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Looks vs. Credibility
Watch Video The anchor is a station's face and voice, so he or she must represent the station's marketing goals. The anchor delivers news stories and introduces reporters to viewers during the broadcast. The public expects a credible source for their news. If the anchor's appearance and demeanor do not meet viewers' expectations, the station's local news programs may lose their appeal, causing viewership and, consequently, advertising revenue to decline.

Looks vs. Brains A key role of the anchor is to attract viewers, in speech, conduct, and looks. According to the Museum of Broadcast Communications, "National news anchors represent their respective networks and are held accountable for the ratings success of their respective news programs in attracting viewers. In keeping with this serious representational function, the anchor's style of delivery is reserved and his or her appearance is designed to convey credibility." The same holds true for local news anchors.

In LOCAL NEWS, after a newspaper reported Alicia Booth's nomination as sexiest woman in Charlotte, she was removed from the anchor desk and demoted to reporter. Though the decision may seem unfair, it was apparently based on focus group research that suggested Booth was "too attractive" to appeal to female viewers. In short, Booth's looks got in the way.



Management's Choices
Anchors' jobs are on the line when their images do not match the findings of market reports. Carol Marin, a popular CBS anchor in Chicago, faced a situation similar to that of Alicia Booth. Like Booth, Marin chose to leave her employer rather than face reassignment. In an interview on THE NEWSHOUR with Jim Lehrer, Martin said that when she walked away from her previous anchor role at WMAQ, an NBC affiliate, it was because she disagreed with their switch from hard news stories to sensationalism. "The last and final event was, in an attempt to boost ratings, the station thought that they could generate some buzz by bringing Jerry Springer on as a commentator. ... It was time for me to leave."

Watch Video Age and sex have a lot to do with marketing decisions in the television news industry in general. "The highly publicized case of Christine Kraft, anchor of KMBC-TV in Kansas City, Missouri illustrates the willingness of executives to dismiss women considered 'too old' or 'too unattractive' to fill this highly visible role. Such judgments are rarely, if ever, made in cases involving male anchors, who are seen to develop 'authority' and 'gravity' as their physical glamour fades," reports the Museum of Broadcast Communications.

So is there an alchemical formula that translates beauty into success for local news broadcasts? Answers vary, but seem to be focused on the fickle tastes and biases of specific markets of viewers, and the features they view as ideal in an authoritative face and figure. Toward that end, stations often hire consultants to tell 'talent' how to dress, coiff, sit, and speak. But, ultimately, as Booth says, you have to be yourself. "And if they tell you that viewers don't like you, that hurts."



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