J-investor dilemma: mediabistro class or Botox?

December 8, 2006 at 9:10 pm 15 comments


Yesterday at CUNY’s Graduate School of Journalism, two established female reporters admitted they could not survive as freelance writers if they weren’t married. These are ladies with the New York Times, the Washington Post and Time in their heaping stacks of clips. Turn away from the screen, Ms. Steinem.

I’ve been married. Every great broad deserves a great first husband. But–silly us–we wed for convivial partnership, not financial security. When the party ended, we went home alone. Happily divorced is not oxymoronic.

But the evidence is in:  Single scribe-dom is moronic.

So now we can delight in choices, my favorite!

Mediabistro’s class in nonfiction book writing  for $610 or two hits of the needle to ensure that youthful freshness so appealing to gents seeking their second or third honey?

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15 Comments Add your own

  • 1. annaliese  |  December 8, 2006 at 10:08 pm

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but both of the women you’re speaking of work as freelancers, which is a particular lifestyle choice. One that I know would make me happier than a cubicle, but a choice nonetheless.

    The spouses of those lady journos are full-time employee of new outlets, yes? There’s nothing preventing women from taking full-time jobs. Other than the job market, of course. Oh, and childcare. Basically, the sticking point is the health insurance for the family. As a single person you could probably afford mediabistro health insurance or some sort of Healthy New York insurance and make it just fine.

    So single girl, take the book writing course. You ladies who have delusions of a family, a fulfilling job and financial stability – get the botox and start working on fluff pieces. That’s all you’ll have time for.

    It that patently unfair? Yes. Is it the reality we have to confront head on and plan for? Yes.

    Also, living in ultra-expensive New York is a choice. Working as a freelancer from upstate (or Vermont or Iowa for that matter) might mitigate some of those pressures.

    Oh, and the Botox might be a good investment anyway, cynical as it sounds, because the fresher and lovlier you look, the more likely you are to get a job, of any kind.

  • 2. Heather  |  December 8, 2006 at 10:21 pm

    I’m so glad you brought this up! I was troubled by the very same thing. And unfortunately, it doesn’t only apply to freelancers. A couple weeks ago, I listened to the foreign desk editor at the NY Times speak to a room full of young CUNY women and say basically the same thing – that she’s so lucky to have a husband who has a steady job – so he could be home with the kids when she was covering breaking news. At the end of her lecture, someone asked who her mentors were, and she could only name her husband as a mentor. At a women’s leadership conference.

    Annaliese is right that we can choose to live outside the city and have a lower cost of living, and I might do that someday, but it feels a little like admitting defeat.

  • 3. Ms.V  |  December 8, 2006 at 10:24 pm

    Ms B.

    Talk about a pink elephant. Great for the ladies! Thank you for being so brave. The financial considerations of marriage are enormous. But you say the evidence against single scribe-dom is in.

    It’s not moronic. It’s hard. It makes you make difficult choices, like Botox or writing class? Order in or cook? (the former please!), documentary film or corporate communications?
    Moronic is going home to someone you can’t stand, and being legally tethered to them. Some can deal with that. I can’t. But you have to give it up to those who can. The rest of us, single or not, do our own thing, and move on, in hopes that integrity can exist in at least one part of our lives, if not at work.

    As for choices…it’s all about priorities…and anyway, there are still 13 more months of school where you’ll be writing quite a bit, and…

  • 4. annaliese  |  December 8, 2006 at 10:55 pm

    You know, this issue, i.e. managing a different set of choices as a woman, actualy came up in my CUNY interview when I was applying to school. My interviewer (Jane Gould, financial writer, worked for Dean Shepard at Business Week) sort of bristled when I said it was harder for women to navigate a career and family, then agreed when I said that baseline, we have a different set of expectations and choices to make than male colleagues.

    Those pie-in-the-sky third wave feminists, god love ’em.

  • 5. annaliese  |  December 9, 2006 at 12:21 am

    Unpack that sex worker comment for me.

    Dealing with the fact that women and men are, still , treated diferently doesn’t make us sex workers. It makes us pragmatists. And no, I’m not in favor of Botox, implants, etc. as a means of enhancing our employment opportunities. But I do think a lot more about how I’ll look at a job interview than a male colleague would. And I take into consideration whether a man or woman is interviewing me. And I believe there’s a difference.

    It’s all about the audience. And you know that, Ms. Bergman.

  • 6. annaliese  |  December 9, 2006 at 2:10 am

    I guess we’re all a bit frazzled, or in my case, drunk, and lettiing it fly, Which makes thing more interesting than a buttoned up classroom discussion, no?

    Thanks for inititiating such and interesting line of debate lady j.

  • 7. annaliese  |  December 9, 2006 at 2:17 am

    Check out Judith Miller’s blog on NYT (last week’s post) on lady journo’s concerns about alienating sources. It’s somewhat tangential to this discussion, but gets to the core of what we’re talking about, i.e how the work of journalsim is different for women.

  • 8. Joy Bergmann  |  December 9, 2006 at 7:32 am

    Sorry, darlings.

    Someone should really equip these Macs with breath-a-lizers.

    Only trying to hold up the tattered remains of sassy, soused tradition.

