Hillary Clinton's Cleavage and What I Don't Get About CNN's Zahn/Brown Trade
I'm an experienced media critic who has been around the turn a time or two. Still, I remain amazed that MSNBC and CNN -- I didn't get an extended look at Fox News today -- have spent many segments today talking about an 800-or-so-word column by Washington Post fashion writer Robin Givhan written 10 days ago about Hillary Clinton's cleavage.
Yes. You read right; the ex-First Lady's rack.
Here's a sample: "The cleavage, however, is an exceptional kind of flourish. After all, it's not a matter of what she's wearing but rather what's being revealed. It's tempting to say that the cleavage stirs the same kind of discomfort that might be churned up after spotting Rudy Giuliani with his shirt unbuttoned just a smidge too far. No one wants to see that. But really, it was more like catching a man with his fly unzipped. Just look away!"
I find myself, however morbidly, grateful that breaking news of the FBI and IRS busting Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens, along with news of a seizure suffered by Chief Justice John Roberts, kept CNN from wallowing in much discussion on this topic.
I also know it's irresistible. Male politicians mostly wear suits in variations of gray, black and blue. Women offer much more variation and opportunities to critique -- the same dynamic I noted when Katie Couric took over the CBS Evening News and began wearing more than the red tie/striped tie/yellow tie variations practiced by rivals Williams and Gibson.
Still, the upshot is that women get pieces like Givhan's written about them, while men -- at least those with enough sense to avoid $400 haircuts -- do not. And the fact that I just spent seven paragraphs exploring this issue -- like TV, I've shrouded the discussion in exploring media and blog reaction to the issue -- only highlights the problem.
What I Don't Get About the Zahn/Brown Exchange
Now we are days past the official announcement that former Weekend Today cohost Campbell Brown is coming to CNN to unseat longtime fifth wheel Paula Zahn -- allowing Zahn to do her exit interviews and Brown to do her entrance talks.
So I can ask the question: Is CNN really getting anything for its trouble?
What is working at 8 p.m. is the opinion of Fox News' Bill O'Reilly, the big winner, and MSNBC's Keith Olbermann, the up and comer. Zahn was essentially a hire from the big broadcast networks who stopped at Fox before landing at CNN.
So why did the cable newschannel go out an grab another version of the same kind of broadcaster, but a dozen years younger? "I'm not Bill O'Reilly," Brown told the Washington Post in an article today. "I'm not Keith Olbermann. I'm not going to do opinion. That's not who I am."
Neither was Zahn, who sometimes placed fourth in the ratings, despite viewership gains from a year ago.
So why would Brown's tenure turn out any differently...?