“Baby Ballerinas” of Journalism

Baby Ballerinas of Ice Skating


30 Oct 1999: Sarah Hughes of the USA skates during the Womens competition during the National Car Rental Skate America at the World Arena in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Perhaps you follow the ice skating circuit of pre-Olympic style competitions that ranks the most proficient figure skaters in America and in the world. Perhaps you were tuning in during the 2000 season when a group of young skaters decided to leave the junior competitions early to try their luck on the senior circuit. These included female skaters like Michelle Kwan, Sasha Cohen, Tara Lipinski and Sarah Hughes. They were only 12 and 13 and they had already conquered triple axles and double loops, and more. They were so tiny and light that they flew through the air like baby birds.


“But the big story was the baby ballerinas, as Dick Button so playfully called the bumper crop of pre-pubescent skaters who stormed onto the national scene on the ABC broadcast.  Five of the junior ladies from the 1999 Championships, including the four medalists, qualified for the senior ladies competition, and each were looking to make a name for herself against the reigning queen of U.S. Figure Skating.”

(This article has a list of  the ‘baby ballerinas’.)

Baby Ballerinas of Journalism

So what, you might say. The baby ballerinas are old news. What does ice skating have to do with journalism any way ? But during the 2016 election campaign we met a trio of ‘baby ballerina’ journalists. Of course they weren’t 12 or 13, but they seemed so young and fresh as they did on-site reporting and traveled along with the campaigns. Sadly most of the baby ballerinas of ice skating fizzled out rather early, except of course Michelle Kwan who was amazing, and Tara Lipinski who also was an award winner. (There is not total agreement about who actually was in the group of ‘baby ballerinas’.).

But fizzling out is not what has happened to the baby ballerina journalists: Katy Tur, Hallie Jackson, and Kasie Hunt. In 2019 each of these three poised young women now has a show of her own on MSNBC. They each have married. Katy Tur will soon have a baby and at least one of these young ladies has already gone through a divorce. Their youth, confidence, comfort with broadcast news, and their energy has allowed these three young women to rise quickly through the ranks. These qualities also make them valuable subs for more established news figures on the network, which helps keep them popular with veteran news commentators. It has been interesting to watch the steep trajectories of their careers since the bad old days of the 2016 election campaign (it was a tough campaign). Hopefully they will not share the fate of some of the precocious baby ballerinas of ice skating, but will enjoy long and illustrious careers in journalism, something that is not at all guaranteed these days.

Photo Credits: From Google Image Searches: Ice Skating, Sarah Hughes, Journalism (in order), Katy Tur, Adweek, Hallie Jackson, Duke U, Kasie Hunt, YouTube

Twizzlers, Etc.

Michelle Kwan competes her second long program...Image via WikipediaI just love to watch ice skating on TV: exhibitions, competitions, Olympics, even ice shows. I love the names of the moves the skaters make, the jumps, the twists – names like triple axle, double loop, triple flip, quadruple axle (quad), twizzlers, straight-line footwork, lay backs, sit spins, inside death spirals, lifts, spin sequences. I love the flow across the ice, the costumes, the music. The hours and hours of practice these skaters log to make the skating look easy, the heartbreak of falling out of a jump during an otherwise excellent performance, the number of falls a skater experiences while learning a new move are all in the background every time a skater takes the ice.

Skaters also seem to form a family especially once they become professional skaters. Their world is small because it consists of mostly ice rinks and trainers and skaters. It is large because they travel the world. What is it like to hang out in such a cold place all day, every day? It must be hard on the joints. Does the body just adjust to it? I like that the professional skaters seems so supportive of each other, not competitive at all. They have history together and they are close.

Of course many of the skaters I loved have retired or they no longer compete. They have specials skating together or with their children. But I saw Torvill and Dean skate to Bolero, and I saw Ekaterina Gordeeva float over the ice with her husband, Sergei Grinkov before he died and left her a widow at 24. I saw Ilia Kulik skate magic with a hat or was it a couple of hats. I watched Elvis Stoyko and Kurt Browning and Brian Boitano dance every kind of traditional and hip number and entertain us so well. I saw Scott Hamilton do his backflip before he had cancer and after he had cancer. I watched Katarina Witt flirt her way across the ice. I enjoyed the wit of Kristi Yamaguchi and the grace of Michelle Kwan. They were both enchanting. I watched Oksana Baiul the first time she skated like a dying swan and it was all great. Sometimes it was so great I had to stand up. There are still wonderful skaters and I still watch whenever skating is available on television, but that golden age of skating is past now.

The new skaters have not yet formed the close ties that have turned the last generation of skaters into a family. I’m sure skating will have another golden age and hopefully the new skaters will experience the same closeness the professional skaters enjoy.

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