Enough to Be Dangerous – The Challenges for Women in the News Industry

In our last couple blog posts for Mort Meisner’s new memoir – Enough to Be Dangerous – we looked at the prevalence of racism in the news industry and its detrimental impact.

While the situation was slightly better for women in the news industry, it would be naïve to assume they were ever taken as seriously as any of the high-level white men who populated the executive meeting rooms.

With the #MeToo movement picking up much needed steam these past few years, light has been shed on how women continue to be treated in the industry.

Some of it is good news.

Things Have Improved for Women in the News Industry

While it’s not all sunshine and roses for women in the industry (or really in ANY industry), there are behaviors that were once considered “the norm” that would no longer be tolerated.

For example, throughout his memoir, Mort recalls many incidents where women were harassed, objectified, or spoken down to as a matter of principle. It was a sign of the times.

In one such incident, Mort remembers finally taking issue with a one time WJBK general manager whose sexist comments had become too much:

One day, we had a meeting in an office adjacent to his huge office. It was me, my assistant Tom, the program director, and the director of operations. [The latter two] were “yes” people and towed the company line. That afternoon, the general manager was in an alternate state of mind (i.e. drunk) and we were talking ratings – which continued to be a great challenge.

By now we had an excellent product with incredible talent and I had a great management team. But we still had a lot going against us. Channel 7 was very strong – even after the Bill Bonds years before the station took a major dive. And WDIV had remained – and does so to this day – consistent.

So the general manager said to me, “What do you think we need to do to be number one?”

I talked about breaking habits, doing news pallet promotions, and being competitive on all fronts.

“Fuck that,” he said, rolling his eyes. “What we need to do is have [a young and talented black female anchor at the time] take her blouse off and put her big breasts on the anchor desk.”

Much to my dismay, the two department heads laughed.

“That’s not funny,” I said, then turned to my assistant, Tom. “We’re leaving.”

I got back to my office and immediately called corporate. They began an investigation shortly thereafter. I can’t say I’m solely responsible, but that particular general manager was fired a short time later.

This was not an isolated incident though. Throughout Enough to Be Dangerous, there are countless stories that belittle women in one way or another – some more heinous than others.

What Is the Current Landscape?

Given politics in the United States is headed by a “leader” who sees no issue with treating women like property (or less than that), it’s safe to say that sexism still exists in the newsroom. As Mort says:

What made (and continues to make) broadcasting a difficult industry for women is the sexual component. In other words, the whole idea that getting ahead will require certain “favors” be rendered. I’ve always found this deplorable. But it’s deeply entrenched in the culture.

Where sexism and racism were concerned, Mort created a legacy of enacting change in the newsrooms. We can only hope that more men like him move into high positions in the news industry where they can settle in next to powerful female executives.

It’s certainly time for change… in every industry.

Glance into the Past with Enough to Be Dangerous

You’ll be impressed by Mort’s unwillingness to accept blatant sexism as just part of the newsroom culture at the time, and inspired by the steps he took to help every woman in the news industry.

Enough to Be Dangerous will be released in hardcover, paperback, and ebook on October 1, 2020 from Two Sisters Writing & Publishing.

But you can pre-order an autographed copy today by clicking here. And keep coming back to find out more about the upcoming book launch party and other exciting events.