An Actress's Thoughts

Are They the News? Old Men and Young Women

And now for something completely different:

Today’s survey is not about german or international TV and film productions. Rather it’s some small statistics that I drew up after reading some news. The persons in question are in Germany, but the age statistics might be similar in your country, although hopefully not!

So what do you think, who are these groups of people? The answer I will give in a few days. Until then, it’s guessing time! A little hint: both figures have to do with public german television.


And here’s the solution:

Are they the News? Old Men and Young Women

This time I looked at the people presenting the two possibly best-known news magazines on German television: Tagesthemen / ARD („topics of the day“, Channel 1 /ARD) and heute journal („today journal“, Channel 2 / ZDF).

In the figures I have extended the horizontal axis showing the years, in order to include also the latest additions to the presenting teams (vertical axis: age). Just now presenter Tom Buhrow who was ,first anchorman’ has left the Tagesthemen, and a bit surprisingly, his successor won’t be his female colleague of the last years Caren Miosga, or the younger male colleague Ingo Zamperoni, but instead they chose Thomas Roth, who has been heading the ARD studio in Washington until this summer. Now of course I won’t argue against a 61-year-old getting the job, but once again this leads to the „older man – younger woman explaining the (news of the) world to us“-combination, that we see ever so often. Imagine it the other way around – well, you would have to imagine it, because this has not become a reality on German TV so far, or has it?

Since 1985 the Tagesthemen have employed five female presenters (Ulrike Wolf, Sabine Christiansen, Gabi Bauer, Anne Will and Caren Miosga), with an average starting age of 35,8 years for this news magazine. In the same time span we find five male presenters (Hanns Joachim Friedrichs, Ulrich Wickert, Tom Buroh, Ingo Zamperoni and of course Thomas Roth. Zamperoni has officially been named as a substitute in case of absence for Miosga and Roth). The average starting age for male presenters is 50,6 years.


For the heute journal there have been two female presenters since 1985 (Maybrit Illner and Marietta Slomka, average start at 38,5 years) snd eleven male presenters (Gerd Helbig, Rupret Eser, Siegmund Gottlieb, Alexander Niemetz, Wolf von Lojewski, Eberhard Pilz, Helmut Reitze, Claus Kleber, Klaus-Peter Siegloch, Steffen Seibert and Christian Sievert – on average 47 years old when starting to present the magazine).



So, for the ARD news magazine over there years the same number of females and males have presented the new, but the women have been much younger when they started on the job (on average 15 years younger!), and also we see that no woman has worked for the show after she turned 51. 51 at the same time is the average age for male presenters starting, not leaving the presentation.

In the ZDF news magazine there is a very strong male majority among the presenters (11 to 2), and the average entrance age for the men is ,only’ 9 years above the average age for the women.

Finally let’s look at the Y>50 index. This „years over 50“ statistical value is something I have just invented; with it we count the working years of people over 50, i.e. starting at age 51, present on screen in a given group / programme and time span.

In this case the time span is from 1985 to 2013.

For the Tagesthemen the value for men is 23 and for women 0, and for the heute journal the men’s value is 33, and the women’s also 0.

Of course female TV journalists older than 50 do exist, only we don’t really see them. Why is that so? Are (middle-aged) men more believable than (middle-aged) women? Are women only (optically? Acoustically?) suitable for delivering news up to a certain age?

A similar phenomenon I note regularly when I watch the weather forecast. There I see young, very good looking female meteorologists and older, more average looking male meteorologists. Is this neccessary for forecasting the weather? Well, that’s a topic for another day.