Q&A with Andrea Mitchell

December 21, 2012

Mary Jordan: I’d love to hear you about how you ended up picking what you do.

Andrea Mitchell: I have a most interesting background. I’m a failed violinist. I was raised to be a musician and my mother still asks me why I haven’t practiced -- but I was always interested in politics and in writing stories for the school paper.

It actually was complete serendipity. I was in college at the University of Pennsylvania and was at a meeting of the NAACP actually. This was the ‘60s. I heard music down the corridor and it was the college radio station which was programming classical music and I was just drawn to it and pitched-in and began programming classical music.

And then they needed someone to help with the news. I’d always been passionate about politics as I think everyone back in my era was as well. All of the college students were. It was the height of civil rights movement, the Vietnam War. There were so many issues to become engaged in. So I started moving up the ladder at the college radio station, interned at a local all-news radio station. That was the end of the violin.

Mary Jordan: And then you just kept working and had loved it?

Andrea Mitchell: It was in a day when they simply did not hire women for newsroom jobs in broadcasting - period. There were a few anchorwomen. There were a few weatherwomen. There were just not average run-of-the-mill general assignment reporters. I was told they weren’t about to do it at this radio station. I could go into advertising or promotion. I was accepted in the corporate management trainee program actually.

They gave me the midnight to 8:00 shift and said if I proved myself there where no one would see me, then maybe they would consider promotions. I worked my way up to becoming a reporter.

Mary Jordan: If you were a man in your job, how would have things been different? Or you can flip it and say how did being a woman affect your career?

Andrea Mitchell: Everything would have been different for me if I had not been a woman, but I wouldn’t have had the joy of not only being a woman but of mentoring women and the sisterhood that we are. It would have been a whole lot easier for me I always felt and it was really true that I had to volunteer for everything. I was judged by a much tougher standard. I had to work weekends.

Mary Jordan: On TV news, there’s so much attention to what women on TV wear and what they look like and their hair. That’s still true? Is that fair to say that it’s still or is it getting better?

Andrea Mitchell: It seems to me, frankly, a little silly and beside the point. I think the exciting thing is that we’re covering major beats. We have women in very important roles both in front of and behind the cameras. We now have women executive producers - this is very important - and vice presidents and running our major broadcasts and making very big decisions as you do here at the Washington Post.

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