just don't offer. "No question you can combine
a job with being a good mother, but to do that effectively,
you need some predictability." (Vlieg, 1999,p.1)
For nearly 20 years at the Inquirer, Jane Eisner was
afforded the opportunity to tackle jobs no mother had held
before. The mother of three became a foreign correspondent
when her first child was in diapers and editorial-page
editor when her second child was still in nursery school
(Eisner, 2001). However, the demands of the job eventually
got to be too much. She concluded that children need their
parents more as they get older, not less. Eisner said that
in some ways, a newsroom is inherently family-unfriendly.
There's a reason it took me three years to finally see
one of my daughter's basketball games, and it wasn't
that I was a bad mom. It's because I was trying to be
a good editor. (Eisner, 2001, p.2)
Eisner realized it was time for things to change so she
became a full-time columnist in 1998. "Now the only thing
that gets in the way of my work is, well, me. That I can
deal with" (Eisner, 2001,). According to Eisner, the
newsroom has made progress. Several dozen staff members,
including men, work part-time. She says managers are more
accommodating, especially with new technology that makes
journalists' jobs easier.
A Change in Newsroom Policies
Working Mothers magazine, which since 1986 has
published a list of the U.S. companies friendliest to
families, included three newspapers companies on its 1998
list of 100: Gannett, which also operates TV and radio
stations, the Miami Herald/El Nuevo Herald, owned by
Knight-Ridder, and the Seattle Times Company (Harvey,
In the early 1990s, several newspapers saw the need to
devise a plan to keep mothers in newsrooms. Mimi Feller,
vice president of public affairs and government relations
with the Gannett news organization, said that a diverse
workforce requires employers to have diverse work options
(Harvey, 1997). The Louisville Courier-Journal and the
Seattle Times have recognized the importance of keeping
mothers in newsrooms by offering on-site daycare centers
(Harvey, 1997). The newspapers pay the YMCA to manage
their childcare facilities. On average, about 23
employees' children attend the center, which opened in
1985. The Miami Herald did something similar by setting
aside a small room for back-up childcare for use when a
regular babysitter, is ill or when preschool is closed for
a holiday or teacher planning day. The children are
watched by a babysitter who is independently hired by their
Gannett Newspapers began focusing on bringing women and
minorities into management 20 years ago. The organization
strives to create newsrooms that provide parents with
flexibility and room to balance work and home gracefully.
Without that understanding, the media giant officials say,
"we lose too many good people and too much valuable
perspective" (Wallace, 2002, p.3).
Some papers have embraced part-time scheduling even as
others keep their distance. Christine Morris, associate
editor for personnel with The Miami Herald, said they are
looking for more people to take part in job-sharing
(Selvin, 1993). Often, more flexible scheduling is
prompted when a star reporter or editor comes to a manager
and says she just can't handle working full-time while
meeting the needs of her children. Slowly but steadily,
part-time schedules for parents of young children have
become an accepted feature of newsrooms around the country
(Selvin, 1993). Women such as Ellen Graham at the Wall
Street Journal and Nadine Brozan and Deirdre Carmody at The
New York Times persuaded supervisors to let them cut back
their hours while they raised their children(Selvin, 1993).
Newspapers such as the Wall Street Journal and The
Washington Post have job-sharing included in their
policies. USA Today, The New York Times and Los Angeles
Times don't. However, all of the newspapers allow part-
time employees to have some prorated vacation, sick and
personal days (Selvin, 1993).
When employees switch from full-time to part-time
employment, they often lose significant benefits, such as
medical coverage and vacation time (Selvin, 1993). The
loss of benefits often puts a strain on families. Rosewicz
and her colleague Gutfeld found that their biggest obstacle
to equitable benefits was language in their union contract.
Of the 20 largest U.S. papers, only the Globe and The
Miami Herald have tried job-sharing specifically to keep
working mothers on a management track. Job sharing occurs
when two employees share the duties and responsibilities of
a position once held by one individual. Surprisingly, this
heightened awareness came in part from top male managers'
own life experiences as fathers and witnessing the balance
firsthand. Five of the papers have formal job-sharing
policies. Many smaller papers also have created part-time
programs to keep good women journalists from leaving.
