News presenters reflect on “a seismic shift”

Presenters including Sandra Sully and Kay McGrath look back on advancement in the newsroom and find change for the better.

Inspired by The Newsreader, ABC has spoken with a number of seasoned female journos and presenters about changes behind the scenes over the decades.

They include Sandra Sully and Jennifer Keyte at 10, Kay McGrath at Seven, Heather Ewart at ABC, Karla Grant at SBS and Indira Naidoo also at ABC.

Sandra Sully recalled once being on the road as a reporter when a senior producer insisted that she put lipstick on before doing an interview “because it was important”.

“I remember I just laughed. I went, ‘What? You can’t be serious.’ I don’t even know if I verbalised it. I think I just thought it and moved on,” Sully says.

“I became increasingly aware of the double standards that women were being judged: What you wear, how you presented, what your hair looked like, your make-up.”

Sully says newsrooms have changed dramatically during her time in the business.

“There’s been a seismic shift in opportunities for women in the last couple of decades, since the early 90s,” she says.

“Women are considered for every role and have every right to seek those opportunities.”

But, she adds: “There’s still a boys’ club and I think it’s more unconscious than conscious.”

A few years ago, when Kay McGrath was still on the news desk, a Brisbane radio station ran a poll asking listeners whether it was time for her to retire.

She rang in herself, much to the surprise of everyone.

“I said, ‘Thank you for showing an interest in this subject, but it’s my job, I love it and I feel I have a right to continue it as long as I wish,'” McGrath says.

Does she think the same kind of poll would be held about a male presenter?

“No of course not,” McGrath says.

Today she’s still working for Seven as a reporter and says it’s great to see women over 50 still in front of the camera.

“The main reason I’m still with Seven is that I love my job, I love the team,” McGrath says.

“I think it’s also, and I’ve said on a number of occasions, I am part of your diversity.

“People want to see themselves back when they tune into the news.”

You can read more here.

3 Responses

  1. In the early 90s, I presented the news in Tasmania and a local radio station invited people to call in and comment on whether or not they liked my new hairstyle! I had a fringe cut!

  2. I have always and still do admire Kay, every time she is on Seven Brisbane I’m always happy to see her…trouble is they often have her doing segments on retiring which I believe is a waste of her talents…I only wish some of the younger news presenters would learn from her and her style of news reading that there is no need to narrate like they’re reading an audio to to a bunch of little kids.. and keep their opinions out of it…news doesn’t need narrating…it’s factual not fictional.

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