A Look at the Career of Pioneering Broadcaster Eleanor Schano
Eleanor Schano, a pioneering broadcaster in Pittsburgh, was the first female commercial announcer, the first television “weather girl” and the first female news reporter, mainly working on WDTV before it became KDKA.
She explains some of her early desires to be a reporter in her autobiography, Riding the Waves, The Life and Televised Times of Eleanor Schano.
“I always wanted to be a reporter, from the time I was six years old," Schano said "There was a comic strip when I was a kid that was called Brenda Starr, Girl Reporter. So here's this little kid growing up and I'm going to be Brenda Starr. So I would take my daddy's yellow flashlight, and while other kids were playing tag, I would gather up the neighborhood kids and I'm going to interview them. And I asked tough questions. ‘Who do you like more your mother or your father?’”
This initial interest in reporting and television never left Schano. She began her career in television as a fashion model and while modeling on TV one day, Schano made a bold decision.
“I went right over to the advertising agency and I said, ‘If you want to sell these clothes, I’m going to talk about them.’ And he said, ‘Ms. Schano that might be a good idea, I’ll have them write you a copy for the script.'”
But once she got started in television, Schano was faced with sexual harassment and sexist beliefs before she could really start climbing the newsroom ladder.
“I was the weather girl, I'm trying to make this short because it was really many, many years of fighting and struggling and literally knocking the doors down to get into the news business. I became the first female news reporter at Channel 4 because I moved out there when they went on the air in 1958. And again, the weather girl, and I wanted to work in the news room and I finally got an opportunity to cover a news story that got the attention of the news department. And I wrote a chapter in my book, I was the only chick in the newsroom. Literally the only 'chick' and that's the way they considered me.”
One of the major highlights of Schano's career was an interview with one of the most famous women in 20th century American history.
“I interviewed Jackie Kennedy in the ladies room. It was during the time that JFK was campaigning for the primary in West Virginia. And they had a rally, if you will, it was a nightclub, it was called the Twin Coaches in Belle Vernon. And we were all sent out there because JFK was coming to town. I was the only woman in the room. I mean they even had male servers at the night club. I was the only woman and I noticed that Jackie Kennedy was with him and she slipped into the ladies room. I slipped in right behind her and I started up a conversation.”
During the conversation, the two women bonded over the loss of their children and after some time, Schano asked Ms. Kennedy for an interview and she agreed.
More stories about Schano's career and overcoming sexism to live out her dream, can be read in Schano’s autobiography Riding the Waves, The Life and Televised Times of Eleanor Schano.