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
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
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
with one another up front. This continues into manhood, where
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
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
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
Sawyer, who claw over Yasir Arafat instead of the captain
of the football
Obviously, Ms. Dowd has spent too much time with the Gamma
newspapers. TV newsrooms are overrun with Alpha anchors, and
some Betas. The
Gammas, who go about their business without caring much about
think, are usually producers or assignment editors.
But take a look at why Dowd believes Alphas are an endangered
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
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
matter much more than your ratings.