Nearly all participants have been women with young
children. Laszlo Domjan, metropolitan editor at the St.
Louis Post-Dispatch, said job sharing there began in 1985.
He said job-sharing "makes better reporters" (Pechilis, J.
Technology Makes Mothers' Jobs Easier
The online revolution in the media and entertainment
industries is changing the way journalists work and
overhauling the employment patterns and gender distribution
of the world's information companies. A number of women
also identified as mothers, wives and students said new
technology has allowed them to shift identities easily,
from career woman to mother (Thiel, 2002).
Margaretta "Meg" Downey, the editorial page editor for
the Poughkeepsie Journal, was working from home and
hospitals even before a formal "telework" policy was put in
place in the spring of 1996 by her newspaper's executives.
When her youngest son, Evan, now 16, was hospitalized when
he was 12 years old with severe asthma, she wrote
editorials at his bedside. Even while she recuperated from
a head-on collision, the paper supplied her with a laptop
computer connected to the office with a modem. "From the
Journal standpoint," Downey says, "as long as I can do the
jobs, it's less important where I am" (Harvey, 1997,p.19).
Another advantage new media and new technology offers
mothers are career advancement opportunities. A former
reporter for The Detroit Free Press, realized it might be
years before she could advance to the editor level of a
major national newspaper. However, when she heard that The
Washington Post was seeking editors for its online
publication in 1995, even though she had had no previous
aspirations to move into new media, she jumped at the
opportunity (Thiel, 2002).
Threse Hegarty is group production manager for Beyond
Production, which produces all genres of television, with a
focus on documentary. She said innovative technology
allowed her to spend more time working and raising her son
and daughter. She said she uses a laptop computer and an
Internet connection from home so if she has to walk out of
the office with something urgent pending, it's easy for her
to pick it up later on that night once the children are in
bed. She added, "I find technology such as laptops, mobile
phones and the Internet enormously helpful in juggling time
needed for work and the time needed for family" (Visions of
The Researcher became a journalist after graduating
from the University of North Florida in 1998. Six months
after completing my studies I started working for a small
daily newspaper, where I experienced the hardships of
balancing a journalism career and family responsibilities.
After two years in the newsroom, my eight-year marriage
ended in divorce. I began to endure the struggles of being
a single mother and a passionate journalist. I believe
newspapers, television stations, and news magazines that
are committed to embracing the unique demands of parenting
are the ones that will maintain high numbers of viewers and
readers. I believe this result could be achieved when
racial diversity, gender equality and flexible newsroom
policies are proactively addressed by upper-level newsroom
Advantages of Qualitative Research
This study took a qualitative approach because it
allowed the researcher to investigate each woman's
individual situation and search for patterns, themes and
commonalities across the group of interviewees. The
researcher collected data related to the topic and grouped
it into appropriate and meaningful categories that emerged
from the data (Wimmer & Dominick, 2000). Refer to Appendix
A for biographies of participants.
The primary researcher conducted nine in-depth
interviews with female journalists or former journalists
who have at least one child while working in journalism.
Initial interviewees were women already known to the
researcher and/or her associates. Those women interviewed
were asked to refer the researcher to others who fit the
sample criteria. This sampling method is known as snowball
sampling. Interviewees were emailed an informed consent
form and a series of 12 questions that were derived from
the primary researcher's past experience as a journalist
and as a mother. The secondary coder also assisted with
the construction and order of the interview questions.
(Refer to Appendix B for the list of interview questions).
The researcher decided to conduct the interviews online
because she believed that Internet access was easily
accessible and practical, especially for female
journalists. It would also be convenient for the
respondents to respond without having to set aside time to
wait for a phone call. The researcher also wanted to
provide the interviewees with the flexibility they needed,
as mothers and journalists, to answer the questions at a
convenient time and location. For example, the interviewees
may have found it convenient to reply easily and quietly
once the children were asleep. This technique proved to be
less successful than anticipated; this problem is addressed
in the Study Limitations section of Chapter five.
The responses to the interviews were printed out and
analyzed by the primary and secondary coders. The
interviews were analyzed using the constant comparative
technique. This technique was used to articulate the
information gathered. This practice was first described
by Glaser and Strauss in 1967 (Wimmer & Dominick, 2000).
