This is the kind of poisonous whispering our most talented and experienced Australian journalists deal with for the privilege of having a job on TV in 2018.
While a million words have been written about the enduring men’s club mentality inside mainstream television networks, none of them seem to have made a dent in the culture that famously “boned” Rowe back in 2006.
She – a television journalist, writer and mental health advocate who’s been awarded the Order of Australia for her work – must have wondered if she had somehow stepped into a time machine when on Friday, moments after she announced to her Studio Ten audience that she was stepping down to spend more time with her family, a former (fired) boss, Robert McKnight Tweeted to say that the network had been planning to fire her for a year.
Ten vehemently deny this, Rowe vehemently denies this, but still, that’s the muck that stuck as the story did the rounds.
Georgie Gardner – a television journalist with 20 years experience under her belt – made a similar decision to Jess’ four years ago, when she left the Today show to spend more time with her young family.
Of course, she famously returned last year when she came to fill Lisa Wilkinson’s vacated seat. So far, the price she’s paid for sitting next to Karl Stefanovic is to have her monetary “worth” widely discussed and critiqued, and now the icky speculation that her co-star has been roundly slagging her off in a taped conversation with his brother that has been sold to the highest bidder.
You don’t always have to be friends with colleagues and that’s perfectly fine. Georgie Gardner says she doesn’t hang out with Karl after work, the Mamamia Out Loud team discuss. Post continues after audio.
When Lisa Wilkinson – arguably one of Australia’s most experienced and well-loved media figures – left Channel Nine last year, it tripped off a tsunami of coverage about the pay gap between herself and Stefanovic, which was rebutted in unprecedented on-the-record quotes from CEO Hugh Marks about pay negotiations, notice periods and endorsement deals.
She’s now at Ten, where every night that she hosts The Project the ratings are forensically examined for evidence that the network was sold a dud.
The brilliant Melissa Doyle, over on Channel Seven, would know exactly how Georgie and Lisa are feeling, having been subject to speculation that when she left her immensely popular 11-year stint co-hosting Sunrise back in 2013 she was forced to take a pay cut and was ‘traded in’ for a younger model in the shape of Samantha Armytage.
In turn, Armytage has to weather her weight, relationship status and even her choice of underwear being exposed, dissected and discussed daily.
Of course, the men who sit next to these women get their fair share of headlines, too. But for what? Karl was lauded as a lovable hero for being tipsy the morning after Logies and was considered the most bankable and likeable guy on TV until a personal “scandal” – the breakdown of his 21-year marriage to Cassandra Thorburn – dented his appeal to every-woman.
It’s not his professional prowess or his monetary worth that is ever called into question. David Koch, Sunrise’s host of 15 years, is so rarely in the headlines you’d be forgiven for thinking he’d quit. He hasn’t, he’s still sitting pretty on the couch while Armytage draws fire.
How do these women handle this scrutiny and gossip?
With extreme grace.
They turn up for work, no matter what, impeccable poker-faces in place, gliding like swans above the desk, paddling like racing ducks underneath. They sit next to the men who are being paid double / are embroiled in an ugly split / have disrespected them publicly / are handed the big monologues / are given licence to behave badly – and they do their jobs.
They show up and do the work. Like Georgie Gardner did this morning.
Look, there is a world of people more in need of sympathy than highly paid women at the top of their game in a competitive field. But how we treat some of the most visible women in our culture matters. It sets the tone.
And the tone set, over and over again, is that the women are lucky to be there, and the men make the rules.
They’d better not put a foot wrong, or speak out, or complain about anything, while the men can get messy and make mistakes and throw slurs (in the case of The Footy Show’s Sam Newman, ‘slurs’ would be a polite way of putting it), and demand more and they’ll be lauded for it.
The tone is set that inside our TVs, it’s still a man’s world, and they’re just living in it.
Journalist, mother and news anchor, when Georgie Gardner came on No Filter with Mia Freedman, she was candidly honest about her life. From her experiences in the TV industry to her ‘complex’ upbringing, there’s a reason why Mia calls her “Gold Standard.” Get it in your ears.