Women in media share their drive with young students

As more women join the workforce worldwide, the dynamic of industries, stereotypes and managerial positions are changing.

“When you know who you are and what you want, people aren’t just going to give you that on a silver platter,” former vice president of CBS Sports Kay Wight said. “Do what terrifies you most.”

Wight participated as one of six women in The Edward R. Murrow College of Communication panel discussion Friday to address key issues that women face in multimedia industries.

The discussion, “The Changing Role of Women in Broadcasting,” included all alumnae of WSU and the Murrow college, women well advanced in their communication careers. The panel members shared their wisdom from years in the industry with a full audience of students, faculty and staff.

Wight was one of the first women to break down gender barriers within network television management. From her years of experience, she remarked on how much people in higher positions try to dictate what choices employees make.

Although she started as secretary, she prided herself on following in Edward R. Murrow’s footsteps of journalism and encouraged others to do the same: tell what people need to know rather than what they want to hear.

“Never mistake knowledge for wisdom; one helps you make a living, one helps you make a life,” Wight said. “You get to turn down opportunities, other opportunities will come. Income will follow, but you can’t buy back your integrity.”

Tracy Barry, anchor for NewsChannel 8 in Portland since 1985, is one of the most trusted faces on TV in the area. She said that integrity is key to maintaining a solid lifestyle alongside a successful career and stipulated how difficult it is to be a woman in the broadcast industry.

“It’s hard for women to be older and be hired older,” Barry said. “You definitely have higher standards as a woman. You just have to learn to deal with it.”

Specifics matter, like viewers obsessing over a female anchor’s hair while not caring what a man’s outfit looks like as long as it’s professional, she said.

Cindy Brunson, play-by-play host for the Arizona Diamondbacks and former anchor for ESPN, said that this issue in modern media industries is sometimes apparent over periods of time. She spoke about to an idol of hers who has anchored for ESPN for 21 years.

“She knows sports inside and out and can tell you stories that would make your hair curl,” Brunson said. “But it doesn’t matter at the end of the day. It matters how she televises.”

Some older women head into managerial positions because television is unkind to their appearance, Brunson said. However, she feels confident she has security in her jobs because she can write, tell a good story and convey the accurate information when she is on the air.

“Just because I was one of the only people in the building who went bra shopping, that didn’t threaten me because it was about how much I knew about sports,” Brunson said.

Sueann Ramella, host of “Morning Edition” on Northwest Public Radio, is thankful for the different outlets of the media that give female journalists opportunities to make a difference off-camera.

“TV is where people focus so much on looks, so radio is a safe haven,” she said.

Ramella is currently eight months pregnant and glad she can go to work to do what she loves without having to worry about her appearance.

“Fame and money will dictate what you end up doing later in life,” she said. “You may be gorgeous, but eventually they’re going to find out that you’re stupid.”

Patricia McRae, president and general manager at KHQ-TV in Spokane, said this is one of the most important points to stay true to throughout job searches and shifts later in life.

“It’s about who you are and how good you are,” McRae said. “I am a professional, and that is what has driven me and my career and my ability.”

Distractions by what you wear are important to avoid in television, but the most important skills are courage to take the shot and learn from it, McRae said.

“Are you teachable?” McRae asked the students in the audience. “You don’t deserve the ego. You haven’t earned it yet.”

DJ Wilson, president and general manager of the KGW Media Group in Portland, said that knowledge is also learned from experience, and students need to keep that in mind.

“At the end of the day, we won’t expect you to know everything coming in the door,” Wilson said. “You just have to be completely terrified and go for it.