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Change in the Air



A recent guest of WTVR's "Virginia This Morning" stepped off the set after his interview wondering what made his experience in the studio so Zen-like. "It was the women," he concluded. "The entire production crew were these beautiful, capable young women who lent a nurturing vibe to the entire experience."

The women he was referring to -- part of the production team at CBS 6 — reflect a growing number of women in off-camera positions in the local and national television broadcasting industry.

On Thursdays, Jemila Woodson, Renada Harris, Stephanie Ragsdale and Jennifer Tate make up the off-camera studio crew that masterfully positions cameras, shuffles guests, moves scenery and keeps up with the fast pace of the show. They glide through their jobs like carefully choreographed ballet dancers and create a sense of quiet confidence on the set.

Women have outnumbered men in front of the camera for years. What viewers don't see is the wave of women entering the production side of television.

Before landing their jobs at CBS, all four women on the production team wanted to be on-camera, and all but one have changed their minds after working behind the scenes.

"Most women want to be in front of the camera, but more women coming into the industry will begin as production assistants," says Christina Kolock, producer of "Virginia This Morning." Kolock herself started out with hopes of becoming an on-camera personality until she observed the power of the production side of the business.

"Most women who want to be on-camera think it is going to be glamorous," says Tate, a 21-year-old production assistant, "but it is not. You have more control if you are writing the scripts or choosing stories that you care about."

The lower- to mid-level jobs of television production have become so female-dominated that when asked what challenges they faced in a traditional "man's job," Tate, Harris, Woodson and Ragsdale laughed. For them, this field has always been a woman's world. And though they agree that they're treated the same as the men on the crew, they say there's a difference in the studio atmosphere depending on the gender mix.

"It's different when the production team is mostly men." says Harris, a 26-year-old camera operator with film production ambitions.

"It's loud," adds Tate, speaking of shows such as the late-night news with mostly male production crews. "They are always telling jokes and laughing."

"When it is just the girls," Ragsdale says, "we are more laid-back."

"We are supportive of each other," Woodson says. That supportive, easygoing attitude is the feminine touch that is changing broadcasting.


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