Connie Chung on What Still Needs to Change in TV News After #MeToo

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Connie Chung

The former news anchor says there's more work to be done: "I think there needs to be a better cleansing of all the news organizations."

With the Oct. 15 publication of Ronan Farrow's Catch and Kill, issues of sexual harassment and misconduct in television news companies have returned to the forefront.

NBC is facing internal and external pressure to conduct an outside investigation into the behavior of former Today show host Matt Lauer, while a group of former Fox News employees are calling on the network to release them from confidentiality agreements they signed as part of their departure.

In her more than three decades in the television news business, Connie Chung has seen it all, anchoring across ABC, CBS and CNN. She appraised today's media landscape in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter on the sidelines of The International Women's Media Foundation's 2019 Annual Courage in Journalism Awards ceremony in New York on Wednesday.

"On the one hand, I think that women have made incredible advances in news, not only in print, but in television," said Chung. "But it's still dominated by an all-male management, dinosaur mentality. And the old boys' network is alive and well. That's still disturbing to me."

The former news anchor reflected on the #MeToo movement and changes that have been made at networks like ABC, CBS and Fox News over the last few years. "With #MeToo, there has been a sea change, and there's been a new awareness of all of these news organizations, but it hasn't taken complete hold," she said.

"I don't think there's full disclosure everywhere, where there's been egregious behavior," added Chung. "There still seems to be some information that's being hidden. I think there needs to be a better cleansing of all the news organizations. The attitudes still have to change to some level of parity between men and women."

Chung encouraged her current counterparts in the television news business to come forward if they have complaints about harassment. "I don't think that women should be intimidated by the threat of losing their jobs," she said. "It's easy for me to say that, but I never was. The only reason I was afraid of getting fired was for making some kind of terrible mistake. But I was in a different climate. In the 1960s and '70s, obnoxious behavior was the norm."

Referencing recent media coverage, Chung argued that female news anchors are held to, and judged by, different standards than male news anchors. She pointed to an Oct. 20 article in the New York Post that quoted a former television executive saying that CBS Evening News anchor Norah O'Donnell lacks "gravitas."

"That word 'gravitas' is used much too freely when it comes to women," said Chung. "For someone to question her 'gravitas,' it really peeves me. ... When I was named the first co-anchor of the CBS Evening News, 'gravitas' was the word that they used for me. And, when I heard it used again in reference to Norah O'Donnell — mine was in 1993 — how many years is that?"

She added, "I don't begrudge criticism, but it sort of takes on a kind of sexist approach."