Hotties First, Skills Optional?

Saturday, December 20, 2008

I'm fairly sure we've been through this discussion before, but the Globe and Mail's William Houston has clacked out a piece about the conflict between the skills and attractiveness metrics for women in sports journalism. It's somewhat Canuck-specific, but does go into Erin Andrews, Hazel Mae, and gets quotes from both Linda Cohn and Andrea Kremer.

Yes, we crack about sideline reporters being attractive all the time, but it's obvious when someone, male or female, has been hired for looks and lack of skill -- it shows up in their announcing, analysis, or interviews, and is plain for all to see.

Speaking as someone who works in TV, the attractiveness metric is not going to change a whole lot. Every single person considered on-air "talent" for many news and sports organizations, particularly the women, has to be attractive in some way to convey warmth to the audience. Looks are one way to do it, and obviously we have plenty of examples of dudes on TV who wouldn't pass that basic attractiveness test. The double standard just doesn't exist in the same way, which is why it's a double standard. Dudes can get away with appearing knowledgeable and/or being boisterous.

It's kind of a sad truth, but if you're going to get into a visual medium, these are the lines you have to walk very carefully. I wouldn't advise that any woman at any level of journalism do this:

[Rogers SportsNet's Jody] Vance, former Sportsnet colleague Hazel Mae and Kathryn Humphreys of CITY-TV in Toronto once posed for a magazine photo spread in which Humphreys wore leather, appearing as a sort of dominatrix; Mae showed some of her underwear; and Vance was portrayed reclining, glasses off and holding her hair.

I've not seen the spread. However, it's in the best interest of any journalism professional to control their image to a hyper-sensitive extent to maintain credibility. It also helps to avoid pulling a Hazel Mae or Carolyn Hughes as far as dating the people you cover.

Secondary issue: are we as the consumers and target demographic for sports coverage responsible for the prevailing attitude of "hire a hottie and watch the ratings pour in"? Houston cites both leads to blog posts and comments attached to posts on Deadspin, and there's definitely a line to cross in my mind -- everyone's going to opine about whether someone on TV is attractive or not, but I can understand why someone like Kremer would say much of the commentary is frightening in terms of its tone.

The moral of this if you're in the business: ignore the bluster of drooling morons like us if you can, keep serious control over what you can, and veer on the side of caution, always.

Looks first, knowledge second [Globe and Mail]

Posted by Signal to Noise at 6:00 PM

7 Comments:

i will not stop commenting until i get my dick sucked and jerked/

Anonymous said...
Dec 20, 2008, 7:26:00 PM  

While I dont think Pam Oilver or Holly Rowe are attractive, I feel they do a good job of reporting and providing information. I think Erin Andrews, Bonnie Bernstein, and Tracy Wolfson also do a good job and I do find them attractive.
All five of them seem to be well prepared. With so much scrutiny now, any minor misstep is multiplied and receives much more attention than it would have previously. And when the people who are considered attractive make mistakes theyre painted as dumb.

I've traveled fairly extensively along the East Coast from Charlotte to Boston along with trips to the Midwest and West Coast, and looks have nothing to do with the quality of TV reporting, it just seems the people considered attractive get more chances. I currently live in the Philadelphia TV market, and in my opinion it is the worst "major"
market for TV news. I dont know if it is because Philadelphia is a market that people use as a springboard for NY or DC, or a place they end up after leaving NY or DC. There also seems to be a much higher percentage of anchors/reporters that are natives of the area than in other markets.

Probably the worst thing I ever saw was the LA FOX station, their morning anchors were all giddy and joking after doing a story in which a police officer was seriously injured in a car crash.

jg said...
Dec 20, 2008, 8:21:00 PM  

one example of male that would fail attractiveness test = john clayton

Anonymous said...
Dec 21, 2008, 1:23:00 AM  

@jg

I think it's also because Philadelphia is a very provincial town and probably react better to anchors they know are from the city, not "carpet baggers."

odessasteps said...
Dec 21, 2008, 2:02:00 AM  

Attractiveness matters - TV is, ya know, a VISUAL MEDIUM - but it only takes you so far. If you crash and burn in the knowledge category, you get the short leash - Lisa Guerrero anyone?

I heart Erin Andrews as much as any guy, but part of the reason I do is that, while she is less hot than some sideline reporters (check the college football ranks in particular - lot of ex-cheerleaders out there) - she actually KNOWS THE GAMES she's covering, and is good for at least two or three interesting comments/insights in a broadcast. She's damn good at her job, in other words, in addition to looking great. She's no dumb blonde.

ben said...
Dec 21, 2008, 2:18:00 AM  

take Erin Andrews looks, and her sports knowledge, and her access to sporting evnts, combine and we all have our dream girl

questionmark said...
Dec 21, 2008, 2:57:00 AM  

Some people actually like women who combine looks AND knowledge better than looks alone.

Morgan Wick said...
Dec 21, 2008, 5:24:00 AM  

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