Andrea Helman then and now

Former WOUB Student Breaks Down Gender Barriers in Journalism

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1968 Graduate Andy Helman didn’t let anything stand in her way

ATHENS, OH – When Children’s Book Author Andrea Helman came to Ohio University in the mid-1960s, she was focused on print journalism but an opportunity to work at WOUB Public Media ignited a spark that energized her career. It all started with a class she wasn’t supposed to take. Helman was a magazine journalism major and her advisor didn’t think she needed to take any radio and television classes. But, Helman pushed back and wore down her advisor because there was something about broadcast that piqued her interest.

“After taking the radio and television class as an elective with then-WOUB Director of Radio Archie Greer, I got interested in working at WOUB,” said Helman. “I got hired to host a program on WOUB called Broadway’s Best where I would tell the story of a show through the music. It was an incredible experience to have that kind of responsibility early on before I entered the real and tough world out there. However, anything with knobs and dials was not my strong suit. During one shift, while on the air, I walked away from the radio board and ran into Archie’s office, not knowing what to do, and he had to come in and straighten it out!”

Even though Helman didn’t really realize it at the time, she and a few other females were opening doors in Athens that had been closed to women for a long time.

“There were not very many girls in the journalism school or at WOUB at the time,” said Helman. “But once I got in there at WOUB, the guys that I was involved with were lovely.”

Helman enjoyed the broadcast work at WOUB. However, she also continued growing her journalism skills by interning in Columbus at the Citizen Journal. When she graduated from Ohio University in 1968, Helman interviewed for a position as a journalist at the Chicago City News Bureau.

“I was thrilled and excited at the prospect,” said Helman. “Then I got a letter from the general manager who interviewed me. It said, ‘We have never had any women on our staff. And the board of directors voted not to begin now.’ and that was it.”

Helman was disappointed but had the last laugh. She got her first job in Cleveland and then enjoyed a wide-ranging career in both print and broadcast journalism. Using her longtime nickname “Andy,” Helman worked as a feature reporter, copywriter, scriptwriter, talent and producer at several newspapers and television and radio stations in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Washington. She also started her own company called Andy Helman Creative Communications where she wrote scripts, print material and provided marketing assistance. In the early 1980s, Helman was approached by a publisher to write a book and her career went in a new direction. With the publication of the first of her nonfiction books, O Is for Orca, Helman became a children’s author.

“When I was still working as a TV producer and finishing up my first book, I scheduled Political Activist Gloria Steinem as a guest,” said Helman. “I showed her my book, and she saw that I used the name ‘Andy’ and said, ‘Why don’t you give your gender the credit?’ That really struck me.”

On another occasion, Helman submitted a story to a magazine editor and when he got back to her, he told Helman it took him some time to realize the story was written from a female perspective after seeing the author’s name was “Andy.”

“I started using the name ‘Andrea’ more often after that,” said Helman.

Helman credits WOUB with giving her a boost into a professional life before she graduated and encourages current Ohio University students to check out what WOUB has to offer.

“The interesting thing about getting involved at WOUB while I was at Ohio University is that I was majoring in print journalism, but then ended up having more broadcast jobs than print jobs during my career,” said Helman. “I am thankful that I had that background because of WOUB. Anything you can learn at WOUB are life lessons.”