Women in Talk: Is This an Issue?

| May 24, 2019

By Walter Sterling
Talk Show Host
Westwood One

 

NEW YORK — Take a look at real power.  The picture here shows the most powerful people in daytime radio in 1955.  Mary Margaret McBride (left) and Pegeen Fitzgerald (right).

Seven secretaries
It took seven secretaries to answer the mail received by Mary Margaret McBride. Her daily NBC/ABC network show, heard on stations like WOR New York, set the agenda for America’s conversation. She did not do a cooking show or a nice show.  She was the toughest interviewer in radio and scored the biggest guests.  They were afraid to not go on her show. The big guests also did whatever she told them to do.

Captain Eddie Rickenbacker was the most decorated WWII fighter pilot.  He was a guest on Mary Margaret’s show.  After the interview she read live spots.  One was for Bohack’s supermarket.
“Captain, do you shop at Bohack’s?” She asked
“Yes I do.” Said the Captain.
“Then would you please tell my listeners about this week’s meat sale?”
And she handed him the copy, and darn it he read the copy!
When it was time to celebrate McBride’s 15th anniversary on the air the event was held at Yankee Stadium because it was the only place that could hold 75,000 fans.
Her show proved the financial potency of daytime radio. Mary Margaret McBride created and hosted the FIRST profitable daytime network show.
On the right in the picture is Pegeen Fitzgerald.  For about 40 years she hosted #1 shows on various New York stations, notably WOR.  #1.  Pegeen did not do recipes.  I doubt if she could cook.  She talked about her day, her cats, trouble with the neighbors, and things that annoyed her (waiters) and things that made her happy (cats).  20 shares.  The picture is stunning because those two broadcasters did not like each other; they were FIERCE competitors.
These were tough, smart, aggressive hosts who understood the art AND science of radio. They could read the rating book. It’s a long list of women who have similar talent and success on talk radio: Sally Jessy Raphael, Dr. Ruth Westheimer, Dora McCann, Martha Deane, Patsy McCann, Arlene Francis, Sherrye Henry, Marjorie Clapprood, Roberta Gale, Brooke Daniels, Mary Walters, Toni Grant, Phd. It’s a much longer list.
When I hear convention/blog topics like, “Is this the year of the woman?” My thought is… is this the moment when men will get out of the freakin’ way and let the proven success of women in talk radio flourish again? Women made the format viable. Let me repeat, women made the format viable.

Walter M. Sterling is a radio talk show host whose weekly “Sunday with Sterling” program is distributed nationally to more than 85 stations by Westwood One.  Email him at: waltermsterling@gmail.com.

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Category: Opinions