In a shocking number of the classic so-called “chick flicks” and sitcoms of the past 30 years, lady journos are everywhere. But a 2012 report by the Women’s Media Center found that women comprise only 18.1 percent of radio news directors, 36.9 percent of newspaper journalists, and 28.4 percent of television news directors. And in an annual count of bylines at “thought-leader” magazines, the organization VIDA found that most published well below 25 percent women. Meanwhile, this recent article in The New Republic exposed the “psycho-sexual ordeal” — extreme harassment and sexism — faced by women reporting on politics in Washington. Clearly, romance isn’t the only fantasy that chick-flicks are peddling.
Still, it’s easy to see the appeal of the lady-journo protagonist. She’s professional and witty enough to be compelling, but doesn’t seem as stuffy as a lawyer or doctor. Her line of work is semi-glamorous (literally, glossy!), but not too intimidating. More often than not, she’s a women’s-mag columnist or assistant who aspires to something more substantive as she fetches coffees for domineering older editors and writes listicles about how to please a man in bed or what to wear on a first date. She’s smart but neutered, ambitious but restrained — the perfect rom-combination.
Even though I complain about how lady journos are represented on screen, I’m unable to look away. Here are some classics of the genre, and some career lessons I’ve managed to glean from each. [Editor’s note: We cut How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days, because quite frankly, we don’t think there’s a good lesson there. But , feel free to disagree in the comments.]
Photo: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures; Courtesy of HBO; Courtesy of 20th Century Fox; Courtesy of CBS.
His Girl Friday
Starring: Rosalind Russell as a newspaper reporter .
Claim to fame: Set the standard for fast-talking dames — both journalists and non.
Career lesson: You’re smarter than he is. Really.
Starring: Rachel McAdams as a morning-show producer .
Claim to fame: A torrid romance with her job; a not-so-torrid romance with a dude.
Career lesson: Nothing feels better than hearing an old-dude boss say “I underestimated you.”
Starring: Christina Applegate as a news anchor.
Claim to fame: Busting up the ‘70s network boys’ club; surviving sex with Ron Burgundy.
Career lesson: When someone calls you “Tits McGee,” let your vengeance rain down upon them.
Never Been Kissed / He's Just Not That Into You / Going the Distance
Starring: Drew Barrymore as newspaper reporter.
Claim to fame: OH MY GOD, HOW MANY REPORTERS HAS DREW B. PLAYED?
Career lessons: Sometimes he is into you, and you’re undercover, but he thinks you’re in high school. Oops. You should out yourself as a reporter. Also, never sacrifice career for love.
Sleepless in Seattle
Starring: Meg Ryan as newspaper reporter.
Claim to fame: Using early-‘90s reporting technology to stalk Tom Hanks.
Career lesson: It’s not stalking if you’re a journalist.
Starring: Candice Bergen as a television journalist.
Claim to fame: Shoulder pads and single motherhood.
Career lesson: You really can have it all. If you’re Candy Bergen.
The Devil Wears Prada
Starring: Anne Hathaway as a fashion magazine editorial assistant .
Claim to fame: Proximity to Meryl Streep playing Miranda Priestly playing Anna Wintour playing God .
Career lesson: Even intimidating boss ladies are human beings.
The Mary Tyler Moore Show
Starring: Mary Tyler Moore as a TV producer.
Claim to fame: Making it after all.
Career lesson: Find the older guy in the office who doesn’t want to sleep with you, and make him an ally.
Sex and the City
Starring: Carrie Bradshaw as a sex columnist .
Claim to fame: Rhetorical questions and bad decisions .
Career lesson: For a few shameless oversharers, personal drama can equal professional success.