“The Broadcast Pioneers”: Four Wellesley Alumnae Who Led the Way in the Fight against Discrimination in Journalism

A woman reporter stands on the floor of a press room.
Lynn Sherr ’63 reports from the floor of the 1992 Republican National Convention in Houston, Texas' Astrodome.
Photo provided by ABC
Amita Parashar Kelly ’06
February 26, 2020

Women can’t credibly report the news. We don’t hire women for that job.

Those were the refrains repeatedly heard by four Wellesley alumnae who would go on to be among the most recognizable names in journalism—Lynn Sherr ’63, Cokie Boggs Roberts ’64, Linda Cozby Wertheimer ’65, and Diane Sawyer ’67. They all started out with the same fire for telling stories and finding answers. And despite entering the field at a time when discrimination was ever-present, they persisted with an astounding level of boldness, breaking the field wide open for themselves and generations of women to come.

Before they started their careers, they rarely saw themselves reflected in the faces they saw on TV or the voices they heard on the radio. They were told that one woman was enough for an organization or that they’d be better off as researchers or secretaries. But Wellesley built them up and taught them to expect more from themselves and the world, and to use “sharp elbows” when they were needed. When Roberts, beloved for her smart political analysis and wit, died in September 2019, it became clear they all shared one other essential quality: They pulled each other up along the way.

Together, Wellesley’s broadcast pioneers have served the public for decades, providing hard-hitting journalism from political convention floors and campaign planes, interviewing world leaders, and anchoring national news programs. They have won awards and written books. But even after they got in the door, the industry didn’t change overnight. They continued to struggle for equality for decades. And it would be even longer before others—including women of color—got their shot.

This is an excerpt from an article by Amita Parashar Kelly ’06 that appears in the winter 2020 issue of Wellesley magazine. Read the full story on the Wellesley magazine website.