What career advice can one give to a budding feminist journalist whose latest story on a little-known website just became a national debate? First piece of advice: Don’t respond to criticism from a well-established veteran reporter by, er, attacking her age, her make-up, and her hair. Nothing says “feminism” like ridiculing a woman for the highlights in her hair, amirite?
Babe.net’s Katie Way learned this lesson the hard way, becoming a viral sensation for the second time in a week — this time as a cautionary tale. Banfield gives Way both barrels, picking up steam as she goes along:
HLN’s Ashleigh Banfield has not been shy in her dismissal of Katie Way, the Babe.net writer who reported anonymous allegations against Aniz Ansari, suggesting that she has “chiseled away” at the #MeToo movement by making “appalling” claims against the actor after simply reporting on a “bad date.”
To say Way did not take kindly to the response would be an understatement. The Babe.net reporter took the time to write Banfield an absolutely insulting email, which the HLN host read on-air, citing that it gave viewers an “insight into the caliber of person who held that nuclear weapon that was wielded on Ansari’s career.”
“Ashleigh, someone I am certain nobody under the age of 45 has heard of,” the email began. “I hope the 500 retweets on the single news write up made that burgundy lipstick, bad highlights, second wave feminist has-been really relevant for a little while.”
Second piece of advice: Google before making assumptions. One would expect a journalist to know how to do research, but perhaps that’s not a requirement at Babe.net. Banfield has worked in television for thirty years, both in front of and behind the camera, and has been on American cable news outlets for the better part of eighteen years, starting at MSNBC and then for the last six years at CNN/HLN. She’s got a lot more experience under her belt than Way, and a lot more recognition in the marketplace, no matter what Way presumes. If people under the age of 45 haven’t heard of Banfield, that’s a reflection on them and their inexperience, which is a point that Way might want to take to heart here.
Third piece of advice: Stick to the point. Banfield’s rather strong criticism of the piece may have been right or wrong, but it was at least professional. If a relative newbie wants to punch above her weight with a cable-news anchor, the least professional way to go about it is to ridicule her by saying no one under 45 would recognize her name, even apart from the insults directed at Banfield’s make-up and hairdo. That’s not journalism or even effective debate — it’s juvenile trollery, and it all but cements Banfield’s criticisms of Way’s piece on Aziz as callow and overblown.
And finally, one piece of advice that can still get used in the present: Learn the art of gracious public apology. There’s no doubt that this is a good time for practice, and it won’t be the last time in her career that skill will be needed. That is, assuming Way sticks around long enough to have a career at all.
Addendum: Banfield only read part of the e-mail on the air. The rest is … just as bad, and what makes it worse is that Babe.net editor Amanda Ross somehow thought this makes things better:
Here's the full email the https://t.co/YZ14Jca6FS reporter who wrote the Aziz Ansari story sent when asked to go on HLN with @TVAshleigh. It is really something.https://t.co/qTca5xA9m0 pic.twitter.com/usZBm0KnIr
— Max Tani (@maxwelltani) January 17, 2018
In an email to Business Insider, Babe editor Amanda Ross pointed out that the comments Banfield read on air were “a fraction” of what Way sent to the anchor after an HLN producer asked her to come on the show to discuss the story.
I hope Way still thinks that this is “a real treat” for her. And remembering this for the rest of her career in journalism may not be as impressive a feat as she assumed.