Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Old white men rule the world

This column isn’t about the hallowed halls of Congress, though the headline may lead you to think so. I’m actually referring to the media. The major (non-cable) networks are all telling me the same thing, which is that the ideal news anchor, late-night talk show host, or pundit is a man. An old white man, to be precise.

I’m not going to address the cable networks since they aren’t available to all people (I also won’t go over my cable complaints, since that was the subject of my last pop culture column). One thing I will say to their benefit is that the cable channels are better at using younger and more diverse anchors.

My beef is this: think of the major networks’ (ABC, CBS, NBC) evening news programs. Who do you see? Peter Jennings, Ted Koppel, Dan Rather and Tom Brokaw. There are also the eight-hundred year old guys on 60 minutes (aside from the token woman and black man, who are still old at any rate). Then there’s Dave Letterman and Jay Leno on the “late-but-not-too-late” talk shows.

When Tom Brokaw recently announced he was retiring in a few years, he chose his replacement-the younger, tanner (and infinitely handsomer) Brian Williams. This is an improvement (at least on the eyes), but he’s still white. How about a woman or a minority? Could the viewers’ weak hearts take it?

Brokaw’s decision was discussed on Barbara Walters’ daytime gabfest, “The View.” While five women, including an Asian and a plus-sized black woman (how’s that for diversity?), bemoaned the announcement, one of them chirped in with the “answer.” She said that if a woman hosted a “real” news show, no one would take her seriously; the viewers would be distracted by her hair, makeup, and clothes. I nearly threw the TV out the window right then. “CBS Up to the Minute” news, which runs after 2 a.m., is anchored quite well by a woman, as are some cable news programs.

The networks would, given a chance to defend themselves, most likely inform me about demographics, and maybe even show me a chart of peak viewing per age group. The reason, presumably, is that this is the time old white men watch TV.

I would respond with a big “so what?” Is there a rule that old white men can only tolerate watching other old white men? I am sure they could live with women and minorities on television news, maybe even prefer the diversity. Even if they didn’t, why not reach out to a different group of potential viewers? This could be the reason why young people don’t watch the ABC, NBC or CBS evening news.

The talk shows headed by women and minorities seem to mostly be banished to daytime purgatory, pandering to stay-at-home moms. Apparently A-listers avoid daytime television, except for Oprah, of course, so the “real” talk shows are headed up by white old (-er) men, such as Leno and Letterman, and “late-late” white boys Conan O’Brien and Craig Kilborn.

In terms of women on at night, Barbara Walters and Diane Sawyer are on “news magazines.” These programs usually feature pieces about diet pills, kidnapped children or multiple births. In short, “women’s interests,” rather than the “hard” news.

Trying to escape from the pasty old coots isn’t easy and one could be forced to turn to the “news magazines,” the monotonous cable news, or the trashy/weepy /ersatz daytime talk shows. Until the networks get a grip, we’re stuck with representatives from the group with the most wealth and power in our nation. Lucky us.

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