Saturday, April 07, 2007

Nepotism in the News Business

In the Friday edition of the Chicago Sun-Times an article was written titled "Heirs to the Airways."---a list of Chicago anchors/reporters that are related and working in the same city doing the same job. While I was not shocked to see the names--after having interned at all the stations here--I already knew who would be on this list. Of course, I expected to see the Ponce's (Phil--my former and unforgettable instructor at Loyola and his son and my friend Dan--also a Medill graduate!), the Jigget clan and then Karen Jordan and her father. But what struck me about all of these reporters is the Nepotism involved. And, the question immediately arose, is television news really about talent, or is more who you know? And, exactly, just when do those helping hands start coming into play?--even if you are not a television heir. Or, how do you get these helping hands?

I was always taught that hardwork was the only road to success. The usual, pay your dues type of atmosphere. Start in a small market, work like a dog and hope for the best that dumb luck finds its way to your door step. But in some of these cases, I just do not think some of these HEIRS paid their dues like other on-air hopefuls do and continue to do. Like other fellow students here at Medill, I am the professional intern--having spent grueling days at stations logging tape, printing scripts and being some reporter's gopher--Building up a resume, making contacts, getting my name out there, etc. But reality has to set in at some time---the likelihood that I will make it back to report in my hometown of Chicago (market #3) in 5 years or less is more or less a pipe dream. But, some how, these heirs have done it over and over again. But, in their defense, two of the aboved named are Medill graduates--s0 hats off to them that they survived methods and that they had the talent to be here ( But I also am sure with who their parents are---recommendations came easy!). However, I just cannot imagine how horrible it must be to have talent as a reporter and to see someone get promoted to market #3 because they have the family connection to ensure their tape gets into the right hands.

While it does not anger me--because I know I would help anyone in my family get ahead--it does leave me with a bitter feeling toward television news. But then again, isn't Hollywood the same? After all, Angelina Jolie is the daughter of Jon Voight, the Scheen boys and their dad Martin, Nicholas Cage's uncle is Francis Ford Coppola and Kate Hudson is the daughter of Goldie Hawn--just to name a few. But, as a matter of fact, isn't any profession the same with nepotism?-- But all I keep thinking after reading this article is that the best connections we can make are here at Medill and will Medill alums.

But on a positive note, I would not be here at Medill if it was not for a few of the above mentioned people. Had Phil Ponce, Karen Jordan, Harry Porterfield, Dorothy Tucker and Dan Ponce not taken the time to lend me a helping hand--whether it have been for writing or for a recommendation--I know that my career in this business would have been over before it started. And while all parents want to see their children get ahead, these people, especially the Ponce's and the Jordan's, will always have open arms to people who are striving to get into their business. I only wish that my father or mother was an on-air television personality---because the road that lies ahead will be longer and harder for me that it was for these television heirs.

So, I guess my point is this, while Medill can be competitive, most of us are not heirs. But what we can do and should do is band together to help each other network. Once we graduate and go our own ways, we will always be bound by Medill and that is one family we can always belong to. If we cannot even lend each other helping hands, who else will?


At Saturday, April 07, 2007, Blogger LL said...

I agree that it is unfortunate that some people get ahead just because their parents have superior connections, but I have come to the realization that in this world it really is WHO you know. Hard work, determination, and drive to succeed are all crucial to getting to where you want to be, but it doesn't hurt to have the right name on your recommendation list. That is one reason I am at Medill. I want to learn from the top journalists in the business, but it also won't hurt to have "Medill" on my resume!

At Saturday, April 07, 2007, Blogger GN said...

Besides having parents who can open your doors into the business, what about having parents who are able to support you while you take an unpaid internship? While there are different ways to get ahead and hard work does always pay off, there are certain segments of society who just can't afford three months without pay. If we look around our newsroom, I can't help but notice how most of us are able to afford that "luxury." It's probably one reason we have a lack of diversity in the news business.

At Sunday, April 08, 2007, Blogger J? said...

Nepotism seems like it goes hand in hand with everything here in Chicago. Mayor Daley's father was the orginial Mayor Daley. Bobbi Steele fooled voters into reelecting her, only to say the next day that she was retiring and she would like her son take her place. Todd Stroger has no accomplishments independent of his father to speak of. The list goes on and on. And from your post I can see that it is not only politics but news that is dealing with this issue.

Maybe that's why all these politicians get a pass on their blatant nepotism from the media. To me it is unbelievable that Steele and Stroger could get away with how they are using their family ties. But how can the media complain when they are doing it themselves.

However a lot of the examples the Sun-Times cited are of really accomplished people (both parent and child). The same way nepotism shouldn't be the reason for advancing somebody's career, someone should not be held back because their parent is famous and succesful. It runs both ways.


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