An­chor aweigh

Chan­nel 10’s top newsreader is show­ing how women can break though the bar­ri­ers, writes Siob­han Duck

Herald Sun - Switched On - - Front Page -

HE­LEN Ka­pa­los once feared that be­com­ing a newsreader would cut short her jour­nal­ism ca­reer.

The Chan­nel 10 news an­chor (right) says she was hes­i­tant to give up re­port­ing for a desk job be­cause fe­male news­read­ers rarely have longevity on Aus­tralian tele­vi­sion.

Ka­pa­los says Aus­tralia could learn a lot from Amer­ica, where jour­nal­ists Bar­bara Wal­ters, 78, Diane Sawyer, 62, and Katie Couric, 51, are not only still on air, but con­sid­ered among the best in the busi­ness.

Apart from SBS newsreader Lee Lin Chin, there are very few ma­ture women be­hind the prime-time news­desks in Aus­tralia.

Mary Kostakidis and Jana Wendt both in their 50s, left their jobs as SBS newsreader and Sun­day host re­spec­tively, last year. Both walked amid ac­ri­mony.

And there has been no short­age of oth­ers, in­clud­ing Chris­tine Spi­teri and Tracey Spicer, who have com­plained of sex­ism in their news­rooms.

Ka­pa­los says she ac­cepts that tele­vi­sion is a vis­ual medium and news pre­sen­ters, male and fe­male, will be judged not only for their in­ter­view skills, but for their cloth­ing and phys­i­cal ap­pear­ance.

‘‘When I watch San­dra Sully read the late news I ad­mit I am in­ter­ested to see what she’s wear­ing,’’ Ka­pa­los says with a laugh.

Ka­pa­los ac­knowl­edges the glass ceil­ing still hangs over Aus­tralian tele­vi­sion news­rooms, but is hope­ful that could change with in­creas­ing num­bers of young women go­ing into jour­nal­ism.

Ka­pa­los says Chan­nel 10 has so far proved to be the most sup­port­ive and en­cour­ag­ing news­room to work in as a woman.

She says Nine seemed to be far more of a boys’ club.

‘‘I was the only woman on the ( Chan­nel 9 Athens) Olympics team,’’ she says.

‘‘I think I was the first woman to be sent over­seas by Chan­nel 9 in some­thing like a decade.

‘‘In many ways it still is very much a man’s world.

‘‘Those prob­lems (sex­ism in the work­place) def­i­nitely do ex­ist.

‘‘So far Ten has been very re­spect­ful to me.

‘‘I cer­tainly felt it more at Nine with the likes of (for­mer net­work chief) Sam Chisholm and those guys.

‘‘When Ten called, I wasn’t sure what to do be­cause I felt a lot of loy­alty to Nine.

‘‘I don’t know why I did (feel loy­alty) be­cause they had just taken me off Night­line and I did not feel like they had treated me that well.’’

Ka­pa­los says her friend and men­tor Wendt en­cour­aged her to take the job at Ten.

The pair worked to­gether on the Sun­day pro­gram.

‘‘Jana re­ally helped me make the de­ci­sion,’’ she says.

‘‘She had worked at Ten be­fore and en­cour­aged me to give it a go.’’

Ka­pa­los couldn’t be hap­pier with her de­ci­sion to move to Ten and Mel­bourne.

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