Finding My Roots: A Female in Journalism

By: Chaviva Freedman  |  April 19, 2018

When I declared my major as Journalism at the end of my sophomore year, I have to admit – I struggled with the decision. I had two years worth of Business and Management courses under my belt and it scared me to uproot and completely change my plans with just one signature on a piece of paper. As I am about to graduate college, I am struggling to find various females who were famous for their careers in journalism to give me some sort of reassurance that this was the right decision for me.

I started my research by looking at the two characters that everyone knows for their writing skills: Carrie Bradshaw from Sex and the City and Rory Gilmore from Gilmore Girls. No one can deny that these two television series lend themselves to being heavily binge-watched on Netflix (trust me on this–the minute you mention Gilmore Girls to my friends, it becomes a war of Team Jess vs. Team Dean vs. Team Logan), and that the characters took pride in the articles or columns they “slaved” over to write. But are they the best role models for this lucrative field? Carrie literally wrote her articles at the end of each episode after some important event happened (usually of the love kind–hence the name of the television show) to have other women commiserate with her “terrible” life. The woman owned her own apartment, had endless pairs of Manolo Blahniks and Chanel shoes in her closet, and essentially could get any man she wanted–how could that be the worst thing to ever happen to a woman?

Don’t even get me started on Rory Gilmore. She suffered from the same issue as Carrie, but worse–she let every guy she dated influence her actions (which is why Jess was perfect for her in the end–just my opinion) and by the time we see her in the revival, Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, we see her career in a rut, while she complains about every single dilemma in her life. That’s not a person to look up to. I know that the writers of the show had a method with the way they wrote her character, but couldn’t she at least have some sort of backbone and really pursue her original dream of becoming the next Christiane Amanpour, or in today’s times, the next Rachel Maddow? It was so disappointing to watch, leading me to further doubt my original decision.

After taking time to look at these popular forms of television, I then looked at two obscure and now-defunct television shows: Good Girls Revolt and The Newsroom. The former, lasting only one season on Amazon Prime, depicted a group of young women in a 1960’s newsroom, protesting (led by Patti Robinson, portrayed by Genevieve Angelson) to get recognition as writers while striving to receive equal pay. It was a show that intrigued me the minute I saw billboards for it in September of 2016. The character development for each of the women was one of growth. Each woman recognized her worth and by the end of the series, they all had the guts to stand up to their male bullies and make names for themselves. (If you have never seen the show before, I truly recommend you watch it–it will be worth it).

The Newsroom is a show that I found a true love for, so much so that all my friends laugh at how much I talk about this show. Created by Aaron Sorkin (yes–the same one who created the beloved The West Wing), the show details a group of journalists and television producers overhauling the 8:00 PM news in the midst of a rough political climate. During its three seasons on HBO, the characters went through the real-life events of a presidential election, a military coup, and a marathon bombing amongst other national moments. Throughout the show, I always found Mackenzie McHale, portrayed by Emily Mortimer, to be one of the fiercest female characters I had seen on television in a while. She never let her personal life affect her first true love–the news. She led her team with authority and made sure that there was integrity and truth behind each news report.

As I continue to write this piece, I consider the women I admire with their commitment to journalism and the bylines they’ve received over their careers. During my time as an intern at ELLE Magazine (that’s another story for another time–you can read that anecdote here), I remember always seeing the Chief Content Officer of Hearst Magazines, Joanna Coles, everywhere I went. She is one of those women with an aura that screams, “Respect me for my thoughts while I go and change the world with my words.” Her aura was so potent that whenever she stepped into the elevator, people would part like the Red Sea just to give her the space she deserved. Described by the New York Times as “one of the most powerful people in media,” Coles is so powerful in the field that she not only executive produces one of the newest television shows, The Bold Type (another show that I highly recommend), but she sits on the board of directors at Snapchat and on the board of the Women Entrepreneurs New York City. The fact that this UK-native has been able to make such strides since arriving in the States in 1997 both dumbfounds me and further fuels the fire within me that maybe this was the right decision for me.

So what’s in store for me as graduation approaches closer and closer? I truly don’t know. But maybe this newfound fire that I am finding as I complete this piece will help the next girl who can’t decide whether this field is right for her. Until then, I’m going to cross my fingers, find myself through my words, and see where that takes me in the next phase of life.