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Dewey Decimal Challenge: Book 3 – The News Sorority: Diane Sawyer, Katie Couric, Christiane Amanpour — and the (Ongoing, Imperfect, Complicated) Triumph of Women in TV News by Sheila Weller (The 000s)

20 Jan

This week we are venturing into 070.1 territory, where we can go to find books on television news broadcasting. Let me start by saying that I have little to no knowledge regarding the history of news broadcasting on TV, and I am barely familiar with the current climate. In a previous post I mentioned my unquenchable thirst for information on current events, but, like many people, I get most of my news content online. While television is still considered an important source for news, especially for older viewers, traditional television viewing in general has been gradually declining. Television news providers have begun to transition to providing content on digital platforms in order to remain relevant. Pew Research Center reported in June 2016 that local TV news viewership was dropping and that late night TV news viewership, with the fastest decline of all three time slots (morning, early evening, and late night), had dropped twenty-two percent since 2007. With regard to national news, the morning time slot has been hit the hardest in recent years. It is a trying time to be a TV news anchor especially in a professional field that I’ve just recently learned is already considerably stressful due to the competition between a wealth of talented candidates over a few sought-after positions.

The News Sorority: Diane Sawyer, Katie Couric, Christiane Amanpour – and the (Ongoing, Imperfect, Complicated) Triumph of Women in TV News by Sheila Weller (070.1 WEL)

news-sorority

In her book The News Sorority: Diane Sawyer, Katie Couric, Christiane Amanpour — and the (Ongoing, Imperfect, Complicated) Triumph of Women in TV News, Sheila Weller documents the rise of three of TV’s most accomplished female news icons – Diane Sawyer, Katie Couric, and Christiane Amanpour. Weller explores the personal and professional challenges all three women faced on the path to success, particularly the challenge of being female in a male-dominated profession. While detailing the trajectory of each woman’s life and career in depth, Weller relies heavily on insights from the friends, coworkers, and acquaintances. Weller’s thesis seems to be that Sawyer, Couric, and Amanpour were driven to push harder against sexist roadblocks due to tragic circumstances at different stages of their personal lives – the sudden death of Sawyer’s father when she was just twenty-four, the death of Couric’s first husband, and Amanpour’s unceremonious departure from her home country of Iran as a teen during the Islamic Revolution. While I do believe that these life events did contribute to each women’s tireless drive and great inner strength, Weller does not make a particularly strong case to support the singling out of these events. They are simply part of the awe-inspiring narrative of these women who prevailed despite having the cards stacked against them. It may be important to note that none of the subjects of this biography were interviewed themselves.

This selection was substantial at 436 pages (with very tiny type!), and I enjoyed every page despite there being no real in-depth analysis of the gender disparity in broadcasting. Weller is an objective biographer. She doesn’t glorify her subjects though she most certainly finds their stories inspiring. I was surprised to learn about Sawyer’s reputation in the biz as manipulative and insincere whilst still being well-respected by her colleagues. Weller draws back the curtain and reveals the cutthroat reality of television broadcasting. It’s cliché to say, but, in this business, only the strong survive, and they do so by eating the weak. For this, I take issue with the title – this is everything but a social gathering. This isn’t a sorority of sisters who champion each other behind closed doors, this is a ratings war: a battle for better interviewees, better producers, and coveted time slots. Sawyer, Couric, and Amanpour are just like their male counterparts in that respect although these woman are perhaps more deserving of prestige.

-Written by Sharlene Edwards, Senior Children’s Librarian

Click here to read past posts about Sharlene’s Dewey Decimal Challenge!

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