Witness this job posting (flagged for me by someone in the WaPo newsroom) for a gig as a politics reporter at Rare. Rare is where "mainstream Americans flock ... for the news of the day — and for Rare’s unique views on news, politics, entertainment and pop culture," according to its Web site. (Rare is an imprint of Cox Media Group, which isn't a journalism company at all but rather a "fully integrated media solutions company.")
The posting reads: "You should be less Paula Zahn, more Zoe Barnes."
For those lucky few of you who never watched the show, Zoe Barnes, played by Kate Mara, is a young cub reporter on the first season of the show. She is super-aggressive and when she notices Rep. Frank Underwood (D-S.C.), played by Kevin Spacey, checking her out, she uses that to forge a relationship -- professional and otherwise -- with him. As I wrote in my initial hate-watch piece on "HOC":
That seems both far-fetched and, frankly, offensive to female reporters everywhere. But, wait, it gets worse. When Underwood is off in South Carolina taking care of a local matter and dries up as a source, Zoe tries to lure him back into giving her information by flirting with him via text. Because, of course, that's how a female reporter would get information from a male politician. That's a remarkably insulting idea.
Eventually Barnes becomes a liability to Underwood, and he gets rid of her. (Dear people who are shouting "Where's the 'spoiler alert' before that last sentence: The 1st season aired in 2013. Get over it.)
Paula Zahn, on the other hand, has been an anchor at ABC News, CBS News, Fox News and CNN. She's also a cello player who went to college on a music scholarship.
So, Rare, if you take it at its word, wants a reporter who traffics in her sexuality to get scoops (how else would a female reporter get news!?) rather than an accomplished newswoman about whom Erma Bombeck once wrote: "We're only two years into what I call our Paula Zahn decade, where women are balancing home/ husband/children/physical fitness/social conscience, not to mention a cello between our knees."
Look, I get the point they were trying to make. They are looking for digitally and social-media-savvy reporter who wants to dig and dish dirt, not a traditional anchor person. Fine. That's totally fair given what Rare wants to be and/or is.
It's just that Zoe Barnes is an absolutely terrible example to cite to make that point -- since she represents a remarkably sexist view of how a woman can succeed in reporting.
And, for those people who told me that fictional shows never influence actual behavior and attitudes in the real world, you can send written apologies to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks!