The Shell Issue 2:
Wells Haslem - one year on, John Wells
NSW Budget - slow & steady, Julie Sibraa
UNAA YP Young Professionals grow, Alexandra Mayhew
A reformed ALP?, Trevor Cook
Abbott’s first 100 days, John Wells
Clickivist, Benjamin Haslem
Promises blowin’ in the wind, Benjamin Haslem
Turkey – a country at the crossroads, Julie Sibraa
The rise of human-computer interaction, Alexandra Mayhew
The brutal world of TV is no place for a man, John Mangos
The value of brand, Alexandra Mayhew
From crisis to HERO and back again, Benjamin Haslem
Why do PR?, John Wells
The Shell Issue 2
The brutal world of TV is no place for a man
I recently did a double act with Lisa Wilkinson at a fundraiser and the conversation turned to how women over the age of 40, and even 50 for that matter, are now dominating the television airwaves.
Ten years ago such women were doomed.
According to former 60 Minutes executive producer John Westacott they had lost the "f ... ability factor".
So I posed the obvious question to the vivacious, and over-50, star of morning television: "What about blokes like me over 50?"
"You're stuffed," came the humorous reply, which amused the 600 women in the room - and myself. As true as it is, in retrospect I found the answer not to be so funny.
In recent times we've seen Ten's Bill Woods and Ron Wilson get the chop. Leigh Hatcher has left Sky News, as has Terry Willesee, and the very capable Chris Roe was let go last week after nine years of dedicated service.
Even as recently as last week we saw the highly competent Melissa Doyle reportedly take a $150,000 haircut from a $700,000-a-year salary.
Our airwaves are now dominated by the highly intelligent and attractive types of Leigh Sales, Liz Hayes, Lisa Wilkinson, Jennifer Keyte, Kylie Gillies, Natalie Barr, Juanita Phillips, Sandra Sully, Tracy Grimshaw, Jenny Brockie, Ellen Fanning, Helen Dalley, Chris Bath, Samantha Armytage and Today Tonight's Helen Kapalos.
What's going on?
In the US and Europe media organisations would be beating a path to the doors of us 50-something blokes with generations of experience, grey hair, worldliness and wisdom. Such men are revered.
Not here it seems.
Has television misogyny done a backflip?
In the words of the immortal Professor Julius Sumner Miller: "Why is this so?"
Thirty-four years ago, when I began in broadcast news, the ratio was about eight men to two women on the road - the anchors were all men.
It now seems the opposite.
Newsrooms attract far more female journalists. Young male graduates appear to be gravitating to higher pressure, shorter lifespan occupations like investment banking.
The late, great Brian Naylor of GTV Nine News (who died in the Kinglake bushfires) used to say to me that good news anchors were like old slippers - the scruffier and older we got the more the demographic loved us.
Brian Henderson was living proof of this. He could have read the phone book in the end and people would've tuned in, they loved him so much. Same for James Dibble, Roger Climpson and Eric Walters.
Walter Cronkite anchored CBS news until he was 66, a year after the mandatory retirement age of 65 at that network. Dan Rather retired, aged 75, after 44 years on the same network.
Tom Brokaw retired from the NBC anchor's job at age 64, and is still actively on the network.
ABC's top-rating Peter Jennings was struck down by cancer aged 67, but was still going strong and had at least another 10 years in him.
There's no doubt the current crop of female presenters are probably the best we've ever had, but what's wrong with us blokes?
Are we too experienced, too grey or, more likely, too expensive? (Let's face it; few of us ever passed the Westacott "f ... ability" test).
My dear friend and mentor, thespian Stuart Wagstaff, read the news for Seven in the '60s. His advice was always that warmth was key.
"They must want to mother you or f ... you", he continues to say at age 88.
If he is right, ipso facto, we blokes have gone cold. Could that be it? I don't think so.
Our years wearing out shoe leather, working the phone, catching planes at short notice, giving blood for our foreign bureaus 24/7 simply just don't count anymore.
Instead the lure of the "dark art" of public relations, not so much for the big bucks but for a living, has begun to magnetise males in journalism.
Hence this from Claire Wolfe and Dr Barbara Mitra of the UK's Worcester University last year when they wrote a thesis called "Newsreaders as Eye Candy".
I quote from their conclusion: "There is still discrimination against older women in the industry. The lack of women with grey hair, compared with men, is worrying as it supports the trend that women are not allowed to age, but have to remain young and physically attractive.
"The pressure on female newsreaders to look physically attractive and young is part of the wider patriarchal power structures that dominate our society, as well as media organisations. We wonder, therefore, whether we will ever see a woman with grey hair reading the news."
Of course, at the University of Worcester they would refer to us Australians as "antipodeans", ie "from a point on the Earth's surface which is diametrically opposed to it".
Obviously they would be correct on two counts: geographically, and from the perspective of a freelance (read unemployed) news anchor who admits to tinting his grey hair.
John Mangos is a veteran TV presenter who has worked for Seven, Nine, Ten and Sky News.is a veteran TV presenter who has worked for Seven, Nine, Ten and Sky News.