Networking at the network Erin Moriarty says it's about changing women

March 02, 1992|By Phyllis Brill | Phyllis Brill,Staff Writer

Erin Moriarty believes women should lean on one another more. When she left her consumer reporting job at CBS News for her current position as correspondent for the network's "48 Hours," she clued in her successor on everything about her old job, turning over her files, names of her contacts and other helpful information.

Not only did she want consumerism to continue to be well covered, but she wanted the woman following in her footsteps to be successful, too.

That's what networking is all about, she said. And that's the message she set out to convey to the 400 former Girl Scouts who gathered for a homecoming celebration at Martin's West yesterday afternoon.

"It's not just about women getting jobs," she said. "It's about women changing women."

Ms. Moriarty, a one-time Girl Scout herself, was the keynote speaker at a luncheon sponsored by Girl Scouts of Central Maryland in honor of the 80th anniversary of the national organization. She said that scouting, with its aim of bringing women together in a common goal, probably had as much of an effect on her as the women's movement of the 1970s.

"It's still one of the first places where you learn to like yourself, to believe in yourself and to compete and win on your own level," she told the women in attendance.

"It's one of the first opportunities you have to 'network,' even though you may not have called it that," said Ms. Moriarty, 39, who was practicing law in Columbus, Ohio, when she took a stab at local TV journalism in 1979. Since then, she worked at stations in Baltimore, Cleveland and Chicago before moving to CBS News in New York.

"Our business is still very much a male-determined one," she said of broadcasting. "But I see a difference coming about." Not only are networks hiring more women as reporters, she said, but there are signs that producers increasingly are expecting women to compete on the same level with men.

There were few traces of an "old-girl network" in broadcasting when Ms. Moriarty was coming up through the ranks in the early '80s.

"I've had to network among men," she said, noting that women who aspired to be investigative reporters usually looked to men as role models.

"I never had a mentor," she said. "I survived on absolute ambition and determination."

Ms. Moriarty earned undergraduate and law degrees from Ohio State University, and had been a lawyer two years when she won the role of local reporter for "P.M. Magazine," a syndicated news magazine show, in Columbus. She liked television reporting enough to move to Baltimore in 1980 as the consumer reporter for WJZ-TV (Channel 13).

"That was one of the most fun times in my life," she said of her two years in Baltimore. "[Anchorman] Jerry Turner was still alive. Oprah [Winfrey] was there at that time. It was a young station. Everyone was energetic."

Station veterans remember her as competent, hard-working and productive.

"Erin was like a good Scout -- always prepared," said reporter/weekend anchor Richard Sher. "She always seemed to have direction."

"She was the whole consumer unit here at the time," said weatherman Bob Turk, who shared an office with Ms. Moriarty. "She didn't have a staff. She had to take the calls her self, $H produce the stories, do everything on her own."

Since 1990, Ms. Moriarty's been one of an ensemble of correspondents on "48 Hours," the hour-long "reality" show designed to intensely cover two days in the life of any story. The subjects of her reports have ranged from teen-agers facing the death penalty to battered women to the victims of hate crimes. Last week, she spent five days in Austin, Texas, preparing a segment on the aftermath of the brutal murders of four teen-agers in that city.

The job doesn't always involve travel, but when it does it means being away from her husband, lawyer Jim Musurca, and their 7-year-old son, Nicholas. She's not wild about that part of being a successful journalist, she said in a telephone interview from Austin after a long day of filming. "But I love my work."

As for her work on "48 Hours," in which people are filmed in various stages of an ongoing story, more or less as it's happening, she said: "This is more honest journalism. We don't just sit somebody down in front of the camera and get it over with in a six-minute sound bite. People are miked all the time. It means I have to think on my feet a lot more."

Getting to be a network correspondent was not a specific ambition, said Ms. Moriarty, but more a consequence of looking for situations conducive to growing in her profession.

"I don't know if I can say I always wanted to work for a network, but I definitely wanted to work at a good station," she said. "I wanted to be in a market where you wouldn't be labeled a 'female reporter,' but where the best reporter in town might happen to be a woman.

"I think the doors are opening for women, but it's a slow change. And we'll only see it continue if women continue to lean on other women."

Whether or not one's ambitions are in the field of broadcasting is immaterial, she told her audience yesterday. "There are barriers to face before you can get to a job, and they exist in every single field.

"There are jobs out there, but you have to make contacts. You don't have to be hired by women, but you need to know where the males are who believe in women and hire them."

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