Friday, May 18, 2007

Something uplifting, for once

We've been talking a lot on this blog and in class about apperance, and how important it is for those of us who want to be in front of the camera. We've talked and written about female sportscasters, redheads, last names and every sort of other thing that we think might be held against us when we go out into the job world. But watching a whole bunch of TV this quarter (and over, say, the past 20 years) I've realized more and more all that stuff doesn't really matter that much.

I'm not going to go all Oprah and talk about how it's all "what's on the inside that counts." But I think it is, ultimately, about good reporting. The more I see, the more I realize that sure, maybe looks and all those other things help, but being a great journalist can trump all that.

Think of all the people who have succeeded in broadcast journalism despite their flaws. Barbara Walters, first and foremost. She can't pronounce her r's and has a lisp, but she's interviewed basically everyone there is to interview, hosted any number of programs and has made a great living doing it. There are some others you probably don't know about. Jonathan Ross, a British TV film critic, also can't pronounce his r's. Diane Rehm, an NPR talk show host who has interviewed everyone from Bill Clinton to Maya Angelou to Sandra Day O'Connor, has spasmodic dysphonia.

Or what about bald guys, or those who wouldn't be considered traditionally "good looking"? Peter Mansbridge, the lead anchor of the national news in on the CBC in Canada, is a perfect example of someone who has had a long and prosperous TV career despite not having a 12-inch high coif. Or look at John Clayton, who has been a reporter for ESPN since 1995 despite looking like (depending on who you listen to) either Stewie from Family Guy, Tweety Bird, or a whole bunch of other things entirely.

But despite the jokes, I'm not trying to pick on Clayton. The point is, the guy's a fantastic reporter. He's so knowledgable that his ESPN colleagues call him "The Professor." So it doesn't matter that he's not telegenic, or that he's got a voice that sounds like he's been sucking helium right before going on air. He can deliver news and content that viewers can't get anywhere else. He's forced the network to overlook his other shortcomings, simply through his journalistic cred.

It's all kind of heartening to me. It's nice to know -- despite all we hear about the superficiality of TV -- that even if I go bald, or my voice isn't perfect, or I have a bit of a Canadian accent, or I have a Jewish last name, my smarts and good reporting skills can win out. It's nice to know that you can find and keep a job just based on your abilities, and that it is possible to be front and center on TV even if you're not the "typical" TV personality.

(Still, I really do hope I keep my hair.)


At Friday, May 18, 2007, Blogger AM said...

None of the journalists I admire are "attractive." Ideally journalists should be scrappy underdogs, not these good-looking smoothies we're increasingly presented with. I like the quirky John Stossel and Babwa Walters.

At Saturday, May 19, 2007, Blogger AG said...

AJS, I really enjoyed this blog. I think you are so right. While good looks never hurt anybody, I do think talent prevails, ultimately.

And... that being said, it is good to know. I think that we do focus sometimes too much on looks when we need to be focusing on our talent and skills.

I hope you keep your hair too!


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