Button-Pushing Anchorwoman Snarks Off Real Journalists
From the moment Lauren Jones pops onscreen in her fire-engine-red miniskirt, you know Anchorwoman is calculated to offend.
Fans of serious news are already complaining about too much Britney, too much Paris and too much Lindsay. So a reality TV series debuting on Fox at 8 tonight about a bikini model and former WWE wrestling diva taking the anchor chair in a tiny Texas market with little or no training, is just the sort of in-your-face insult calculated to spark morning show news segments and talk radio debates for days.
But my cynicism about the show's bald-faced button-pushing -- juxtaposing scenes of the buxom Jones working out with attempts by the station's sleazy general manager to justify this bone-headed stunt -- vanished when I screened the first episode for a mostly-female group of anchors at the Poynter Institute.
Because these women weren't just disappointed. They were pissed.
"This is slapstick comedy that happens to be set in a building that once served as a news organization," said Carolyn Murray, anchor at WCBD-TV in Charleston, S.C. I'll have a story in tomorrow's Floridian better detailing their thoughts, but these women reacted the way a black person might respond after seeing an episode of Amos and Andy -- angered at the resurrection of stereotypes they're already facing down everyday (see the story here).
When I met Jones in Los Angeles at a Fox press party, she seemed like so many other reality "stars" I've encountered. Savvy enough to get that much of what she's doing is a put-on, cynical enough to milk it for all its worth and yet blithe enough to overlook the fact that she really is the shallow, uninformed sexpot she's playing onscreen.
I chuckled to myself as she talked excitedly about how Fox News pundit Bill O'Reilly wanted "a private interview" to circumvent Fox's resistance towards press interviews during production (she seemed unaware that he settled a sexual harassment lawsuit in 2004, lending a different tone to that request).
And like all reality show contestants, she had an armor plating of rationalizations ready to explain away this awful enterprise. She was taking advantage of an opportunity; she brings a skill set to the table; everybody uses sex to sell things; why can't a smart woman be a model and a news anchor at the same time? (To see her non-news media chops, click here and here.)
We all know local TV news can be a haven for bubbleheads and superficial beauty queens. But to have a network with its own news division serve up a series which so clearly undercuts its journalistic mission -- well, that seems a prime example of excreting where you eat.