This technique consists of four steps, which include:
comparative assignment of incidents to categories,
elaboration and refinement of categories, searching for
relationships and themes among categories, and simplifying
and integrating data into a coherent theoretical structure.
Prior to beginning the online interview, respondents
were emailed informed consent forms, which had to be
emailed back to the primary researcher prior to beginning
the interview process. The cyber-agreement allowed each
respondent to begin the interview process, expeditiously.
The consent form addressed the length of the interview,
risks, compensation and confidentiality, as well as the
individual's right to withdraw. This form did not have to
be signed, only emailed back to confirm participation.
The purpose of the study was thoroughly explained to
the interviewee in the informed consent form. The
interview questions and consent form were emailed as
attachments. The respondents were given four weeks to
respond. The responses were printed out and reviewed by
the secondary coder for common themes. After this initial
review, a last call was emailed to the interviewees, asking
if they agreed with the themes that had been identified by
the coders. Follow-up questions also were emailed to the
interviewees. Of the nine interviewees who participated,
only six responded. They concurred with the themes that
the coders had identified.
The following table contains background information
about each of the nine interview candidates who
participated in the research. Refer to Appendix A for
Table 1. Journalists' Background Information.
Marital Years of Number of
Name Journalism Career
Status experience children
Mary Bayer Married 17 years Broadcasting 1
Cynthia Barnett Married 17 years Magazine 1
Charymane Brown Married 5 years Broadcasting 1
Shirley Carswell Married 20 Newspaper 2
Deborah Gianoulis Married 27 Broadcasting 2
Glassman Married 13 Broadcasting 2
Jan Leach Married 24 Newspaper 3
Nancy Rubin Married 24 Broadcasting 1
Sue Straughn Married 30 Broadcasting 1
Mothers Newsroom Experiences
While reading each interview, the primary and secondary
coders identified reoccurring themes. Each respondent
elaborated on her individual newsroom experiences and
described how motherhood had affected her job as a
journalist. Commonly repeated themes included the
following: motherhood affects story perspective, motherhood
affects your work ethic, the balancing act, and so many
stories but not enough time, journalists must have a
support system (i.e., family, nanny, dependable
babysitter), a supportive management team brings balance,
and solid family-friendly policies make journalists' jobs
Motherhood Effects Story Perspectives
One recurring theme throughout the interviews was that
becoming a mother changes women's perspectives on the news.
The majority of the respondents agreed that motherhood
changed their perspectives on news stories. Rubin said
after becoming a mother, she took her job more seriously.
I think my work as a journalist now carries with it
much greater gravity. I am astounded at the depths of
my emotion when covering stories that involve human
events (almost all do). I cry for parents who lose
children to crime or accidents, and I feel profoundly
for all the families caught in poverty and war. I
think I was much more narrow-minded before I became a
mother. Before, I realized there was emotion involved
but I didn't actually feel it myself. (Nancy Rubin,
personal interview, 8/27/03)
Baer said that once she became a parent, she could better
relate to viewers. "I became a parent just like many of
our viewers, and so I could relate to many of the stories
Carswell said becoming a mother forced her to become
more aware of things going on within the community where
Many journalists get so wrapped up in their work that
they have no outside life. Everything they do is with
other journalists or related to their work. Having
children forces you to focus on things outside of the
business and to spend less time in the newsroom and
more time on daily life situations, dealing with
traffic, schools, doctors, etc. It (motherhood) helps
journalists stay grounded in the things our readers
care most about. (Shirley Carswell, personal interview,
Motherhood Effects Journalists' Work Ethic
Despite the challenges of balancing work and family
duties, another important recurring theme was that
motherhood made these women better journalists.
Interviewees expressed a need to cover issues that are
important to their families as well as viewers' or readers'
Glassman said she lost interest in sensationalism. "I
am even less interested in the sensation-based stories. I
want to learn about stories that will impact my family. I
just want people to have the important information that
will help them in their daily activities. I don't have
time or interest in stories for mere entertainment."
Carswell, a 20-year newspaper veteran, said motherhood
diversifies the journalism experience.
