Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Anchorwoman show cheapens broadcast journalism

In recent years, broadcast journalism has been widely criticized for being biased or too entertainment focused. Others say broadcast journalists, especially the anchors, just read the news. Some movies have played upon this stereotype with “air head” television news broadcasters.

While I personally know that is an unfair criticism many Americans do not and now a new reality show called Anchorwoman (http://www.fox.com/anchorwoman) feeds upon this common stereotype. The end result, I think, is bad for journalism.

On June 11, 2007, the New York Times ran a story by Paul J. Gough entitled, “Fox reality show roils East Texas town.” Here is an excerpt:

“An upcoming Fox reality series about a model-turned-TV journalist is causing a stir in the East Texas city where "Anchorwoman" is being produced.

Model Lauren Jones arrived last week in Tyler, Texas, for a 30-day stint at KYTX-TV, a CBS affiliate, that will include co-anchoring the 5 p.m. newscast today. Jones, who was cast for the show by Fox 21 and the G Group, has been undergoing behind-the-scenes preparation as a reporter and anchor, her every move taped by a 40-member crew. "Anchorwoman" will run on Fox beginning in late August.

Jones is a swimsuit model and actress whose credits include WWE's "SmackDown!" and "The Guiding Light." She has no journalism experience; the show will be about whether Jones can hack it in TV news. She arrived in Tyler a week ago and has been put through what a station official calls intensive training in how to read a TelePrompTer and report stories on her own. …

This is the first time that a reality series will feature someone with no journalism experience who will be thrust into a job surrounded by real journalists. It has raised concerns inside and outside KYTX.

"One of the last sacred grounds of integrity in local television is the local newsroom, so I guess I would say I'm disappointed to see a station, much less one in our own community, that has evidently sold its integrity," said Brad Streit, vp and GM for KLTV-TV, the ABC affiliate in Tyler. …

Al Tompkins, broadcast group leader for the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Fla., is more blunt: "It devalues the work of real journalists who are trying to do real work. It doesn't do anything to help the reputation of journalists there and around the world."

KYTX station president and GM Phil Hurley shrugs off the criticism, pointing Friday to the big story on cable news.

"Journalism credibility? I think that's somewhat amusing when all I see today on the cable news is Paris Hilton, nonstop," he said. "This is a TV show. It's going to be a comedy. They just chose to shoot it at our station." …

Barbara Cochran, executive director of the Radio-TV News Directors Assn., said that among her concerns is that viewers will get a distorted picture of what goes on in a newsroom.

"At a time when journalists are getting a lot of criticism, it's going to present a picture that doesn't show the hard work and deep thought that goes on in every newsroom," Cochran said.

I’d be interested to know what you think. Post a comment on this blog.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

For what it is worth, the show is good entertainment but it doesn't do journalism any favors. But, the same can be said for radio talk show hosts who call themselves journalists and don't follow the journalism Code of Ethics.

11:02 AM, August 31, 2007  

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