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Trailblazing journalist Ruth Ashton Taylor has died at the age of 101

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Ruth Ashton Taylor died recently at the age of 101. Ruth Ashton Taylor was the first woman to work as a newscaster on the West Coast.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: From Los Angeles comes the story of today - the big news.

RUTH ASHTON TAYLOR: For KNXT News, this is Ruth Ashton Taylor reporting.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Taylor was a fixture on television in Los Angeles for decades. She started out in radio in the late 1940s, producing documentaries for the broadcaster Edward R. Murrow.

INSKEEP: She interviewed Robert Oppenheimer and Albert Einstein for a story about atomic power. She moved to television in the 1950s at a time when hardly any women worked in broadcast news.

JOE SALTZMAN: It's very hard to explain to an audience in 2024 what she faced. We're talking about a newsroom that was all white male.

MARTIN: Joe Saltzman teaches journalism at USC. He worked with Taylor in the 1960s and '70s at the CBS affiliate in Los Angeles.

SALTZMAN: Ruth came in and because she was so good and she was so insistent, she did get the job as a female reporter. But they wanted to just give her what they called women's stories, where a man would cover a trial and the woman reporter would cover the grieving mother, the grieving wife, the grieving girlfriend. She said, no, I want to cover everything, just like any other reporter.

INSKEEP: And eventually, she got her own show interviewing newsmakers, politicians, celebrities.

SALTZMAN: In fact, she told me once, the best compliment that the men could give her was saying, boy, you're a hell of a newsman. They wouldn't say newswoman, they would say newsman.

MARTIN: Taylor went on to receive a lifetime achievement Emmy, and she got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TAYLOR: Mom, I finally made my mark. It's right here on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in cement.

INSKEEP: Mom (laughter). She paved the way for other women journalists.

SALTZMAN: I think she was the person that enabled probably two or three generations of female journalists to get jobs in journalism and say, if she could do it under the worst circumstances, maybe we have a chance.

MARTIN: That's Joe Saltzman speaking about his former newsroom colleague Ruth Ashton Taylor. She died last week in Northern California, and we thank her.

INSKEEP: Yeah. And Michel, I want to introduce you sometimes the way that announcer did her at the beginning. And now, Michel Martin...

MARTIN: Why, thank you.

INSKEEP: ...Trailblazing journalist.

MARTIN: So why don't you?

INSKEEP: I just did.

MARTIN: Thank you.

INSKEEP: Ladies and gentlemen...

MARTIN: Well, thank you for that.

INSKEEP: ...Michel Martin with this segment close.

MARTIN: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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