In the fifth of a series of blogs offering video snippets from Stephen Hess’ numerous interviews with the prominent journalists featured in Whatever Happened to the Washington Reporters, 1978-2012, Linda Greenhouse, whose coverage of the Supreme Court won the Pulitzer Prize, remembers how she couldn’t get a job on a newspaper after she graduated from college in 1968.
Whatever Happened to the Washington Reporters is Hess’ latest book, in which he set out to find the 450 Washington reporters he first surveyed in 1978. He tracks them in France, England, Italy, Australia, and 19 U.S. states in addition to the Washington area, locating 90 percent and interviews 283 of them, producing the first comprehensive study of career patterns in American journalism.
Linda Greenhouse got a job! Leading to a fabled career on the New York Times. But Linda Greenhouse’s tortured job hunting in 1968 was nothing unusual for a woman wanting to be a reporter. Judy Woodruff, who graduated from Duke in that year, also recalls, “My spring break I went to Atlanta. I interviewed with all three affiliated news directors. Two of them barely gave me the time of day. The third, the ABC affiliate’s news director—this was a station that was doing one newscast on the weekend—he said, ‘I could use a gopher, a newsroom secretary. You can answer the phone and pick up some of my mail.’ I worked for them for a year and a half. The last six months they hired me to do the 11:00 Sunday night weather. It was like a Cinderella story. During the week I would come in and be the secretary in the newsroom, and then on Sunday night I would come in at 6:00, and for five hours I would pore over the weather wires, and then I learned how to do the weather reports.”
Ultimately women journalists forced change by suing their employers for gender discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Boylan v. New York Times was settled in 1978: The Times admitted doing no wrong but promised to do better. In another landmark suit, the Associated Press was sued in 1978; five years later, its female employees were awarded more than $800,000 in back pay.