We need to address journalism's creepy cult of beauty if we want to tackle sexism in the media - Press Gazette

We need to address journalism's creepy cult of beauty if we want to tackle sexism in the media

I don’t think broadcast journalism courses assess prospective candidates for their physical beauty. They are generally looking for solid A-levels, enthusiasm and evidence of commitment to a career in journalism.

But you could understand why they might because it seems to be a major factor in determining whether or not candidates will have a career on-screen.

I mention it because the #metoo movement on social media has opened the door on allegations of sexual impropriety against female women journalists.

It seems to me that if we are serious about tackling sexisim in the media we need to take a broader look at the way news outlets portray women.

The newspapers which led on the Harvey Weinstein allegations also regularly use pictures of beautiful women to help them stand out on the newsstand.

They also use idealised heavily-airbrushed pictures of attractive women almost exclusively on the front pages of their magazine supplements.

In broadcast journalism it has to be said that there is a cult of beauty, particularly when it comes to female on-screen presenters. Less so, it must be said, for male newsreaders who can get away with being older and less classically attractive (no offence intended to former BBC Breakfast presenter Bill Turnbull pictured above).

When deciding which journalists to promote to the most highly paid on-screen news presenting roles some frankly quite creepy conversations must be going on at the top of the BBC, Sky and ITN.

This isn’t to say that these presenters are not brilliant at their jobs, hard-working and utterly deserving of the positions they have.

But how many brilliant journalists are left in the career doldrums purely because they are seen, by whoever is making these decisions, as less obviously sexually attractive?

There is so much talk of diversity in the media. But where are the tubby, blotchy-faced, wonky-eyed and gap-toothed when it comes to news presenters? In short why are the great mass of humanity not better represented among their ranks?

I suspect there will be many more revelations to come about TV and newspaper executives who have abused their position to make inappropriate sexual advances on female colleagues.

Perhaps if we are to change the culture which allows this to happen we also need a wider debate about the portrayal of women in newspapers and on broadcast news outlets.


5 thoughts on “We need to address journalism's creepy cult of beauty if we want to tackle sexism in the media”

  1. People prefer to look at reasonably attractive people and tend to turn away from unattractive ‘tubby, blotchy-faced, wonky-eyed and gap-toothed’ people.
    TV execs are responding demand, not creating it.

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