Regular readers of this blog know that two of my biggest pet peeves about the media are sexism in the reality TV genre, and marginalization of women in the news biz. Turns out, FOX has figured out a way to pinch both of those nerves with the production of Anchorwoman, a new FOX reality show that will feature a busty blonde bikini model and former WWE wrestler as an on-air anchor of KYTX Channel 19, a local CBS affiliate in Tyler, Texas.
Women In Media & News is seeking a volunteer in Texas (or with access to Texas TV) who can record KYTX Channel 19's 5 p.m. newscast for us throughout the month of August, for blog-worthy fodder for WIMN's Voices, as well as for research for my book on reality TV and gender issues.
KYTX has hired the voluptuous former beauty queen Lauren Jones as an on-air news anchor not just despite her lack of journalistic expertise but specifically because of it. Jones has been retained by the news department to boost the affiliates' ratings but, more importantly, to provide the premise for Anchorwoman, which will premiere in August. Here's how FOX's promo materials describe the show:
Phil Hurley is the owner of a middle-market Texas news station, KYTX Channel 19. Desperate to turn the tide of his news rating woes and compete with the longtime ratings giant, Phil has shocked the station and town of Tyler, Texas, by bringing in a gorgeous model and ex-WWE diva with no previous news experience to be his next anchorwoman -- all in hopes of reinventing the look of Channel 19 and overhauling its below-average 6 share to a number more like his competitor's 36.
Former Miss New York and über-vixen Lauren Jones up her Versace dresses and heads to Tyler, Texas, to start a new career. Can this bombshell make it as a serious reporter? Will she save KYTX, or make it the laughingstock of the Lone Star State? Lauren wants to show everyone she's no airhead, and this is her big chance to prove she's more than just a pretty face.
The entire newsroom thinks the boss has made a giant mistake. Reigning anchor Annalisa Petraglia is not about to lose her Queen Bee status to some L.A. hottie. News Director Dan Delgado is fit to be tied as his beloved journalistic standards go out the window. Michelle Reese, a hard-nosed reporter bound for CNN, will take no prisoners. Lauren has a big job in front of her as she struggles with her news team and an unfamiliar town. How will it all turn out? Only the ratings will tell, so stay tuned for the next anchorwoman: Lauren Jones.
How fun! A bikini model is going to try to read news copy from cue cards! Her coworkers will hate her because she's so vapid! Let's place bets on how badly she'll mangle the news! It's bad enough that so many news stations hire "uber vixens" as "weathergirls" -- now, we're casting them as journalists? If only this was the stuff of satire, as when The Daily Show's Samantha Bee spoofed the sexualization of women in journalism as "N.I.L.F.: News I'd Like to Fuck." Yet, once again, reality TV sinks to a low that humorists consider a bad joke.
Female journalists are systemically marginalized throughout the news business, so it's particularly frustrating that a reality show would exploit the idea that women aren't cut out to deliver the news. As far as Jones herself, her most notable experience outside the wrestling ring has been as one of "Barker's Beauties" on the game show The Price Is Right and as "Hobo Bikini Model" on Wonder Showzen. This stunt casting says as much about sexism in the media industry as it does about the cross-promotional degeneration of broadcast journalism and hypercommercial entertainment programming.
(It's also worth noting that as scripted entertainment, Jones' appointment would be far-fetched, but as "real life" practice, hiring a news anchor based solely on her looks and setting her up to fail in her job performance while also placing the rest of the women on her team into a hostile workplace environment smacks of employment discrimination, at best improper, at worst illegal. Any legal experts reading this want to weigh in on whether there's any sexual harassment law or employment practices liability policy being broken by this thing?)
Women In Media & News would like to capture the footage of this journalistic low in advance of FOX's rollout of Anchorwoman. If you're in Texas and can record KYTX Channel 19's 5 p.m. newscast for us (ideally all month), please do so, and contact info[at]wimnonline[dot]org so that we can get the footage. (Alternately, if you have digital clippings access and can post clips from Jones's segments on YouTube or to WIMN's Voices, this would also be helpful.)
This post originally appeared at WIMN's Voices: A Group Blog on Women and the Media, a project of Women In Media & News, the national women's media analysis, education and advocacy group. To bring Jennifer L. Pozner to speak to your campus or community group, or to send her blog tips, email info [at] wimnonline [dot] org. To subscribe to WIMN's free media alert list, see the Action Center at http://www.wimnonline.org/action/