OPINION: Girl Power (With Some Help)

By Deb Robinson
Canton Daily Ledger, Ill.

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Love this piece from Deb Robinson, editor of the Canton Daily Ledger. With the backdrop of “Women’s History Month”, Robinson reflects on her journey as a woman in the news business.

Canton Daily Ledger, Ill.

“Do your thing and don’t care if they like it.”-Tina Fey, comedian and writer

Friday was International Women’s Day. The entire month of March is dedicated to Women’s History.

I don’t know of any person’s path who is obstacle free on this journey of life, male or female, however I will freely acknowledge I have, as have other countless women, faced roadblocks in my career of choice perhaps my male counterparts have not.

At WAAG/WGIL I once had a guy call when I was doing overnights. He requested a song.

During that time period we were airing a program via satellite so requests were a no-go. For a few minutes he continued chatting before asking me if I worked that particular shift by myself. I did, but I was smart enough to say no telling him I had co-workers with me.

Fortunately, I had the presence of mind to do so because he shared he had just been released from prison.

Nothing against him.

He did his time.

But, the person I was on the radio was not me. When I was on the air, I used an entirely different tone of voice.

My job was to entertain listeners between songs, give the weather and answer phones. Period.

Moving on to WBYS, Charlie Wright became, by far, my biggest mentor.

When I mention this, there are some who tell me they never would have thought Charlie was someone who would have been such an advocate for a girl.

Yeah, he was old school, once telling me, after I announced on the air someone had found a pregnant cat, back in his day, he couldn’t say pregnant on the air, but Charlie was fair. If he had something to say, he said it.

Charlie didn’t say things behind a person’s back. He told them straight up, right to their face, male or female.

I was like a sponge soaking up all of the knowledge he had to offer and he had a lot.

There’s a bit of a misconception among some that when the news director position opened, Charlie just gave it to me.

That could not be further from the truth. I had to prove myself to him over a lengthy amount of time. I earned that job. If I hadn’t, does anyone really think Charlie would have just said, “Here you go?”, because I’m a chick.

If that’s the case, I’m going to go out on a limb and say your personal knowledge of Charlie Wright is limited.

He took a chance on me. Had he not, I would not have had the opportunities I’ve had.

If not for his unofficial education I never would have lasted in the newspaper business.

Talk about two entirely different beasts!

It’s a matter of fact, not a complaint, there are certain topics a male reporter is able to write about without hesitation while a female reporter may think twice about or never tackle simply because she knows the backlash she will face.

I generally don’t write editorials regarding politics. I have my beliefs and opinions, but it’s not worth the headache to share them.

Male journalists put their opinion on the subject out there all the time. They may get a few complaints, but not like myself or another female would get.

If I take a stand on something I’m being a stupid b**ch. If I don’t hit a topic as hard as some think I should, it’s further proof a woman shouldn’t be an editor.

There’s people who hold other positions within the organization that talk to me and treat me differently because of my gender.

My kindness has often been mistaken for being a pushover or a doormat.

I’ve let it happen for a long time, but anyone who has anything whatsoever to do with journalism (broadcast or print) knows your skin has to be fairly thick and it has taken quite awhile for me to get there.

Honestly, a lot of times when I should have or could have stood up for myself I figured it was easier just to keep my mouth shut and move on.

Past few years, I’ve grown a lot in multiple ways.

I don’t take things personally so much anymore. I don’t dwell on other people’s issues. I do what I can do. What they do is up to them.

I will say, however, I have earned my position of editor. You don’t have to like it. You don’t have to like me, but I’ve paid my dues and I am proud to have come this far.

As I listened to the honorees of the YWCA’s Annual Salute to Women of Achievement Thursday night, something Community Impact Award winner Cheryl Bielema’s son said about his mother resonated with me. As a little girl she was shy, but one day she made up her mind she wasn’t going to be shy anymore and she wasn’t.

I’m not a little girl anymore, but I’ve made my mind up I’m going to be the best editor I can be, not based upon the thoughts of others, rather based upon the way I know, from years of mentoring from men and women, how to do MY job.

It is time to do my thing.

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