Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Pauline Frederick

“There seems to be a feeling that women can't understand or be interested in the more serious happenings, an assumption that news must be spoon-fed to women. I reject that idea because I reject that women are second-class citizens.”  
—Pauline Frederick

Born this day in 1906: Pauline Frederick (1906–1990), pioneering journalist; first woman TV news broadcaster in the U.S.

Pauline Frederick, a native of Gallitzin, Pennsylvania, had been interested in journalism since high school. While still a high school student she reported on social happenings for her local newspaper. She earned an m.a. in international law from American University in 1931 (AU did not at the time have a school of journalism). Few doors to hard news, however, were open to her because she was a woman. She persevered in her chosen career by interviewing first ladies and other political wives and reporting on so-called women’s issues for NBC radio.

Toward the end of World War II she became a freelance journalist. She covered the Nuremberg trials for the North American Newspaper Alliance and as a freelance broadcaster. As a freelancer for ABC she often covered the United Nations. She eventually worked on staff at ABC, broadcasting both on radio and television and starring in the weekly Pauline Frederick’s Feature Story.

In 1953 she began working for NBC television broadcasting. She stayed with NBC, until forced to retire in 1974, as the network’s primary correspondent covering the United Nations. Her name was nearly synonymous with the UN, and she was known as “the voice of the United Nations.”

After her retirement from NBC, Frederick was a commentator for NPR (1974–1990). She also continued to blaze a trail for women journalists: she was the first woman to moderate a presidential debate (Ford-Carter, 1976). She was the recipient of many accolades and awards and was the first woman broadcaster to receive a Peabody Award (1954).

You can listen to (or read the transcript of) a charming and fascinating UN oral history interview with Pauline Frederick about her career and the early years of the United Nations here.

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