It (motherhood) helps journalists stay grounded in the
things our readers care most about. To me, it's easier
for men to lose that balance. Women have little choice
but to worry about both if they want to succeed in
Leach, a newspaper journalist, said that when she became a
mother, she became a better journalist because she listened
to the people in the community. "I think being a mother
made me a better listener, more in tune with regular
readers and more responsive to the personal needs of
staffers who worked for me."
Rubin, a seasoned television reporter, said she is
challenged most by the sheer responsibility of the job.
"So many people are getting information from us and so many
may be swayed to feel one way or another It is
humbling to be in charge of deciding what gets into a story
and what doesn't. I take that responsibility very
The Balancing Act
Most respondents agreed that their biggest struggle had
been balancing work and family. Television news reporter
Straughn said the unpredictable and long hours, including
weekdays and weekends, made it challenging to make sure she
didn't miss out on childhood activities. "We succeeded to
some extent but, in hindsight, I always wish I could have
done more (with her family)." Brown stated that "juggling
my family life, with my career life, challenges me most."
Gianoulis noted that both motherhood and journalism
could be overwhelming at times. She said when she feels the
pressure coming on, she requests a schedule change. "When
my evening hours became too hard for my family, I
negotiated a different shift. Had I not been able to do
that, I probably would have changed careers. My family time
became that important to me." She also said the juggling
act is a part of being a mother and a journalist.
The daily news business is one headache after another
you leave late for the story, the sound is bad,
the weather is lousy and you are not getting along with
the photographer then the desk calls you off that
story for breaking news, yet you still have to get the
first assignment on air and you have to reschedule your
child's doctor appointment, plus you're late for
dinner. (Deborah Gianoulis, personal interview,
Baer said there have been times when she has had to
give a story in progress to a producer to finish because
her husband was out of town and her child's nanny was ill.
She said when family emergencies come up; women have to
plan, think fast and take action.
It (an emergency) happens about once every other week,
depending on breaking news or my news director's
changing plans. Usually, if I'm shooting a story early
in the day, I'm able to complete the interview or story
shoot because I have already planned to have the sitter
there. Juggling certainly has its frustrations, but a
supportive family and friend-network certainly help me
handle the job. That is the secret to handling the
juggling act, in my estimation. (Mary Baer, personal
Barnett said because she has a unique work schedule,
the juggling act is not as challenging for her.
One way I handle the juggling act is to work odd hours
so that I can spend my toddler's awake hours with him.
For example, if I have to work in Orlando for a day, I
used to travel there the day before. Now, I don't
leave home until 8 p.m. so that I can have dinner with
my family and share before bedtime with Will. It means
I have to drive late at night, but it is worth spending
that extra time with Will. (Cynthia Barnet, personal
So Many Stories Not Enough Time
For television journalists Gianoulis, Rubin, and
Glassman, motherhood heightened their recognition that
there is not enough time to cover the important stories in-
depth. "I have learned to respect the process, the
constantly changing nature of all aspects of our lives that
simply cannot be told in a 1:30 story. I hope to create a
new career in my industry by taking the viewer with me as
we explore the complexities and humanity of the issues of
our time." Glassman said she is challenged most when she
has "complex issues to condense into 1:30 packages." Rubin
The time constraints in TV are the toughest part of the
job. Sometimes a story or interview that really
requires time is cut short because of other news, and
that can be frustrating. I try to tell viewers what
they need to know and interest them to search for more
information from other sources. (Beth Younggren-
Glassman, personal interview, 6/26/03)
Journalists Must Have A Dependable Support System
All of the interviewees acknowledged that having a
supportive spouse, family support or even a dependable
nanny made their home lives and careers more manageable.
Gianoulis said if it were not for additional support from
her nanny and husband, she would not be in television
The reality is we are a 24-hour business and parents
have to take the primary responsibility for having
childcare and back-ups on those days when the news
dictates you work beyond your regular shifts. In my
case, my career has been made possible by my husband
and a devoted Nanny who have packed up kids and cars to
escape an approaching hurricane while I was on the
anchor desk for hours on end!
