James Clay Fuller

Things We're Not Supposed to Say

Monday, April 28, 2008

Cable business nooz; feminism or ogling?

Something that never occurred to me until I began paying a little attention again to cable nooz business programs a couple of months ago:

Only physically very attractive women in the 30s are qualified to anchor shows covering economics and the equities and commodities markets. In fact, very few people who are not very attractive women in the 30s – men and older women, for example – are qualified even to report on such topics.

If that weren't true might not someone less glamorous, perhaps even male, be in such a position here or there?

Who knew?

One of the cable networks used to have a couple of guys in their 40s whose work on late afternoon roundup shows I appreciated. They seemed to me to be knowledgeable, accurate and balanced in their reporting, and occasionally insightful in their restrained analyses. One of the two has been relegated to a very early morning show and the other apparently appears on air only occasionally these days, usually in spots that define his role as gofer for the glamorous young women.

I spent about 40 years covering economics, the markets and major corporations and dealing with such decidedly unbeautiful people as CEOs, heads of securities firms and economists such as Walter Heller, John Kenneth Galbraith and the champion con man of all time, Milton Friedman. The longer I was at it, the more I learned, and the more I came to think that it took a lot of learning to qualify as a solid reporter on economics. It never once occurred to me that gender and physical attractiveness might be qualifying characteristics.

Having listened to some of the gorgeous anchors over the past two or three months, I have come to the conclusion that most, if not all, of them have spent far more time learning about hair, makeup, clothing and how to moderate their alto voices to suit the topics than they have to learning journalism or economics.

On average, excluding a couple of highly competent yet still attractive long-time reporters, I'd guess the average economic education of the glams to be about one week in a crash course. To be honest, their ad-libs often demonstrate what seems to me an appalling ignorance of the topics at hand.

Obviously, the cable execs know more than I do, however, since they have a lot more money than I do. (That's modern American reasoning, folks). So I must be wrong again.

Isn't television a remarkable educational tool?