Thanks to America Online, we've just hit a new low in the dumbing down of news.
Not a bottom, mind you, just a new low. Because the lowest of the low is probably some years off.
In its widely publicized push for more "quality content," AOL recently presented one of its intensely probing investigative reports. It was titled: The Top 19 Hottest Newscasters in America. It was created by Asylum.com.
The introduction to this journalistic gem said:
"As media professionals, we understand how tough it can be to be, even though on our best days we're merely lobbing spit balls. So we have some sympathy for the lady journalists of the world who have to do everything we do plus look hot doing it. Not that that'll stop us from lobbing gobs at them as well."
Warming to their task, these intrepid defenders of the public interest asked us to "Delve with us, if you will, into the world of hot journalists. The roundup includes everything from short skirts on pogo sticks and wet T-shirt contests to creepy, titillating YouTube compilations of crossing and uncrossing legs."
Digging beneath the skinny, as it were, the authors presented their list with appropriately titillating (no pun intended), newsy, thoughtful and informative comments. Here are some of them:
Catherine Bosley (No.19): Catherine Bosley was an anchor in Youngstown, Ohio, until she went on vacation to Key West, got drunk and stripped completely naked in a wet T-shirt contest. Of course, with the Internet being what it is, a video made it online and went viral. Bosley resigned her post and now works for Action News 19 in Cleveland. Interesting tidbit: Sharon Reed (who got naked for a news segment) interviewed Bosley about her "scandal" in a piece titled "Naked News." We were shocked and depressed when we couldn't find a video of this interview on YouTube.
Robin Meade (No. 16): CNN's Robin Meade may be the the anchor of the eponymous show "Morning Express With Robin Meade" and she may have covered the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq for CNN, but what really impressed us is that she too works in a miniskirt and, as this YouTuber noticed, has great legs.
Jane Skinner (No. 13): (Fox News) Skinner may be the co-anchor of "Happening Now" and producer of the Skinnerville segment on "Studio B with Shepard Smith," yet the most famous entry on her résumé is a gaffe that launched a thousand YouTube videos. Two words: "Top c**k."
Jillian Barberie (No 11): (FOX) Playboy proved long ago that if a woman is hot enough, she can pose in swimsuits and lingerie regardless of her profession. Thank you, Jillian Barberie, for helping to bring this trend to broadcast journalism. Your contributions have not gone overlooked on the Internet.
Sharon Reed (No.7): (Action News 19) Sharon Reed is a local news journalist in Cleveland who caused a stir in 2004 by reporting nude on Spencer Tunick's "Naked States" project. Her report, called "Body of Art," was heavily promoted and was one of the most-watched news stories of the year. We at Asylum admire her stunt-journalism pluck, among other things.
Lauren Sanchez (No.5): (Formerly KTVK-TV, Extra, and Fox Sports Net) Emmy-nominated Lauren Sanchez is known for hosting "So You Think You Can Dance," as well as numerous sports and entertainment shows. Perhaps she's not a "news journalist," but lay off, you scoop snobs, and consider the more important story: Would you rather date Sanchez or an award-winner from The New York Times?
Barbara Bermudo (No.1): (Univision) If you needed a reason to learn Spanish, now you have one. This Puerto Rican beauty makes us wish that all of the news channels would take a page from Univision's playbook and hire ferociously hot Latinas.
And under a video of Julie Banderas (No. 14), appeared this caption:
Julie Banderas -- Lady newscasters must hate "tribute videos" such as this cleverly titled, porno-music filled, slow-mo video, "julie banderas legs."
You can take it to the bank: Legs are NEWS!
And what are the other stories these anchors are covering these days? The war in Afghanistan, the Iraq disaster, Dick Cheney, our economic meltdown, health care, cap and trade, immigrant detention, torture, wild fires, not to mention the usual menu of car chases, murders, rapes, kidnappings, kittens up a tree - well, you get the picture.
But, viola, thanks to the skill of these dogged TV newsdiggers, all these yarns somehow get magically transformed into "good news" stories we can't wait to watch.
This is the future of television news.
And, since most of the American public gets its news via television these days, it's our future as well. Which explains why America has such a well-informed citizenry.
An Ecuadoran economist named Sebastian Hurtado Perez has apparently been doing a lot of thinking about role of "hot" women in our society. He wrote a funny piece in this morning's Washington Post entitled, "Workers of the World, Exfoliate!"
Perez's proposition: "Much attention has been paid of late to whether the United States is trending toward socialism. Alleviating socioeconomic differences through the federal government's active intervention in the economy is a common aim of all socialist movements. Nonetheless, most champions of the less privileged have never made a practical effort to mitigate the social differences caused by the inequitable distribution of what, nowadays, is a factor with an enormous socioeconomic impact: beauty."
He goes on to write, "It is unacceptable for physical attractiveness to be the birthright of a very small proportion of the population." For this reason, he suggests that "the civilized nations of the world consider incorporating a few policies based on the most traditional economic principles of socialism."
One of those principles: "Political constitutions should define beauty as a 'strategic natural resource'. They should state that citizens may not be discriminated against on the basis of their physical attractiveness and that the protection of ugly people and their integration into society should be an unalienable duty of governments."
"To that end," he concludes, "governments should nationalize beauty industries in order to ensure the supply of low-priced makeup, anti-wrinkle creams, aesthetic plastic surgery, etc. This would help to improve people's appearance, thus reducing the differences between the beauty icons and the common people. This would have a significant cost, which, according to a clear principle of solidarity, should be financed through a tax on the beautiful people in each country."
If the Obama Administration would only take up Dr. Perez's challenge, it wouldn't be too long before you could get your news from, say, Elizabeth Warren!
Hey, as reported by Sam Stein on HuffPo, it worked for Jon Stewart, who was instilled with confidence and left feeling at ease after the Harvard prof did a guest turn on The Daily Show.
The TARP overseer would certainly not qualify as one of AOL's hottest newscasters. But the question is whether you watch TV news for information or cleavage!