Sunday, March 1, 2015

When Will Women Land the Big TV Gigs?

Lester Holt is keeping the anchor seat warm at NBC Nightly News while Brian Williams is off the air, possibly permanently.  If Williams doesn’t return, it’s a safe bet Holt will keep the job, one that has eluded most seasoned women journalists, with the exception of Katie Couric and Diane Sawyer.

But we have yet to see a woman ensconced in late night TV for the long haul.  Joan Rivers had her own late show on Fox during 1986-87 but later departed for daytime TV.  With Jon Stewart’s pending departure from his wildly popular program, the conversation about which women could fill his shoes has revived again. Nell Scovell, a former staffer for David Letterman, laments that the recent reshuffling of late night hosts means that the opportunities for women are dim: “Most late-night hosts stay put for decades. It’s the closest thing to a Civil Service job in TV,” she says. Her New York Times article is here.

Scovell points out that the traditional sex segregation of TV daypart identity — women own daytime, men own prime time — makes no sense in a time-shifting world where people are watching programs at all hours on their mobile devices.  The ascendance of female entertainers with the brains to do sharp political satire hasn’t been lost on us (paging Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, to name just two). So why does it seem that network executives have this persistent blind spot?