I can’t swear to the veracity of this incident but the faculty believes it happened. As the story goes, one of the journalism graduates from my college applied for a job at a small television station. The executive interviewing her asked if she had ever considered getting breast implants. He reportedly asked that question? Outrageous. Here’s why he dared be so stupid.
Sex sells. Advertisers have known that for decades and have been using sexually provocative images to sell everything from cars to vacuum cleaners. Today, television bosses are trying to use sex to sell the news.
At my first broadcast job, a Top 40 radio station in Chicago, “Trooper 36-24-36” delivered the traffic reports during morning drive time. Were those her measurements? Not by a long shot. But she was attractive and had a sexy voice. I’m sure the men listening enjoyed hearing about traffic tie-ups from what they imagined to be a bombshell.
But that was just the traffic. In later years, shapely weather girls turned up on local TV stations. They were young, mostly blonde, and wore revealing clothes. But that was just the weather. The sexy weathergirls went out of style when real meteorologists or funny forecasters were must-haves for local stations. Of course, they were men.
When women, like me, began to get hired for reporting and anchoring jobs, we were delivering hard news. We believed we had to present ourselves more like male anchors if we were to be taken seriously. We had an unofficial fashion code: professional, yet feminine. Suits were the uniform and we would never draw attention to our femaleness. We didn’t wear anything that would distract viewers from listening to what we were reporting. Hairdos were helmet-like with nary a hair out of place. Make-up was simple and used primarily to conceal skin flaws.
But, my, my, my, how things have changed.
Have you noticed lately how women newscasters dress, especially on the cable news channels? Do they look like news anchors or Miss Americas? What’s with the sleeveless clothes, the low cut necklines, the tight sweaters and pants? Local female anchors now move around their news sets, teetering on 6-inch heels with nearly thigh high skirts.
Their hair is long, voluminous, and those who are blonde often get that color out of a bottle.
The make-up looks like it’s been applied with a palette brush. Brows are plucked to new heights. Eyes are coated with shadows and liners making them dark and smoky. The cheeks are rosy, and the lips glossy. All dolled up to deliver the hard news: the hurricanes, the crime, the budget crisis, and the presidential campaign.
You may think I am just talking about women, but men are also striking sexy poses. You can tell they work out. Many appear in the field in short sleeve shirts with biceps bulging. They also stand wide-legged or have one foot propped up on a boulder or piece of equipment.
At least news executives are giving us equal opportunity sexploitation. Both men and women are losing substance to style.
Since everything seems to be ratings driven, news executives apparently decided they, too, would sell news with sex. Ouch. But are the viewers listening to what’s going on in the world or admiring the beauties displayed on the screens before them? I don’t think the stations care.
Too many young journalists today are more focused on their bodies than their reporting and they will do almost anything to be ON TV.