by KRISTIN DEVITT
It’s still one of my old gags, “I got out of television before they had to put Vaseline on the lens”.
But there is more than a little truth to the fact that as a woman on television, you get that sense that your time may be up at a certain age. That there’s a shelf life. I should add I made the leap over to PR before I hit 30!
After quick stints doing the graveyard (midnight to dawn) shift at one Brisbane newsroom while finishing my uni degree, and a whistle-stop three months reporting in Rockhampton, I landed a Brisbane reporting and weekend newsreading role at the tender age of 21 in the early 1990s. I covered many news rounds over the ensuing nine years from courts to police, parliament and the arts.
Looking back now, there is a part of me that wishes I had ignored that one news director who declared I “didn’t have the x-factor” after nearly ten years on air. The same one whose wife took great issue with me wearing pink lipstick reading the news. Still not sure if it was fuschia or fuschia on me that was the problem. Who doesn’t love hot pink? Reminds me of another of my quotable quotes: “x-factor, sex factor, couldn’t give a max factor”.
But at the time, and certainly I know it is still the case for many young women on tv, the pressure to be slim, to be forever young, was great.
I take great joy in seeing women newsreaders in Australia continue to deliver our tv news into their 40s, 50s and beyond. Travelling regularly overseas as I do, this is something I have seen as the norm rather than the exception in Europe and the US. It’s okay to catch up.
But I don’t see many of them greying, wearing glasses, putting on a little pudding around the middle, as opposed to some of their male counterparts. That would be just too much wouldn’t it?
I am short sighted, and wear contact lenses every day, but I recall in my mid-twenties coming back to the newsroom from a story wearing glasses, and a news boss bailing me up to ask if I had worn them in the shots! No, rest assured, I took them off for my piece to camera, and for my noddies, couldn’t see a thing, but I knew the aesthetics were more important than authenticity. Wait, that all sounds a bit bitter doesn’t it?
I am going back more than 15 years now, but the subject still riles me. You see, while there are increasingly women of all ages, shapes and sizes having a voice as tv news reporters, I would like to see more of these women delivering the news from the desk as well. I love beauty as much as the next person, but when it comes to news, I like it coming from someone who knows what they’re talking about. Someone who has covered a natural disaster, a cracking court case, a political bun fight. And I don’t think I’m alone in that.