Debora Spar and the Ivy League Women Blues

I was just thinking the other day, “I need another successful Ivy League woman reminding me how much my life sucks.”

On the (high) heels of Sheryl Sandberg and Anne Marie Slaughter, Barnard College president Debora Spar is out with her new book “Wonder Women”. You can guess from the title things still haven’t improved for us ladies.

Publisher: Sarah Crichton Books

Publisher: Sarah Crichton Books

For those keeping score, Slaughter declared women can’t have it all and Sandberg advised women to lean into their high profile careers. Spar’s take is that the feminist movement of the 1960’s and 70’s has backfired. The expectations women put on themselves today to have the perfect family, home, career and good looks are all too overwhelming, making our lives difficult and making us unhappy.

I don’t know about you but I’m secretly hoping there is a woman out there with a SUNY diploma who has figured out this whole work / family conundrum and just hasn’t gotten around to telling the rest of us because she’s too busy enjoying her life.

Until then, for the fun of it, since Spar and I are both born the same year let’s compare our lives:

Spar is president of a prestigious women’s college, she has a doctorate from Harvard, she has written six books, she is married and has three children. I on the other hand am a freelance producer (which means I’m unemployed part of the time), I have a B.A. from NYU, I write a blog (30 followers – yay!), I’ve never been married (though I do have a long-time boyfriend) and I have no kids (but share responsibility of my mentally ill 85 year old aunt -who acts like a four year old-  with my cousin).

The similarities are startling – right?

In the words of that great philosopher Charlie Sheen – Debora Spar you are #WINNING! The only thing this outsider can see missing from your life is the letter “h” at the end of your first name.

Honestly, if Spar’s life hasn’t met her expectations I can’t imagine what she must think of mine.

Okay, here’s the deal. I need to call a time out on you Ivy League women. Can we please stop over analyzing our lives as women? Nobody ever said we are going to be happy and content all the time. You have all made legitimate points but stop with the kvetching already.  If you must, start an Ivy League Women’s Angst Facebook page or some sort of consciousness raising group.  Please, just leave the rest of us out of it.

I’m all on board with equal pay and opportunity but I just can’t handle any more of your discontent with your successful lives when all I’m trying to do is make the most of mine.

Oh and P.S. Debora Spar – you are a success. Deal with it.


Bragging rights: My niece the reporter!

I saw my niece Madeleine twice this week and both times our conversation started off with her excitement over articles she had written for her college newspaper at Manhattan College called The Quadrangle.

I love seeing her enthusiasm about writing stories. I know the feeling all too well. That’s one of the things I love most about this profession. Even after 25 years, as much as I might bitch and moan about long hours, missed holidays and the overall stress of the job – the feeling of accomplishment that comes from reporting a story you are proud of never goes away.

I don’t know if this is true for other professions. There is something about the news business that grabs hold of you and if you are destined to be a reporter it is hard to let go.

I don’t know yet if the news business is Madeleine’s destiny. (She certainly won’t get any pressure from me.) I just want her to enjoy the thrill of reporting, for the moment – and to indulge her aunt’s bragging!madeleine article

Newsweek’s New Dress Code: Dress for success… or lose your job!

When I first heard Newsweek employees will now be subjected to a company dress code, my first thought was, “Maybe that’s not a bad idea.”.

Anyone who works in a newsroom will tell you at times the fashion limits are tested. My former colleagues will attest that I spent the last few years on the job wrapped in a gray fleece blanket. Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall – I wore that blanket almost every day. I walked around the office with it on as if it were my Superhero cape. I wasn’t trying to make a fashion statement. Our office space was near the studio which required cooler temperatures.

The gray blanket I regularly wore at work.

The gray blanket I regularly wore at work.

Around the newsroom jeans and chinos for the most part are the uniform of choice. Some colleagues make an effort which I appreciate but most anyone wearing a suit is either on-air talent, part of upper management or headed off on a job interview. This casual look has nothing to do with disrespect for the profession. It’s the result of long hours, odd shifts and the possibility of being sent into the field at a moment’s notice to cover a story.

The new dress code at Newsweek is part of changes being implemented by the publication’s new owner IBT Media. Politico first reported the story and obtained a copy of “The International Business Times Employee Handbook”.

A quick perusal of the IBT dress code shows bare midriffs, halter tops, micro mini-skirts and flip-flops are not allowed. That seems reasonable. I personally find flip-flops in the office annoying – not so much the look, but that constant click-clack is grating when a deadline for a story is fast approaching.

It’s not only flip-flops on the “Fashion Don’t” list. All open toe sandals are now forbidden… and denim jeans, t-shirts and baseball caps. I don’t know about you but right now I’m looking at a naked newsroom.

