"I have been pleasantly surprised that we've gotten as
many dedicated and professional women as we have/ says
Jack Harris, KPRC-TV general manager. Below are excerpts
from the transcript of the first negotiating meeting held
December, 1973, between the Houston Area NOW Media
Reform Task Force and Harris. The station hired Carole
Kneeland as their only female hard news reporter shortly
after the second such meeting in January, 1974. Another
woman reporter, Kathryn Culvert, was hired soon after and
in April, Sara Lowrey became daily co-anchor and weekend
anchor person. In June, 1974, KPRC-TV signed an agreement with NOW to increase coverage of women's news
and to hire women and minorities in proportion to their
representation in the local population.
Harris denies acceding to NOWs demands in the hiring
of women: "I don't think there was ever any block on their
going in. I just think it was a natural evolution/' he says
NOW: Your employment of women is inadequate in that you don't have
enough women employed, particularly in management, professional and
technical positions. In fact, it has decreased two percent in the past year.
Harris: We don't keep up with that. Frankly, we don't go on quotas for
women or minorities. We're not required to go on quotas, dear.
NOW: I know you're not required.
Harris: And we don't.
NOW: But you are required to give equal opportunity and you're
supposed to have some sort of affirmative action plan, aren't you?
NOW: The FCC requires you to actively recruit both women and
Harm: The FCC hasn't really addressed itself to women ... we certainly
have not in any way discriminated against women in employment. We're
for equal opportunity, dear, but we're not going on quotas if that's what
you're talking about... What kind of program would you have us have for
NOW: As an example, you had an opening in the on-the-air spot after
Steve Smith left for Pittsburgh, and you hired Ron Stone in his place. Did
you interview any women? *
Harris: We didn't interview anybody for it, dear. Let me explain
something to you about television. I had to go through this with the
blacks. When you're talking about an on-the-air person, you're talking
about an anchor person. We don't care what sex they are or what color
they are. The public decides the person. I've got 37 or 38 people in the
news department. Some of them are women. Some are black. Some are
Chicano. Now we didn't select any of those to be the anchor person
because we didn't think they were ready for it, which made several of our
people unhappy. We have just finished a $24,000 study of all our people
and all the people in town. Those books over there are studies by research
organizations that have to do with personality and what the people think
of on-the-air people. We are not able to force the public into who or what
they're going to watch. They've got that channel to switch.
NOW: But they have to have a choice to reject women at least.
Harris: Dear, let me tell you, your voice would never go on-the-air.
NOW: I'm not applying for on-the-air.
Harris: I know, but you have a feminine voice. The public — I've been in
this business for so many years, I know some of these things. I put the first
woman on radio — A Woman Looks at the News — at WMS in Nashville.
She did a fine job. This was a special show aimed at a woman audience, you
see. We're not discriminating against women. We're gonna make our own
choices, and I told this to the blacks and I'm going to tell it to you.
NOW: We're not saying that we want to make the choices for you. But
you have gotten into an issue right there. Do you automatically assume
that women's voices ...
Harris: Yes, yes, I assume from thirty something years of experience.
NOW: You say the public chooses. If the public never had a chance ...
Harris: They have had a chance.
NOW: But the point still is that if women are not given an opportunity to
become anchor persons, to become visible, the audiences can't even have
the chance to reject them. In Europe it has been very common for years
and years to have anchorwomen.
Harris: Well, the audience in Europe and the audiences in this country
...We get the polls. We get surveys all the time. This is not making an
arbitrary decision on the thing. We've been through this any number of
times. There are over a thousand television stations in this country, and
not a one of them uses a woman as an anchor. I understand 11 is thinking
about one. That's their prerogative if they want to. We are not going to
decide who is going to be an anchor on their color or their sex.
NOW: But you are, by saying that it cannot be a woman.
Harris: I didn't say there couldn't be one. I've never seen one, and we
didn't audition to select it, you see.
NOW: But you said just a minute ago that a woman's voice automatically
just excludes her.
Harris: That is my opinion. That is my opinion.
NOW: Well, then, doesn't your opinion matter in who is hired?
Harris: Yes, and it is controlling.
NOW: All right, then, you are automatically excluding women on the
grounds of sex.
Harris: I said that is my opinion now. I didn't sav never.
NOW: But what we are saying is that you may not be interpreting
correctly and there is this automatic assumption that women's voices are
objectionable. What do you base it on? You say you have some polls. Do
you have some specific polls that show this?
Harris: We haven't made a study on that particular thing, dear, but don't
try to put your judgment on television in this as against mine. I have been
in this business for very many years. I have had very many occasions to
judge on these things.
NOW: At least interview women.
Harris: We didn't interview anybody, dear. We go for somebody who is
NOW: Then you will always be perpetuating men because women will
never have the opportunity unless you take somebody from your
Harris: In my opinion, none of them that I know are ready for it. I have
never seen a woman come in here that I think would be a good
anchor per son. Now when I say a good one, I mean the best we can get.
THE WOMEN'S ADVOCATE'
Every Friday 3-4 p.m.
Exclusively yours on
NIKKI VAN HIGHTOWER
Affirmative Action Division
City of Houston
Whenever we're out of the office, the
Breakthrough phones are answered
courteously and your messages are
taken efficiently 24 hours a day by
a woman-owned business
live answering service
Roberta K. Tillinghast, President
Houston • Galveston • San Antonio • Corpus Christi
HOUSTON BREAKTHROUGH • MAY.1977 • PAGE 9