Carswell said she would advise college graduates who
want to pursue journalism careers and motherhood to find
good support systems for childcare, whether it's their
parents, their in-laws or a family friend who is reliable
and dependable. That way they don't feel so guilty about
leaving their child while they work long hours. Leach said
that it's "imperative to have a super-supportive
spouse/partner and a very flexible editor."
Supportive Management Brings Balance
The participants in this study agreed that having
supportive supervisors is the key to helping mothers stay
in journalism. Rubin said her station's management failed
to understand her needs as a mother and that's when she
left the business to raise her children.
My previous managers at 4 tried to bend with me and did
to a certain extent, but I don't think they realized
that the intensity of being mother to small children
passes as they grow and become more independent. I am
willing and able to work more now that my children are
school age. If my previous managers had worked with me
a little more on a plan for the future, perhaps I would
not have left when I did.
Glassman said her supervisor has been very flexible.
She also said those who enter the profession must
understand that "no matter how management is, you are
entering a profession, which requires us to work when most
people are at home."
Solid Family-Friendly Policies Help Retain Mothers
To attract and retain the best staffers, newspapers are
making strides to keep working mothers in newsrooms.
Papers are extending unpaid family leaves beyond 12 weeks
required by federal law. This arrangement gives parents
flexibility when raising young children (Harvey, 1997). A
large majority of the interviewees also agree that having
policies that include job-sharing, flextime and even on-
site childcare would help more women to be successful in
Rubin suggested that if the news business adopted work
policies of ordinary businesses, to accommodate the needs
of working mothers, more women would definitely stay in
Perhaps news has to look at other businesses where
parents have been sharing jobs for a long time. If
someone is too good to lose as an employee, too much of
an asset to the newsroom, why not try something new to
Carswell suggested that having several alternatives in
place would give mothers more options to choose from when
it comes to balancing work and family responsibilities.
Most women are experts at multi-tasking. If more women
had the option of working from home one or two days a
week, I think that would help a lot. Also, onsite
daycare is a great benefit that allows women (and men)
to spend time with their children during the work day
and it cuts down on commuting time, allowing them to
put in longer hours on the job.
Carswell also added that The Washington Post has a track
record of assisting mothers with maternity leave and
scheduling upon returning to work. However, Carswell
admitted there are some disadvantages.
The Post has made it easy for women who go on maternity
leave to return as part-time employees while their
children are very young. Still, this is a business that
relies on reporters traveling a lot and being able to
go after the big stories with little advance notice.
If you have children and don't have family or other
support systems to allow you to do so, you will not be
tapped for those big stories. The Post has also
provided emergency childcare service for occasional use
when you're in a pinch. It also allows employees a lot
of flexibility in terms of hours so that you can attend
your child's school events, as long as you get your
There are signs that the newsroom milieu, especially
the kind of everyday emergencies involved in getting a
story as it breaks, make journalism a field that is
especially demanding of its workers' time and attention.
In fact, a study of journalists in the Washington press
corps, commissioned by American Women in Journalism,
revealed that at the uppermost levels of the profession,
even marriage appears to be antithetical to women's success
In conclusion, all of the respondents recognized
various hardships mothers experience in newsrooms, to some
degree. Most of the women offered reasonable solutions
such as job-sharing, flextime and on-site childcare.
Others recommended building an understanding relationship
with the boss. Most of the interviewees said women must
have a support system in place, whether it is a spouse,
family or a nanny, to be successful in the news business,
after they have children.
Throughout the course of the interviews, none of the
women said that women who choose journalism as a profession
should leave the business once they become mothers; few of
the respondents said they had regrets about entering the
business, then deciding to become a mother. Some said they
wished they had taken more maternity leave time or at least
a year off prior to returning to work. Others said they
have missed out on significant child-related events such as
Girl Scout meetings, classroom activities, sports and some
everyday quality time.
Prior to theses women having children, they were driven
individuals and some appeared to be somewhat numb to the
adversities of day-to-day challenges of being a journalist
and a mother. However, when women enter motherhood as
journalists, some remain driven while others have to have
some predictability and flexibility.
Each of the women suggested that having a dependable
support network in place, such as a spouse, family,
babysitter and boss is imperative to succeed in the
journalism business. In addition, respondents believe
motherhood matured them as journalists. The women felt
that their duties went beyond just reporting, extending to
helping families with daily decision-making practices.
