More than a few people were hoping that the second Katie Couric slid behind the “CBS Evening News” desk, the show would combust live, on the air, into flaming journalistic ruin. But, boy, she almost has it easy compared with Lauren Jones, the star of Fox’s upcoming reality TV show “Anchorwoman.” Jones, a busty bikini model and former WWE star, is being trotted out for the amusement of TV watchers in Tyler, Texas, where, despite a total lack of journalism experience, she will take a shot at reporting for KYTX Channel 19. Then, only the best of her on-air flubs and hostile run-ins with the real station talent will be broadcast nationally as a reality TV show.
Imagine the pitch given to Fox’s bigwigs by the show’s creator, Brian Gadinsky — the same mind behind the dating show “Mr. Personality,” where a hot bachelorette is forced to pick from a host of masked (read: potentially ugly) men. As Jennifer L. Pozner writes for the Huffington Post, it might have gone something like this: “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!” Or what about some teleprompter high jinks and a back-alley brawl with the competing news station, à la “Anchorman”?
Jones has been reporting for KYTX for a week now and the station’s competitors are already raising a stink. “What they’re doing is making a mockery of every legitimate local news station in the country, the people that work there and the viewers whose trust they and we, as an industry, try to earn every day,” said Brad Streit, general manager of KLTV-TV. Of course, they’re also making a mockery of legitimate female broadcasters, who are routinely deemed to lack the gravitas to report real news or are considered useful only as eye candy. “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,” writes Pozner.
Interestingly, buzz about the show surfaced the same week as Dan Rather’s comment that the decision to bring in Couric to anchor “The CBS Evening News” represented a desire “to dumb it down, tart it up.” (For the record, he says that his comment was directed at management, not Couric.) Regardless of whether you like her, it’s Couric’s gender that has been repeatedly invoked — directly or obliquely — as evidence that she simply can’t cut it.
There’s every indication that “Anchorwoman” — the whole premise of which counts on the hilarity of a woman, let alone a blond, busty woman, trying to seriously deliver the news — will be a smashing success.