  • 9. Ms.V  |  December 9, 2006 at 10:23 am

    At the inaguration party in November, I met 2 very well-known, high-powered women journalists. One of them took my hand and told me how they were the trailblazers 20 years ago, and consequently didn’t have the opportunity to have the kids, the husband, etc. They were focused on their careers instead and fighting their way through the male dominated world of journalism. They told me that I should keep that in mind; that I CAN do it all or at least try to. One of them is a major executive who told me that she is now in the “fortunate” position to approve maternity leave for her employees. She loves it. But I walked away with the feeling that, a journalist who chooses to go beyond the confines of a freelance life, and into, say, a war torn country, or the third world, or even a gritty metro beat covering shootings at 3 in the morning will not be able to have such a lifestyle, with all the fixins. Talk about a choice! Marry the job and live out your dreams of becoming the next Oriana Fallaci or freelance part-time and watch the kids part-time in a Brooklyn brownstone while hubby brings home the bacon. You’ve really gotta love either choice, ’cause you’ll be tied to it for a while. Oh, and finding a man who can put up with the sort of jet-setting lifestyle mentioned earlier? Let me know how that goes….That may be where the Botox comes in….
    Ciao bellas,
    Ms. V

  • 10. Joy Bergmann  |  December 9, 2006 at 2:14 pm

    Thanks to all.
    Annaliese: Astute as always.

    Let us not forget that in this interactive era, we are all on-camera talent. So the investment question goes well beyond man-catching.

    Say it loud, say it proud: 2-4-6-8! Exfoliate! Exfoliate! Exfoliate!

  • 11. Jeff Jarvis  |  December 9, 2006 at 5:42 pm

    This would make one heckuva story idea jumping off from the discussion here: a freelance feature on the fate of female freelancers (sorry; couldn’t pass up the alliteration.. and I haven’t cracked open the cabernet yet) — especially relevant in this age of independent journalists — or, as blogging, entrepreneurial journalist Chris Nolan says, stand-alone journalists. Media Bistro? CJR? Elsewhere?

  • 12. Emily S.  |  December 9, 2006 at 8:49 pm

    I would not argue that women don’t have a different set of choices, and that this third wave is a long time coming, but part of this issue that we are ignoring is that it’s hard to make it as a freelancer, or small media owner, period. I do not think that this only applies to women, I think it applies to men as well. The paper where I worked this summer was a small one, akin to Baristanet.com in its small town coverage. The difference was that the owner, Brian O. was the “stay at home” parent who would leave work to pick up his son while his wife worked long hours and provided the family with health insurance. In fact, she was the one who set him up with the funds to buy the paper in the first place, many years ago. So it’s not that we XXers have to tie the knot or resign ourselves to health clinics, it’s that the life of an independent journalist is not usually the most lucrative one.

  • 13. veronicacorningstone  |  December 10, 2006 at 2:26 pm

    I think Emily has it right.
    As women, I think we all know what’s stacked against us in any professional industry. But I also think that now is an especially exciting time for women, especially in journalism. At the New York Herald Tribune reunion, I had a prominent photojournalist ask me if Feminism was dead. While my initial thought was that it certainly seems that way…right now, I have to think that it’s alive and well in journalism but taking a different form.
    Survey your Craft class, or any other class ladies… you can probably count the number of men on one hand. We’re taking over, slowly but surely. Christiane Amanpour, Maureen Dowd, Katie Couric, Anne Coulter (although I despise her!), Linda Greenhouse, Jill Carroll…I think we have more power than ever before to influence the tide.
    As far as lifestyle choices, I think you will initially, if not always, struggle financially in any creative career. I know men and women alike who have supported their artistic partners financially, myself being one of them, because it’s virtually impossible to be an artist and work a 9-5 that’s going to cover the rent. For women AND men in New York particularly, you need a partner, or a roommate, to help with financial responsibilities if you choose to live a life outside of the corporate box. That’s just the way it is. If it weren’t so challenging and so risky more people would probably pursue their creative dreams.
    Also, I think there’s something to be said about the fact that traditional roles are changing. It’s becoming more and more popular for dads to stay home with the kids, while mom’s kicking butt in the world and bringing home the bacon.

  • 14. Joy Bergmann  |  December 10, 2006 at 4:46 pm

    Lovely to read strong reasoning, ladies. Thanks.

    So many questions arise:

    Could the fact that journalism pays less now be related to the rise of women’s desire [and opportunity] to do this work?

    Agreed. Male freelancers will also encounter financial struggle and might not be such hot marriage commodities because of it. But what seems to be missing from some comments is an acknowledgement that age/looks have economic value–especially in this multi-platform era.

    Think of Adam Liptak or our own Jeff Jarvis. Brilliant fellows who have pleasant, age-appropriate features. Now imagine a woman of that same age, with similar quirky looks, doing her commentary on Web-streaming video.


  • 15. annaliese  |  December 11, 2006 at 1:58 am

    Astute and pointed as always, Lady j.

    So if we think of this from a business perspective, i.e. news outlets hire on-screen talent they think will sell, women are as much a problem as men. We consume media at the same rate and set the tone as much as men. And women, I think, are actually harder on other women than men in terms of judging looks. So how do we make smarts a bigger selling point than cleavage? I have no idea.

    When I was a super-feminist I used to only shoplift make-up because I didn’t want to support an industry based on women’s insecurities. You’ll notice though, that I still wanted to wear it. Oh, bundle of contradications.

    There are though, a number of actresses and media types who are growing old gracefully. Think Lilly Tomlin and Meryl Streep. Susan Sarandon. Meredith Viera wears those crows feet like a trouper.

    And interestingly, the Times multimedia guy who spoke in interactive said that Maureen Dowd rebuffed all overatures toward multimedia anything. And she’s supposed to be the paper’s super fox.


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