Saturday, July 28, 2007

Two Old

It's long been thought that women TV newsreaders have a use-by date at which they're sacked because they're no longer young and pretty enough to appeal to the audience.

Late last year we had Tracey Spicer suing Network Ten after her sacking, with the Brisbane Courier-Mail claiming her legal action was 'not for money but for the many TV women who are sidelined when they get old or start a family, while male colleagues prosper'.

In the UK, the increasingly trouble-prone BBC copped a hiding for laying off Moira Stuart after 26 years in broadcasting. The Independent reported:

MPs, pressure groups and powerful broadcasting figures united in protest against her departure from the slot she occupied on the Sunday AM programme, alleging that the BBC was yet again guilty of shuffling an older woman off the screen.
Both Spicer and Stuart should consider themselves lucky they lasted as long as they did. At the Gold Coast Bulletin they pension females off for younger models when they hit their mid-20s.

'Reporters' Shannon Willoughby and Melanie Pilling wrote their last column as 'The Go Girls' on Thursday. Originally a trio until one Amy Harris left the newspaper, the remaining duo will be replaced from next week with 'three new girls'.

To be fair, a pair of young women in their mid-20s cannot be expected to sustain such a column forever. They're probably wanting to actually go home to sleep some nights these days.

For The Go Girls has been, for the past four and a half painful years, the 'adventures' of two or three junior tarts on the town, around and about the Gold Coast and, one suspects, occasionally face down in the gutter in Surfers Paradise.

Their columns have ranged from relatively benign juvenile bitching about everything that doesn't go their princess way to deliberate and viciously insulting attacks on country people; from infantile post-feminist peevishness about everything that's wrong with males to the blatant sexism of a two-page spread recommending how to trawl for hot guys at the annual IndyCar race, including suggesting wandering the halls of the major hotels in the hope of bumping into a driver wearing nothing but his bath robe (well, they do say Indy is a peak working period for prostitutes); and from a guide to 'safe partying' which was, in fact, a description of a drunken dusk til dawn debauch (in which dinner was there solely to soak up the pre-dinner booze and men were flirted with for drinks in 4am nightclubs) to an admission that images found on ones digital camera were sometimes the only way to remember what had happened the night before.

Perhaps the outgoing Go Girls can't be held too much to blame, however, being young and undeniably stupid.

A column such as The Go Girls can exist in a large, bureaucratic organisation such as a major publication only when it is enabled and driven from the top down, prompting one to ponder on many occasions what exactly motivates editorial 'leaders' - especially males in their 50s - to encourage teen and early 20s females to write highly descriptive essays about bra shopping and bar hopping.

If Willoughby and Pilling learned anything of value from the past four and a half years of prostituting their private lives to the prurient fantasies of old men, could they please now share it with the unfortunate children about to follow in their footsteps - that is, if what they have learned is perhaps to tell dirty old men where to go.

Sadly, however, one imagines their advice will be to 'party hard' and spin it for what it's worth, both in the newsroom and on the town where admiring readers shouted them plenty of drinks, according to Willoughby's closing words as a Go Girl.

Unfortunately, Pilling's closing comment unintentionally highlighted the tip of a downside as big as an iceberg:

"I'd like to thank... those who have taken the time to tell us they enjoyed... what we have written. It made the hate mail easier to deal with." (Emphasis added)
Nineteen or 20 years old is too young to be receiving hate mail, especially when the boorish behaviour and deliberately provocative public utterances that elicit it are not occurring entirely voluntarily but as the result of a 'professional' assignment.

That Willoughby, Pilling and Harris actually survived their stint physically unscathed leaves one fully convinced of the old saying that God looks after drunks and small children. Indeed, it is miraculous none of them were once assaulted by the enemies they so blithely made for the sake of a bitchy comment in 9 point Times New Roman or, hideously worse, raped while indulging in the seeming obligatory public binge drinking that was part of their role.

Still, not their problem now. New generation coming through.

And if any of you 'new girls' are glassed by some drunken grrl or wake up face down in your own vomit wondering where your underwear went, well... it'll only hurt a while and your boss will be so sympathetic.

In fact, he might help you spin the whole thing into a great first-person victim piece. Might even win a Walkley to keep you warm on the nights sleep won't come.

-- Nick

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