The part of the dress code that really loses me has to do with hair. It reads:

 … well-groomed, business style hair of natural color is required…

Whoa – what’s that? Natural color? Geez, I hope that employee drug urine test doesn’t include an exam to see if the carpet matches the drapes! But it’s this section of the hair rules that would really get me in trouble:

 Hair should be clean, combed and neatly trimmed or arranged. Shaggy, messy, and neglected hair is not permissible regardless of length.

Great, if I worked at Newsweek I would have to call in sick anytime the humidity is over 70% to spare myself the humiliation of being sent home because of a bad hair day. The dress code concludes with this final warning:

Inappropriately dressed employees will be asked to return home to change into suitable clothing… Any employee who repeatedly violates this policy will be subject to progressive disciplinary action, up to and including suspension without pay and/or discharge.

I think Oscar Madison just turned over in his grave.

If 40 is the new 30… 50 is the new “kiss of death”

I have discovered the fountain of youth and it’s called LinkedIn.

I recently took a course through MediaBistro on how best to use this job networking website. My main takeaway – under no circumstances am I to reveal my age. That’s right. No graduation dates, no laundry list of work experience dating back 25 years and make sure you use a damn good photo!

50 glasses 1

Apparently all those years of work and life experience aren’t worth a thing in today’s job market. The job recruiter leading the course told us, “Your age will be used against you.”. It’s all about youth, youth, youth! Screw it up and you too could become part of the fifty-something and over group a Boston College study has dubbed the “new unemployables”. (I’ve previously posted about how this age group is also seen as irrelevant in the eyes of the media.)

Scary stuff but the problem is once you tell me not to do something I can’t stop doing it.  I almost feel like I’m on a single-handed mission to break this youth obsession. My Facebook page is now covered with images of me celebrating turning fifty. To top it off, this past weekend I marched in the local town parade with a few high school classmates holding a banner celebrating our “50th Birthday Bash Weekend” for all the world to see.

Cow Harbor Parade class of 81

The job recruiter from the LinkedIn course would tell you this is tantamount to a twenty-something posting photos of herself on Facebook doing bong shots. We might as well have streaked down Main Street. Yup, there will be a price to pay if a potential employer stumbles upon these photos.

What’s a middle-aged person to do? Do we really think we’re kidding anyone by shaving decades off our resumes? As my sister said to me this weekend, “Some days I wake up in the morning and I have fifty written all over my face.” She’s right. Okay, sometimes that’s because of a bad night’s sleep, but more often it’s because of where we are at in life and what we know. Guess what? You can’t hide this stuff, nor should you. I don’t need to have a Oprah Winfrey “Aha” moment to tell you I’m at the top of my game and raring to go and oh yeah, as of today I’m 50. (I guess that was obvious by the fact I used the phrase “raring to go”.)

50 glasses 2

My question is why are we all buying into this fallacy that our work and life experience isn’t worth anything? Even worse, it’s being held against us.  Are you seriously telling me some Millennial in the midst of a quarter-life crisis has it more together than I do? I don’t think so.

A recent article in Forbes magazine addresses the swift turnover of Millennials in the job market. Their discontent has to do with the typical work model of having to gain experience and earn respect in order to climb up the ladder. According to the article, “60% of Millennials are leaving their companies in less than three years. With 87% of companies reporting a cost of between $15,000 and $25,000 to replace each lost Millennial employee…”. The article goes on to explain things employers can do to keep Millennials from leaving the job.

Here’s a thought. Let them go. Trust me, they’ll be back in a few years when they have a mortgage to pay and a couple of kids to raise. In the meantime, you can fill the positions with a few fifty-somethings. Honestly, we’ll show up on time with a good attitude and believe it or not plenty of talent. Heck, if you’re willing to put up with some 50th birthday bash photos on our Facebook pages, we’ll even stick around!

“I’m a big fan of brevity. When you get trapped in your words, you can lose the real message. Whether I’m having a conversation or creating a movie, I always ask myself ‘What am I trying to communicate?’. Usually the most concise way is also the most elegant.”

Joseph Gordon-Levitt / from O Magazine

Last night I attended the launch party for the new web video channel “Lives with Meredith Vieira”. I previously posted about the channel when it premiered on YouTube.

Launch party for "Lives with Meredith Vieira".

Meredith Vieira, Sarah Bernard and Jessie Cantrell at the launch party for “Lives with Meredith Vieira”

I had the opportunity to speak with Vieira about her new project. Our conversation focused on the differences between working in new media and traditional media. This is a topic I hope to return to often in future posts.