Three of the respondents who had been in the business
more than 10 years believe there is not enough on air time
to cover important issues that really matter to viewers and
their families. This is one reason why Gianoulis said she
left the anchor desk to pursue more in-depth reporting by
means of documentary for Channel 4, in Jacksonville,
Respondents also stressed the need for family-friendly
policies that include on-site childcare, job-sharing and
flextime. However, the early results from a Women in
Journalism survey of management show that managing editors
believe the legal obligation to offer family-friendly
support systems has gone far enough, and most regard it as
"very difficult" to arrange -especially matching up people
for job sharing and part-time working. Other managing
editors express support for more flexible policies. These
policies help with staff retention and morale
Each participant originally was emailed an informed
consent form as well as 12 interview questions. They also
were given an initial deadline of two weeks to respond.
This posed a problem because at least half of the
respondents were not computer savvy and experienced
problems with opening the attachments, as well as mailing
their responses back to the interviewer. Some of the
respondents ended up mailing the primary interviewer their
responses via postal mail. The primary researcher also
believes had the interviews been conducted face-to-face, it
would have been more convenient and the information would
have been more in-depth. There would have been better
responses because follow-up questions would have been asked
immediately. For instance, if the interviews were
conducted in "real time" the respondents probably would
have elaborated more; thereby, giving the primary coder the
opportunity to formulate immediate follow-up questions.
Also when follow-up phone calls were made during the last
call, it was difficult to reach the interviewees due to
various reasons, including, full voicemail boxes. When
messages were left there was no response.
Future research should be conducted to address the
restrictions of this study. Research should include
interviews with spouses and older children of female
journalists. In-depth interviews also should be conducted
with upper-level newsroom managers, to discuss how their
news organizations accommodate working mothers. Newsroom
policies should also be examined to determine if they are
family-friendly. Another group that should be closely
studied is women who left the journalism industry due to
concerns about balancing work and family. Finally, the
issue of what it would have taken for those women to stay
in the industry also should be examined.
In conclusion, there should be diverse research done to
ensure that women journalists are not only dominating
journalism programs but news organizations are finding ways
to keep them.
Mary Baer is married and has one child. She has been a
professional journalist for 17 years. Baer started her
career as a reporter and editor for her college newspaper
at the University of Oregon. She is currently the main
female co-anchor for WJXT, the number one television
station in the Jacksonville market.
Cynthia Barnett is married with one child. She has
been a journalist for 17 years. Barnett started her career
with the Gainesville Sun while still in college in 1987.
She was eventually promoted to the Starke bureau then to
the Tallahassee bureau. The left the Sun because she was
unhappy with her position as an editor. She relocated to
North Carolina and accepted the senior reporter position
with The News & Observer. Today, she covers the state for
Florida Trend Magazine.
Charmayne Brown is married with two children. She has
been a television news reporter for five years. She
starter her career while in college as a reporter. She got
her first job as a general assignment reporter in Fort
Myers, Florida. Brown is currently the night beat reporter
for WJXT Channel 4 in Jacksonville.
Shirley Carswell is separated. She has three children
and has been a news reporter for 20 years. She started her
career working in an entry-level position at Gannett News
Service for about 18 months before accepting copy editing
jobs at the Richmond Time-Dispatch, Oakland Press, Detroit
Free Press and Detroit News. Carswell is among 20
assistant managing editors in a newsroom of about 900
people with the Washington Post. She manages the newsroom
budget, technology, and other support staffs.
Deborah Gianoulis is married and is the mother of two
children. She has been a journalist for 27 years. Her
career began in 1976 when she was hired by WTLV in
Jacksonville as a reporter. Within five months she was
anchoring Monday through Friday the six and 11 PM
newscasts. She relocated to England where she wrote
freelance for UPI Audio. She returned to Jacksonville in
1979. Gianoulis retired in May from the anchor desk to
pursue documentary special programming.
Beth Younggren Glassman is married with two children.
She has been a news reporter for 13 years with WCJB Channel
20 in Gainesville.
