Academic journal article Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media

Local Television News Anchors' Public Appearances

Academic journal article Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media

Local Television News Anchors' Public Appearances

Article excerpt

Local television anchors are regularly seen not only at the news desk but also at events in their communities. Viewers, moreover, do not necessarily have to see anchors in person at organized events to know that they were there because stations often cover such community appearances as news stories (Gant & Dimmick, 2000). These community appearances might benefit the showcased cause, the anchor's station, and the anchor's personal career. The appearance of a high-profile local television personality helps draw attention (and money) to a group or cause, not only directly but also through the additional publicity from coverage of the appearance during the news broadcast. The station benefits from promoting its anchor as a "real person" who is involved in the community and cares about his or her, often adopted, town. As C. J. Beutien (personal communication, October 2002), veteran television news director, explained, "Anchors have to remember that their job is similar to a politician's. They have to be out in the community persuading viewers to watch and have a positive feeling toward the station." Regular anchor appearances in the community, in fact, often can be a keystone of the station's efforts to promote itself as an active and engaged community citizen. When its promotions are tied so directly to a single person, the station's efforts may also benefit the anchor. The increased visibility and attendant audience response might put the anchor in a stronger negotiating position for his or her next contract or improve his or her chances of moving to a larger market or to a more lucrative position.

At the same time, community appearances by anchors are a potential source of conflict between journalistic norms and business and entertainment norms. Community appearances usually have nothing to do with the anchor's skills as a journalist and everything to do with the anchor's star quality; every hour spent appearing in public in a setting unrelated to news gathering is an hour that is not spent practicing journalism. Thus, community appearances can place anchors in a position in which business or entertainment imperatives conflict with their journalistic norms.

Anchor appearances at community events have not been noted as an example of the conflict between journalism norms and business and entertainment norms. Other promotional activities of anchors, however, have drawn public and professional comment in the popular and trade literature. A network example was CNN's "zipper" promotional spot for Paula Zahn as host of the show American Morning. For one weekend in January 2002, viewers heard a male announcer ask, "Where can you find a morning news anchor who's provocative, super-smart, oh yeah, and just a little sexy?" ("Paula Zahn," 2002, p. 4). The word "sexy" popped up on the screen and viewers heard the sound of a zipper followed by a cut to Zahn on the American Morning set. Quickly pulled after causing a media stir, the promotion embarrassed CNN news executives who explained they had not approved it. Even more recently, KTLA anchor Sharon Tay posed seductively for an issue of the men's magazine Razor, again raising public condemnation of this blurring of entertainment and journalistic norms in local television news ("Sexiness," 2004). Perhaps the most widely publicized example involving physical appearance at a local television station was Christine Craft (1988) who detailed her experience of the conflict between journalistic norms and business and entertainment values in Too Old, Too Ugly, and Not Deferential to Men: An Anchorwoman's Courageous Battle Against Sex Discrimination.

Although there has been no discussion in scholarly literature, and little discussion in trade literature, regarding public appearances by local television news anchors in their communities and the conflict with journalism norms these might pose, the routine nature of these public appearances might exemplify this conflict. …

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