October 03, 1988 12:00 PM

by Marlene Sanders and Marcia Rock

Multiple choice: You are a young woman and want to work in television. You should: (a) get proper training; (b) develop a relationship with a supportive man while you’re in your 20s; (c) master office politics before setting a toe inside a newsroom; (d) do all three. If you didn’t choose (d), you need this book. Even if you don’t, it’s a good read as well as a primer for ambitious young TV newswomen. Sanders, a veteran of more than 30 years of TV news, and Rock, an assistant professor of journalism at New York University, have won five Emmies between them. They interviewed such historic figures in the business as Pauline Frederick, first woman to be a full-time network staff correspondent, and current stars, including Diane Sawyer and Lesley Stahl. The picture that emerges isn’t pretty, but it’s honest. “Do not mistake a job for home and family or trusted friend,” the authors warn. “It cannot be counted on.” For the most part, Sanders is measured and objective, although she can’t resist settling a score with Pam Hill, now ABC vice-president in charge of documentaries. Sanders paints Hill as a ruthless conniver who stole Sanders’ job as head of ABC’s documentary unit by cultivating news chief Roone Arledge. On a broader front, Waiting for Prime Time is invaluable in advising young careerists about the difficulty of balancing a TV career and a personal life. NBC correspondent Andrea Mitchell voices a common complaint: “My generation has not handled these things very well. Those of us who are single have probably made the choices in terms of career and not in terms of our personal [needs].” Sanders herself was an ’80s woman before her time. She kept her maiden name for professional reasons and hired a housekeeper to mind the home front, which included her husband and son. Now host of a New York public television series, Currents, she writes candidly about being “Tisched” from CBS last year and about sexism and ageism behind the camera. She never deals as frankly with sexual politics as at least one of her colleagues has done. (Christine Craft, in her new book Too Old, Too Ugly, and Not Deferential to Men attributes Kathleen Sullivan’s rapid rise in TV to “ABC News President Roone Arledge’s appreciation for the nuances of ‘sweater girls.’ “) Maybe Sanders’ diplomacy is one reason she has survived. That’s an implicit lesson in office politics right there: Be careful whom you gossip about; you might want to ask them for a job some day. (University of Illinois Press, $19.95)

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