Jan Leach is married and is the mother of three
children. Leach has been a journalist for 24 years. Leach
has stayed in the newspaper business since she started her
career. She's worked at papers in Phoenix, Arizona, and
Findlay and Fostoria, Ohio, in various editing and
reporting positions. Leach recently retired as editor and
vice president of the Akron Beacon Journal in Akron, Ohio.
Nancy Rubin is married with three children. She has
been a journalist for 20 years. Rubin has been a broadcast
journalist since graduating from Boston University in 1983.
Rubin's first on-air job after college was in Bangor, Maine
for the CBS affiliate. Rubin then relocated to
Jacksonville to work for WJXT-TV in 1984 and have been
associated with the station since. In December 1993, Rubin
left full-time employment at Channel 4 to care for her two
young children but worked freelance for the newsroom in
many capacities. After having her third child in 1997, she
cut her hours severely to spend more time with her
children. She returned to the newsroom in the summer of
2002, at the request of management, to assist while the
station transitioned to an independent news station. Rubin
works permanently as a fill-in anchor and reporter during
Sue Straughn is married and is the mother of one child.
Straughn has been in the television profession for 30
years. She began as a clerk typist and worked her way up
the ranks. She's held various positions, including traffic
manager, public service director, program director and
assistant operations manager. She currently holds the
titles of news anchor and public affairs director.
1-married 2- single 3-separated 4- divorced 5-widowed
Number of children:
Number of years as journalist:
1. Tell me about your career.
2. Why did you choose journalism as a profession?
3. What do you enjoy most? What do you least like about
being a journalist?
4. What challenges you the most?
5. Tell me about hour your job/employee relationship, etc.
changed after your children were born.
6. How did being a mother affect your work as a
7. What would it take for you to stay in the business? /
Why did you leave? What would it take for you to come
8. Tell me about the newsroom where you worked. What
percent were men, women, and parents?
9. What would you tell female college graduates about
motherhood and journalism?
10. How has management at your newspaper/station dealt with
parents' needs, other women's concerns?
11. What could/can editors and news directors do to retain
women and mothers? Do you have any suggestions to
address this matter?
12. Do you have any regrets?
Name: Nancy Rubin
Today's Date: 8\27\03
Marital Status: Married
Number of children: three
1. Tell me about your career.
I've worked as a broadcast journalist since my
graduation from Boston University in 1983. My first
on-air job after college was in Bangor, Maine for the
CBS affiliate. I did general assignment reporting and
morning anchoring. After Bango, I headed to
Jacksonville to work for WJXT-TV in 1984 and have been
associated with Channel 4 in some way since. I started
as a general assignment reporter, was promoted to
weekend anchor, then weekday morning anchor and was
honored to debut Eyewitness news at 5: 30 alongside Tom
Willis in 1990. In December of 1993, I left full-time
employment at Channel 4 to care fro my two younger
children, but worked freelance for the newsroom in many
different capacities. After the arrival of my third
child in 1997 time to work at the station was cut
severely. Still in the summer of 2002, the newsroom
management contacted me about helping them through the
transition to independence and I accepted a temporary
post as weekend morning show anchor. I have now
accepted that position permanently and work as a fill-
in anchor and reporter during the week as well.
2. How long have you been a journalist?/Why did you choose
journalism as a profession?
I've been in television professionally since mid-1983,
but I have been interested in news since long before
that. I worked in radio news for my college station
and interned around Boston during my four years at B.U.
My first love is writing and I found I cold take
information and turn it into a short understandable
story. I chose journalism knowing that words and
people interested me and in news I could find lots of
3. What do you enjoy most about your career? What do you
least like about being a journalist?
I enjoy the variety that journalists enjoy. I could
not imagine a job that required the same skills day in
and day out. As a reporter/anchor I get to think about
different topics, meet and talk to different people and
come up with different ways to do my job each day.
The time constraints in TV are the t\toughest part of
the job. Sometimes a story or interview that really
requires time is cut short because of other news and
that can be frustrating. I try to tell viewers what
they need to know and interest them enough to get them
to search for more information from other sources.
4. What challenges you the most?
I am challenged most by the sheer responsibility of the
job. So many people are getting information from us
and so many may be swayed to feel one way or another.
