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 kpbs.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com

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.


Kevin Spacey: What’s happened to broadcast journalism?

New York Times political reporter Mark Leibovich did a Times Talk last night with actors Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright and producer Beau Willimon about the hit Netflix series “House of Cards”.

Kevin Spacey as character Congressman Frank Underwood in Netflix’s “House of Cards” / photo: collider.com

If you haven’t been watching, Spacey plays a democratic congressman from South Carolina who gets involved with a political journalist. The conversation turned to the state of broadcast journalism and Spacey gave his thoughts about what has happened to the news industry.

“What happened when the news had to make money and when ratings became important? And when the conglomerates that looked at the publishing firm that they owned and the movie studio that they owned and looked at the news division and said “Well why shouldn’t that just be as profitable as a profit center as all these other divisions?” And I believe perhaps Edward Murrow might have said better than anybody, the moment you have to make the news compete with entertainment it’s no longer the news. It’s entertainment. And that that aspect of the news disappoints me. That it is now, they have to compete with entertainment. And I think that that as a knock on effect has perhaps changed the style in which journalists are forced to report the news.”

I think there is a lot of truth in what he says.

As a side note, there were sound issues with the interview. If you choose to watch you’ll hear better if you wear headphones.

Reality Check: Dream on…

I hadn’t planned on writing a post about today’s commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, but then I read a tweet that got under my lily-white skin.

March on Washington, 1963 / photo: abcnews.go.com

I’m not going to call the reporter out but she too is white and works for one of the news networks. The gist of her #DreamDay tweet was that her family’s Washington, DC vacation coincided with today’s celebration and what a great moment for her kids to experience.

I wonder what exactly it is she hopes her children take away from today’s events? Yes, I’m sure it’s some message about equality and opportunity for all. They’ll spend the day feeling good about themselves, hanging with a predominately African American crowd on the mall at the Lincoln Memorial… and tomorrow they’ll head back to their segregated existence.

Okay, here’s where I have to say I don’t know this reporter personally. I’ve never worked with her but I’ve worked with many other women and men like her. I may be making assumptions. Perhaps her kids are enrolled in a public school, but chances are they are attending an exclusive private school where the student body both white and minority has been pre-selected to fit some income and/or test score criteria. Chances are likely if you asked her children to list their three best friends not one is black. I’m going to say it’s probably the same for her and her husband.

I can’t just put this all on her. I’m no better and neither are most of my white friends.

“The Butler” / photo: insidemovies.ew.com

My sister recently told me about going to see the movie “The Butler” at a theater in Connecticut. At the end of the film the crowd was clapping and teary eyed in that self-serving way that a mostly liberal leaning audience can be. The problem was they also all happened to be white. There’s a disconnect here folks. Yes, I’m going to celebrate your blackness today – but only at a safe distance.

Of course this reporter is not the only one who tweeted about today’s commemoration. The entire news media have also hopped on the bandwagon. In fact, they have devoted a number of stories and interviews over the past week about the importance of this day and where we as a nation stand when it comes to equality and opportunity for all. Some of the news organizations have even decided to air Dr King’s speech from that day. To what end I ask?

I’ve been in enough newsrooms to tell you it hasn’t escaped my notice that there are a whole lot of white people working there. And most of them with the big jobs are white men.

A recent article in the Atlantic confirms this saying progress has halted for women and minorities working in media. The article breaks down stats for newspapers, television and radio and includes this quote from Dori Maynard, President of the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education:

“The news media and the nation are moving in two different directions,” she says. “News media is getting whiter as the country is getting browner.” Journalists of color “feel their voice is not heard, their story ideas are not validated, and they don’t see room for advancement.”

Whoa, what’s that? Any of you news organizations want to start a #DreamDayFail hashtag? Didn’t think so…

We can all make ourselves feel good by posting 140 characters promoting equality and opportunity for all. We might even convince ourselves we’re advancing the cause but it doesn’t make a difference if we don’t acknowledge the situation right in front of us.

It takes more than re-airing a speech. News organizations have to learn how to live it. Here’s a thought – want to really feel good and make a difference today? Hire or promote a few more minorities and while you’re at it give them equal pay.

I guess, in the end, what I want to say to that reporter is yes, I hope today is a  special moment for her children and everyone else, but let’s not forget about tomorrow. There are special moments and opportunities everyday for both whites and minorities to bridge the divide if we are only brave enough to be open to them and to each other and be honest about the realities of our lives.

Spotlight: Riveting Women

Poynter profiles two young women who recently started an online and print magazine called “The Riveter”. The publication will showcase longform journalism pieces and narratives by female writers.

Ralph (left) and Demkiewicz / Photo by Sally French

Kaylen Ralph and Joanna Demkiewicz recognized the underrepresentation of female magazine writers while they were still students at the University of Missouri.

“…we wondered, and still wonder, where women writers can go to write longform journalism pieces and narratives that aren’t restricted to beauty, fashion, dating, etc. There’s more to women’s experiences as individuals, as writers, and as a collective than those narrow categories allow.” / from Poynter interview

Ralph and Demkiewicz told Poynter they were especially motivated after no women writers were nominated for a major writing category in the 2012 American Society of Magazine Editors’ National Magazine Awards.

Al Jazeera America launch: 3, 2, 1… Liftoff!

Kate O’Brian has a daunting job ahead of her. She’s at the helm of Tuesday’s launch of Al Jazeera America, the latest entry into the 24 hour news market. O’Brian, as I previously posted, is one of two women recently named president of a television news organization. (The other is Deborah Turness at NBC News.) Unlike Turness,  O’Brian is tasked with introducing an American audience to a whole new brand of news which will include 14 hours of live programming.

NPR’s “On The Media” spoke with O’Brian and other members of her team about the new channel’s programming and the hurdles it will have to overcome in order to gain an American audience. The network plans to focus its reporting on under the radar stories here in the United States. At the moment, budgetary costs do not appear to be of concern as the new cable news channel is financed by the government of Qatar.  O’Brian says,  “We will be able to tell stories from places that our competitors will not be able to.”

We will see in the coming weeks and months how the new network will differentiate itself from other cable news channels. There already is one notable difference. In addition to O’Brian,  Al Jazeera America has hired several women for key positions including Marcy McGinnis as senior VP of news gathering, Shannon High as senior VP of documentaries and programs and Kim Bondy as senior executive producer of the network’s flagship prime time news magazine show “America Tonight”.

Stay tuned…

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