A couple weeks back, the folks at Brain Pickings unearthed a classic of YouTube kitsch: a newsreel from 1940 explaining how newspaper journalism works. And it’s a good thing they did, because it has to be seen to be believed. One section in particular towers above the rest, though for rather unsavory reasons.
The newsreel jauntily explains all the different jobs a person can have on a newspaper. Look, there’s the managing editor! And the editorial writer, who needs to “reason accurately and fairly, and write in an interesting manner.” Oh, and “this reporter is in a hurry, and for a very good reason: he is going to cover a fire.” Good job, reporter! The narrator also confides that “there’s a real thrill in seeing your byline over a story,” which, trust us, is absolutely true. (Tick your eyes slightly upward for proof.)
Seems, great, right? Well, there’s a catch. All those fine, thrilling, upstanding, world-changing, market-moving gigs? They’re only for a certain … kind of person, as the narrator cheerfully explains when he gets to the subject of “the society pages.”
These pages, he says, are “for the most part reported by news women.” Any women watching in 1940 thinking, “hmmm, maybe that’s not for me, I’ll try my hand at politics” would have had their hopes dashed at the narrator’s paper, though.
“Women find it difficult to compete with men in general reporting jobs, so girls who want to be successful in journalism should prepare for work in the special women’s departments,” our helpful guide intones. These include things like “meal planning suggestions” and “beauty care.” It’s not explained why exactly women have such a hard time competing with the gentlemen, but we’ll assume it’s just because of their flighty nature and not because of inequality or anything crazy like that.