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These Powerful Women in Media Are Breaking down Barriers in Washington

By Kiki Burger | March 1, 2018 | People

Think it’s a tough environment for women in the media? Yep. But here, we talk to some of the women making sure that in Washington, at least, the old boys’ club makes room for the females.

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FROM LEFT: The Daily Beast Washington Bureau Chief Jackie Kucinich; CNN Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger; CNN Chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash.

Donald Trump drove Megyn Kelly out of Fox and Billy Bush out of NBC and won the White House despite a parade of accusers and even his own voice boasting about his unsolicited groping of women. There’s even a porn star in the mix.

Then came Harvey Weinstein and the media and entertainment worlds exposing their own for mistreatment of women. Say goodbye to Bill O’Reilly, Charlie Rose and Matt Lauer. The #metoo and #timesup movements were born. By the time you read this there might be more added to this list. From the outside, it looks pretty tough to be a woman in media. From the inside, there are silver linings—including the bonds this demanding professional path can create.

“There are so many cool women in this town, I really do feel like there’s a sisterhood between us female reporters,” says CNN’s Dana Bash—who launched a new digital series, Badass Women, in 2017 to showcase “women already breaking barriers in a man’s town.” “To be able to vent to one another, to bounce things o of each other… At the end of the day, women are feeling more empowered and that’s a really good thing.”

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CBS News Chief Congressional Correspondent Nancy Cordes has covered major stories including the ongoing healthcare battle.

NBC News’ Kristen Welker says the presence of female reporters in Washington is “something that we should celebrate. It’s fantastic. It speaks to all of the reporters that came before us, like the Andrea Mitchells, who blazed that path.” Anecdotes abound of ways large and small that women have inspired each other. Welker recalls a moment when Mitchell’s mere presence was a help to young reporters on Hillary Clinton’s plane during the campaign. While flying over Florida, severe turbulence had everyone nervous, but after they saw a cool, collected Mitchell, a sense of calm came over the cabin.

In the ’70s, when Gloria Borger started as an intern at the Washington Star, alongside the New York Times’ Maureen Dowd, who took dictation, there weren’t many women wearing press passes. “It’s interesting for someone like me. I’ve been around for a while—it allows me to see how the arc has moved,” Borger says. “There wasn’t this sisterhood.” She adds that she’s just “joyful” at the way more female points of view has shifted the way news is covered.

The Daily Beast Washington Bureau Chief Jackie Kucinich echoes that sentiment, saying how “encouraging it is when you walk into a room and you see more people like you, especially when you’re a young woman.”

One of the newest female White House correspondents is ABC’s Tara Palmeri. She told Capitol File that she counts Julie Mason, host of The Press Pool on SiriusXM radio’s POTUS channel as a mentor. “She always reminded me that ‘shoeleather’ reporting will set you apart from the pack,” remarked Palmeri. “She’s among the many women who have given me solid advice and were willing to commiserate during tough times.”

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White House Correspondent Kristen Welker’s stories run across across all NBC News and MSNBC platforms. Welker is a member of the National Association of Black Journalists.

Washington Post White House Correspondent Anne Gearan has been a reporter for over 30 years and has “been lucky enough to have women during important points in her career as mentors,” and now says she does the same for others.

Sisterhood was an oft-repeated notion voiced by today’s top female journalists asked about the current climate. Washington journalism can be a cliquey gig, born of sharing long hours treading the halls of Congress and jousting with low-level White House press blockers and high-level spinners oozing derision from the podium. Bonds are forged by the need to stay sharp and vigilant for scoops and, for some, camera-ready at all hours of the day, while surviving extensive travel.

“Political reporting, especially the White House beat in the Trump era, is not for the faint of heart,” Fox News White House reporter Kristin Fisher told Capitol File. “It requires long hours and lots of travel. Last year, I spent almost every other weekend at the ‘Winter White House’ in Palm Beach or President Trump’s summertime retreat in Bedminster, New Jersey. You’re away from family and friends, but you’re traveling with the entire White House press corps. We stay in the same hotels and share meals together, all while covering the story of a lifetime. Sure, it’s competitive. But there’s also a deep camaraderie that can only come from sharing such an intense experience.”

CBS’ Nancy Cordes recalls exhausted times hanging out in the back of Hillary Clinton’s plane after 19-hour days. “We flash a high-five or a knowing look, and it’s nice to know that you have this group of women that completely understand what you’re going through–a sort of shorthand. You can pick up the phone [to one of your female colleagues] and with very little background, they know what you’re going through.”

The New York Times’ Helene Cooper says a cadre of female journalists from all around the world bonded while following then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice from 2004 to 2008. In 2006 they formed the Diplobabes, a global cross-section of women that work at news outlets such as Agence France-Presse, NPR, e Washington Post, BBC and more. The colleagues meet for dinners and even have an annual Diplobabes Christmas party. “It’s been more than 10 years and we’re still incredibly close. These are women who I can go to. ey are a good reality check for me,” Cooper says of her group, adding that she bets any female reporter in DC could point to a similar group. “I can’t emphasize enough just how good it is to have this group of women that will always have my back.”

And while one may think it daunting to report the ongoing revelations of harassment and worse, these professionals handle it with aplomb. “I think it’s forcing everyone—men and women—to reevaluate how they behave in the workplace,” says Fisher. “It’s giving women the courage to come forward when they’ve been mistreated, and it’s forcing men to think twice before engaging in that kind of behavior.”

As to what it is like to cover a president with a record of going out of his way to heap ridicule on journalists during the campaign? These women simply see this administration as one of the most challenging and meaningful times to be covering politics in Washington—and they are up to the task. “No matter what your gender,” says Bash, “now is the most important time to be a reporter.”



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