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