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Archived Weekly Features
The Big Picture
Rebecca "Becky" Coates Nee, a veteran TV news anchor/reporter, is a professional life/career coach. Check out her website at to take the coachability test, subscribe to her free "Beyond the Box" newsletter and to find out if you're an adrenaline junkie.

Why TV's Alpha Anchors Are Killing Each Other
By Rebecca Coates Nee

How many on-air women in your newsroom are really, really friends with each other? Sure they smile and exchange pleasantries in public, but deep down do they fantasize about hiring a thug to bash their rival's kneecaps? I once worked with a woman who was convinced that another anchor was secretly sneaking into the bathroom to water down her hairspray. And the Philadelphia Inquirer recently reported that a female anchor at WCAU was fired after
admitting to making a "series of threatening and harassing Internet postings" directed at another female reporter.

What's the reason behind all the backstabbing and behind-the-scenes evilness that overcomes so many women on TV? Some researchers say the true feminine mystique begins in childhood, where girls separate themselves into their own special brand of sororities.

In the Washington Post, Laura Sessions Stepp says girls divide themselves into three groups. The first is the Alphas, the most popular girls in school. They set fashion trends and determine who else will be allowed into the "in"
crowd and the Homecoming court. They are followed by Betas, who are Alpha wannabees, and Gammas, who run the student council while everyone else is shopping at the Limited.

The true backstabbing occurs amongst Alphas but can be directed at Betas who
get dangerously close to becoming Alphas.

Why do girls have to be so mean to each other, so indirectly?

Researchers say testosterone drives boys to act on their aggressive impulses
with one another up front. This continues into manhood, where they'll settle
a score in the parking lot and then - if they're still living - go nurse
their battle wounds over a beer together.

Girls, on the other hand, are taught to be kinder and gentler. So they get
out their aggression in more calculating and anonymous ways - like tampering
with hairspray or making rude remarks over the Internet.

Even in the 60s, the research of Jane Goodall was beginning to show Alpha
tendencies in the animal world. Some female chimpanzees in Tanzania were
killing the offspring of their rivals to stay on top (can you say Texas

These theories pan out with my 16-year-old stepdaughter, an Alpha in the
making. I've heard her and her friends trash another girl and then go to the
mall with her the next day. I've also heard three of them heartily agree over
Wheat Thins that they prefer to be friends with boys.

While Alphas may be ruling their high schools, New York Times Columnist
Maureen Dowd says Alpha girls are noticeably missing from leadership roles in
America. Besides Oprah, she writes, "it's hard to think of Alpha women who
are still soaring." And, she adds, the closest thing to a "Heathers-style
predatory face-off are the Alpha girls of ABC, Barbara Walters and Diane
Sawyer, who claw over Yasir Arafat instead of the captain of the football

Obviously, Ms. Dowd has spent too much time with the Gamma girls of
newspapers. TV newsrooms are overrun with Alpha anchors, and some Betas. The
Gammas, who go about their business without caring much about what others
think, are usually producers or assignment editors.

But take a look at why Dowd believes Alphas are an endangered species: They
are crushed by Alpha males who feel threatened by alliances of uppity Alpha

Isn't it the male consultants, GMs and news directors who replace the aging
Alpha anchor with the newer, younger Alpha model? That is, after all, what's
behind the bizarre behavior of so many Alpha women in TV - the fear that
their public and bosses are fickle.

Guess what, ladies, the public and your bosses ARE fickle. And they always
will be. As I tell my clients, only one person's opinion about you truly
matters in the Big Picture - your own.

If you are an Alpha, be proud of it. Be proud of the other Alpha women in
your midst, too. Stop contributing to your own extinction. And take a cue
from the Gammas in the meantime, because eventually - your interior will
matter much more than your ratings.