I created this series because I wanted to celebrate women I admire. I wanted to share their stories and empower those who read them. GAT discussed, in detail, what happens when a woman’s credibility and abilities are called into question simply for being a woman. If you missed it, you can catch up here. So the timing for this week’s feature couldn’t have been more perfect.
Amanda Palumbo is an Executive Producer at a local news station. While she may not be in front of the camera, she’s seen first hand what it’s like to be on the receiving end of those attacks, from both men and women. She’s intelligent and passionate, two of our favorite qualities at Sprots Takes. She’s a natural fit for this series. Without further ado, meet Amanda.
EK: What does your role as executive producer entail?
AP: I’m the Executive Producer of Investigations and Special Projects. Most of the stories you see on the news are considered “general assignment” or “day-turns,” meaning they can turn in just one shift. Anything taking longer than that often falls in my department. I work with reporters and photographers on story development, research, execution and placement. I also help vet stories to make sure they’re credible before I send a reporter down a rabbit hole that leads nowhere. At any given time, I have my hand in about 20 different working stories or projects that may or may not turn into a report. Sometimes, we’ll spend months investigating a tip that turns into nothing. That can be incredibly frustrating. On the other hand, you spend months investigating something that turns into an incredible story that spurs change and makes the world a better place.
EK: What is the biggest misconception people have about working in media?
AP: At least once a week, I’m accused of being part of the “liberal biased media.” Don’t worry, I have equal disdain for all political parties. What people don’t realize, is there are quite a few people in the industry who are middle of the road, even conservative. I don’t have a political agenda I’m pushing and most journalists would say the same thing. Are there bad eggs skewing their reports based on political ideology? Absolutely. But, just like there are bad journalists, there are bad doctors, lawyers, mechanics, chefs. It’s frustrating those people give the rest of an industry a bad reputation.
EK: What are some of the struggles you’ve seen women face in your industry?
AP: Women get judged so much more on their appearance than men. You could have an overweight male anchor at the desk but an overweight female anchor would be constantly criticized. An Australian male anchor wore the same suit everyday on air for a year. Not a single person noticed or cared enough to write in. His female counterparts got daily critiques from viewers. Women have to walk this fine line of being beautiful enough to be on air but not too beautiful or else they’re ridiculed. It’s even worse for female sports journalists. Reading some of the messages they receive is revolting and wrong. Unfortunately, this is a societal problem I don’t see getting fixed any time soon. I try to tell those women to ignore the noise and continue to kick ass.
EK: What changes have you seen in media since you started?
AP: I’m dating myself, but when I first started, stations were just beginning to build their websites. Uploading stories online was an afterthought. Websites were updated once a day and never on the weekends. You never broke big stories on your website because who would watch your newscasts? Now, online digital media is everything. It’s not just websites but mobile apps and social media. Stories often break on Twitter and Facebook long before they make air. It upped everyone’s competitiveness. It’s been exciting to watch this industry evolve into what it is today. It’s also sad to see those who didn’t embrace those changes fall so far behind.
EK: What are you sick of seeing on the news? What would you like to see more of?
AP: I’m sick of seeing stories over sensationalized or what I like to call ‘flash and trash.’ It was really big in the late 90s and through the early 2000s. Basically, the industry found ways to scare the living hell out of people to get them to watch. I worked for a promotions manager who called it, “how your kids will die today at 5:00” stories. People caught on and stopped watching. You don’t see it as much today. Every now and again it rears its ugly head and I see it start creep back into the industry. More so digitally than on air. You see a headline that says, “this one thing in your laundry detergent is killing your family.” I don’t click on those. I refuse. I will google “laundry detergent that murders families” before I will give that news organization the click.
I know I’m being 100% biased with this statement but I would love to see more investigative reporting. Investigative reporting helps expose issues that wouldn’t normally get attention and hold people accountable. When the economy went into a recession, news organizations took a major hit. One of the costliest and easiest things to cut was investigations. News departments are starting to bring back investigative reporting which is a beautiful thing. I just hope that trend remains the same.
EK:What’s your advice for women who are wanting to make a career in the journalism/media industry?
AP: Media and journalism is a very female driven industry, especially behind the scenes. I’ve worked for a lot of great women in the business. Unfortunately, journalism is subjective. Not everyone is going to like you or your work and the easiest target is your weight and your looks. You’ll get vulgar messages from men and heartbreaking comments from women. I remember once taking a call from a viewer telling me she thought one of our on-air female talent was incredibly fat and unattractive. I asked if she could send me a head shot and a full body photo so I can go down and critique every aspect about her body I didn’t like. She hung up the phone. I never got those photos. My advice to young women is you have to roll your eyes, blow off their comments and stay focused on doing a great job. Just remember how miserable their life must be if they have to tear down a perfect stranger to lift themselves up and pity them.
EK: Who has been the biggest influence in your career? Your life in general?
AP: I’ve been lucky to work under some great journalists. My first job was working for the ABC affiliate in Lawton, OK as a production assistant. I was a whopping 19 years old. I told the Executive Producer, David Bradley, I wanted to learn how to produce. He took me under his wing and taught me a lot of the basics I still use today. He was incredibly patient, even when he corrected the same mistake over and over again. I try to remember the patience he had with me when I work with new producers and reporters. I also had two amazing college professors, Dr. Matt Jenkins and Steve Adams at Cameron University. The two of them go above and beyond to get students ready for a tumultuous industry and still give me advice even to this day.
My parents have always been a huge influence on me. I was raised by hippies who taught me tolerance and understanding. They constantly drilled into my head the world if filled with so many different kinds of people and that is what makes it so special. They instilled in me the ability to stand up for what’s right, while also taking the time to listen to opinions that differ from my own.
EK: What is your favorite part about living in Kansas City?
AP: When I was in Tulsa, a headhunter called me and asked if I was interested in a job in Salt Lake City. I politely declined. The next day she called and said, “How about Kansas City?” I thought about it for a second and decided to check it out. I took the job and was only planning to stay here for the length of my two year contract. A slight problem arose in that plan when I fell in love with the city. I’ve been here now for six and a half years. I love the people, the food, the landscape and even the fountains that inconveniently sit in the middle of the road. This city converted someone who didn’t care about baseball into a Royals fan. I got swept up in the fervor this city had for a team even in their darkest hour. I’ve made a lot of amazing friends here in KC. I fell for you, Kansas City, so don’t go breaking my heart.
EK: What makes someone a badass?
AP: badass – /’bad,as/ noun – Someone with the ability to stand up for others and what they believe in, while maintaining compassion and understanding. An individual who may fail but picks themselves up and moves forward.