THAT’S WHAT SHE SAID
Rating on-screen female journos
MARY RICHARDS (MARY TYLER MOORE) The Mary Tyler Moore Show 1970-1977 Rating: 9 Many a think piece has been written about Mary Richards as a feminist icon, especially after Moore’s passing earlier this year. She asks for equal pay and leaves her fiancé when she knows they’d never make it to the altar. Plus, she’s a capable journalist, struggling with issues that real news reporters face, such as contempt of court charges, conflicts of interest and keeping a straight face at absurd news (or, at least, she tries with that last one).
BAILEY QUARTERS (JAN SMITHERS) WKRP in Cincinnati 1978-1982 Rating: 2 It’s Loni Anderson’s Jennifer Marlowe, the radio station secretary on this CBS sitcom, who holds up as a powerful female role model. In the first episode alone, she brushes off male-gazing and asks for a raise. Comparatively, aspiring journalist Bailey is meek. And she doesn’t always help her cause. Bailey finally gets a chance at a real story — the budget crisis at a children’s hospital — in season 4, and she fabricates a source in a rough draft (which, naturally, makes it to air with hilarious results).
LOIS LANE (TERI HATCHER) Lois & Clark The New Adventures of Superman 1993-1997 Rating: 10 Many an actress has donned the press pass of this ink-stained idol, who holds her own against mild-mannered co-worker Clark Kent. What’s great about ABC’s Lois & Clark is that by the very nature of its title, Lois is thought of as an equal to Dean Cain’s Man of Steel (or at least his alter ego). In the first episode, she tries to disarm a bomb she finds while investigating a story. In the final season, she gets promoted to editor of the Daily Planet, making her Clark’s boss.
JANE CRAIG (HOLLY HUNTER) Broadcast News 1987 Rating: 10 Somewhere during James L. Brooks’s snarky, behind-thescenes look at the TV news industry, a network exec stands in awe at the fast-talking whirlwind that is Hunter’s ace producer when she’s breaking a story. He had no idea she was this good. Really? Everyone else did. Sure, Jane may be a hot mess in some scenes, but she is an unapologetically honest reporter who also happens to know exactly when to call a romance that’s not working. And we think her morning crying fits are meant to be cathartic.
ALICIA CLARK (GLENN CLOSE) The Paper 1994 Rating: 8 There are many all-too-real aspects of director Ron Howard’s depiction of the fast-paced life of news people at a scrappy New York daily, despite its pre-Internet première. One is Alicia, who is forced into a role as a strict budget-minder who clashes with Michael Keaton’s metro editor. She even stresses over circulation numbers when she’s in a hospital bed after suffering a gunshot wound (and no way she’s sharing her copy of the paper with her nurse).
MURPHY BROWN (CANDICE BERGEN) Murphy Brown 1988-1998 Rating: 10 Multi-Emmy winner Bergen’s seasoned investigative journalist and news anchor picks up Mary Richards’ empowerment baton. A character just as accomplished as any man in the field (and possibly just as damaged; she’s also a recovering alcoholic and smoker), Murphy has no qualms about taking on everyone from real-life politicians to the multitude of secretaries who couldn’t keep up with her demands. She did, famously, succumb to the classic pitfall of becoming the story.
But the blame there goes to then-vice-president Dan Quayle, who said her single parenting was “mocking the importance of fathers.”
RORY GILMORE (ALEXIS BLEDEL) Gilmore Girls 2000-2007, Netflix revival 2016 Rating: 4 In the show’s original run, Rory is editor of her college newspaper and prophetic enough to cover Barack Obama’s campaign trail. But Rory gets cocky somewhere between the series’ ending and Netflix’s four-episode revival. After she has a small piece in The New Yorker, she doesn’t bother to prepare for job interviews, is fine sleeping with a source (this one, apparently, is dressed as a Wookiee), and believes her mere presence is enough to make her tiny city journal thrive.
DELLA FRYE (RACHEL McADAMS) State of Play 2009 Rating: 10 McAdams’ intrepid reporter may not be as seasoned as Russell Crowe’s Cal McAffrey when she’s brought on to assist in his research of a suspicious death. But she should not be trifled with just because she’s spent most of her career blogging — and she proves it by seeking out her own leads in the case. It’s fitting that McAdams would go on to portray an actual, stone-cold female journalist in the Oscar-winning film Spotlight.
MacKENZIE McHALE (EMILY MORTIMER), MAGGIE JORDAN (ALISON PILL) AND SLOAN SABBITH (OLIVIA MUNN) The Newsroom 2012-2014 Rating: 6 Few things irked the fans of Aaron Sorkin’s HBO show more than his depiction of female journalists. MacKenzie deeply wants to legitimize her show, but she gets derailed by something as innocuous as her Wikipedia listing having the wrong alma mater.
Maggie encounters some serious demons, but her distractions are more frequently love-life related. That leaves Munn’s financial whiz who, perhaps because of the actress’s gift for the show’s rapid-fire dialogue, can explain the subprime mortgage crisis and have no fear of questioning authority.
ZOE BARNES (KATE MARA) House of Cards 2013-present Rating: 1 This cub reporter so badly wants to be in the big league. Although Zoe is enterprising enough to seize an opportunity when he (Kevin Spacey’s Machiavellian Frank Underwood) is presented, she is too gullible for the job. Zoe is a cautionary tale for covering the murky political world: Don’t sleep with a source, and don’t hide information about a potential murder from the teammates on the piece. And if you do happen to do those things? Don’t meet said unscrupulous source late at night at a subway stop and delete any evidence of your relationship.
CARRIE BRADSHAW (SARAH JESSICA PARKER) Sex and the City 1998-2004 Rating: 8 This HBO series based on Candace Bushnell’s dating columns may have kick-started as many journalism grads’ moves to New York as it did fashion trends. Yes, Carrie wasn’t writing hardhitting exposés. And the idea that she earned $4 a word while freelancing for Vogue still makes real journalists laugh-cry. But Sex and the City did document the ebbs and flows of female friendships in a way that we couldn’t help but wonder has ever been done as successfully before.
Sex and the City’s Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker) wasn’t a hard-hitting journalist, but she made big bucks for her relatable columns on love, friendship and sex.
Mary Tyler Moore