I asked Vieira if she thought web video channels are the wave of the future and she told me, “I still love traditional media and I think it has a role. But I can’t ignore this anymore. I was really kind of being prehistoric about it and it’s there. And I’m meeting some women who have huge footprints in the internet world and I didn’t even know they existed.”

Meredith Vieira

Meredith Vieira

You can see the full conversation here. (My apologies for the less than stellar video. Hildy must fix this problem stat!)

I also spoke with Mary-Liz McDonald who is the Executive Producer overseeing “Lives”. McDonald started her career in traditional television and in recent years made the switch to digital. “I don’t think there has been a day in the last year and a half when I haven’t learned something new because the landscape is constantly changing”, she told me. ” There are new platforms and new devices and learning how to drive an audience to the content.”

Meredith Vieira and Mary-Liz McDonald, EP "Lives with Meredith Vieira" / photo: Luis Antonio Ruiz

Meredith Vieira and Mary-Liz McDonald, EP “Lives with Meredith Vieira” / photo: Luis Antonio Ruiz

McDonald says web video channels don’t have the same limitations as traditional broadcast channels. “There’s not a big price to admission in digital because you can fail. You can try things in digital and if it fails you can scrap it and move on partially because our costs are lower and partially because things can come and go in digital. It’s not programatic yet in the way I think broadcast television is.”

Hildyshub will continue watching where “Lives” is headed. As they say in the business, “Stay tuned!”.


Social Media Use by Gender

I don’t think it should come as a surprise to anyone that a Pew Research Center survey shows that more women than men are using social media. What is interesting to see is which sites appeal to the different genders. The survey shows women prefer Facebook more than men while men are using Twitter slightly more than women.


It is remarkable the significant growth in the number of people using social networking sites.  The figure has more than doubled in the past five years showing an increase from 29% to 72% of adults online using social media according to the Pew Research Center’s survey.


“I don’t believe at all the road you travel in life is straight. I think there’s constant deviations. There’s all these little side roads. And you can’t be afraid to go down the side road just because you think the straight roads are probably a little more secure . The side roads are where you find the most interesting things.” Meredith Vieira

As broadcast careers go Meredith Vieira seems to have something akin to nine lives. She has never boxed herself into one format. Over the course of her career she has been a local news reporter, a correspondent for “60 Minutes”, a panelist on “The View”, a game show host for “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?”, and a co-anchor of the “Today” show.

Vieira’s latest project takes her outside traditional broadcast television into the world of web video. This week she launches a YouTube channel called “Lives with Meredith Vieira”. You can see her first segment below which is part of a series she calls “Overshare”.

Vieira has said about “Lives”:  “What I hope to do with this channel is give women a sense of community, a place they can go to learn about what other women have dealt with in their lives, and hopefully to leave feeling more connected and empowered.”

Future segments will give us a better idea of what “Lives” hopes to be.

The question is how many women will be willing to tune in? YouTube is more popular than ever with four billion hours of viewership a month, but it’s anyone’s guess how many of those people will choose to watch “Lives”.

A tech column in Time magazine earlier this year said the video sharing website is evolving beyond the popularity of bite-sized videos and that individual channels like Vieira’s are the wave of YouTube’s future.

Update / Sept. 11, 2013:

I have additional information about “Lives with Meredith Vieira” from Suncera Johnson who works on Digital PR for the channel. Johnson says “Overshares” will initially be programmed twice a month. The channel hopes to increase to weekly segments in 2014.

“Lives” also wants to make viewers a part of its programming. Johnson says the channel wants to share stories from viewers through user generated content including comments, tweets, posts and video. Vieira will be curating the submissions.

Ifill and Woodruff: America’s Newest Evening News Team (2013)

Thirty years ago this was the print ad promoting the launch of PBS’  The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour. The program was the first and  only hour-long nightly news broadcast in the nation.

1983 ad promoting the launch of The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour / from

Fast forward to this coming Monday’s NewsHour and the introduction of “America’s Newest Evening News Team”… well,  we’ve come a long way baby.

Judy Woodruff and Gwen Ifill/ from: PBS, Robert Severi/Associated Press

What a novel idea! Two smart women of a “certain age” co-anchoring a nightly newscast. AP’s David Bauder interviewed the new team. Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff say they were surprised by the response to the milestone pairing of two women heading up a nightly news broadcast. Strangers have been offering their congratulations.

“I’m most touched by young women who stop me on the street and tell me how happy they are about this. I’m amazed at the investment people have in this.” Gwen Ifill / AP interview

In addition to co-anchoring, Ifill and Woodruff have also been named managing editors of the broadcast along with their EP Linda Winslow. Did I forget to tell you? Yup, she’s a woman too.


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