It is humbling to be in charge of deciding what gets
into a story and what doesn't. I take that
responsibility seriously and it is as it always has
been ...my greatest challenge.
5. Tell me about how your job/employee relationships
changed after your children were born.
I had always assumed I would continue working after our
first child arrived but in late 1991 I learned it is
not always possible to imagine what you will feel like
after a life-changing experience like becoming a
mother. We had interviewed nannies and had planned to
have someone come into the home so we could both return
to work, but as soon as our daughter arrived I began to
have mixed feelings on it. We decided I would talk to
the station management about cutting back on my
schedule and that is what I did.
6. How did being a mother affect your work as a
I think my work as a journalist now carries with it
much greater gravity. I am astounded at the depths if
my emotions when covering stories that involve human
events (as almost all do). I cry for parents who lose
children to crime or accidents and feel profoundly for
all the families caught in poverty and war. I think I
was much more narrow-minded before I became a mother.
Before I realized there was emotion involved but I
didn't actually feel it myself.
7. What would it take for you to stay in the news
business/ Why did you leave? What would it take for you
to return to the newsroom?
What it has taken for me to be able to stay in the
business is some flexible thinking on the part of my
employer, My previous managers at 4 tried to bend with
me and did to a certain extent but I don't think they
realized the intensity of being mother to small
children passes as they grow and become more
independent. I am willing and able to work more now
that all my children are school-age. If my previous
managers had worked with me a little more on a plan for
the future perhaps I would not have left when I did.
8. Tell me about the newsroom where you worked or
currently work. What percentage would you say are men,
women, and parents?
I think the majority of people I work with are not
parents. Most are young reporters just starting out.
It is difficult to put percentages on the makeup of the
newsroom but I would say the women outnumber the men
9. What would you tell female college graduates about
motherhood and journalism?
I would tell young women to realize they will have to
make some choices somewhere along the line, When I was
in school no on asked me what I would do if I had the
greatest TV job ever (which I did) and then had
children. No one forced me to plan ahead so I just had
to wing it. I am sure my decisions are not right for
every woman, but being ready for when you get to the
crossroads, having something of an ideal of what you
want is a good start. Of course, as I said already,
nothing can really prepare you for becoming a parent
for the first time, so I would also say don't set and
plans in stone.
10. How has management at your newspaper/television station
dealt with parents' needs and other women's concerns?
It is difficult for any company that has to constantly
turn out a product to be totally responsive to a
parent's needs. The newsroom has a tremendous burden
in the constant demands of filling so many hours of
news hold and if your baby is sick that news hole still
must be filled and that show must still have an anchor
in front of the camera, not to mention shooters,
editors, directors, engineers, and producers to put it
on the air. Women's concerns are certainly NOT a huge
concern, but I do see more compassion for the
difficulties of juggling it all. Still if I had to
guess I would say most women in news jobs find it too
hard to do both and wind up giving up news for a more 9
to 5 business.
11. What could editors and news directors do to retain
women and mothers? Do you have any suggestion to
address this matter?
I would love to see more flexible schedules like mine
available. I think it is doable. I think two terrific
women can share a reporter post, with each doing a few
days. I think that would also work for anchors. I
think managers get too stuck in the old ways of
thinking of positions. Perhaps news has to look at
other businesses where parents have been sharing jobs
for a long time. If someone is too good to lose an
employee, too much of an asset to the newsroom, why not
try something new to keep them?
12. Do you have any regrets?
My only regret is not being able to convince my old
bosses not to let me leave when I did. I would have
liked to have contributed to the success of channel 4
during those years. Still, we have three great
children and I am so thankful I had time to be with
them when they were little so truly I could not have
asked for things to work out better. I am now at a
stage where I am back giving to the newsroom and the
viewers and I am very luck to get a second chance.
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Kandra Drayton became a journalist immediately after
graduating from the University of North Florida, in 1998.
After her eight-year marriage ended in divorce she began to
endure the hardships of balancing a journalism career and
family, as a single mother. Kandra believes newspapers,
television stations, and news magazines that are committed
to embracing newsroom diversity experience an increase the
numbers of viewers and readers. She believes this result
is achieved when racial diversity, gender equality and
flexible newsroom policies are proactively addressed by
upper-level newsroom management.