Jewish World Review Jan. 14, 2002 / Rosh Chodesh Shevat, 5762

Bill O'Reilly

Bill O'Reiley
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Consumer Reports

Hey, Paula, take it to the bank and hush up -- SAY what you want about Paula Zahn, but don't call her sexy. Don't do it, or CNN will track you down and express their supreme dismay. Ms. Zahn is not sexy. I repeat there is no sex appeal in play here. Got it?

CNN is now embarrassed because one of its promotion people tried to get some men to watch Paula in the morning by pointing out her attractiveness in an advertisement. I know Ms. Zahn pretty well, having worked with her at ABC News and Fox. She is very professional, but she does spend a lot of time, shall we say, grooming. And it's time well spent -- she looks good! Some guys might even think she's sexy -- although you didn't hear that from me.

But Paula Zahn does not want to be known for her physical attributes. She wants to be known for her competency as a journalist. Fine. But you can be sexy and a good journalist at the same time. How do I know, you ask? Everybody's a comedian these days ...

Anyway, back to Paula and her sexiness. Here's the deal. In the politically correct world of TV news it is considered sexist to mention an anchorwoman's looks, even though they are vitally important. The driving force in the TV news game is ratings, and guys like to look at attractive women ... so, if you want guys to watch your news, you've got to have some good-looking babes on the roster.

Women are generally much smarter and more civilized than males, so they will accept anchormen who are credible but not hunks. Thank God for that. It's not fair, but that's the way it is. Yes, Walter Cronkite is a good example of what I'm talking about.

And so is Eleanor Roosevelt. Very intelligent woman. No way she's reading the news on TV. It would never happen. Shallow men would tune out.

Shallow is the key word here. In order to make money, TV news must appeal to as many people as possible -- and that includes the shallow, of whom there is no shortage. Eyeballs are eyeballs. It doesn't matter to the news bosses -- nor to the anchorpeople, for that matter -- who is watching, as long as they are watching.

When I heard Paula Zahn express indignation that her promo contained the word "sexy," I laughed. Hey, hey, Paula, if they think you're sexy and watch you each morning, take it to the bank and hush up. Your livelihood depends on a mass audience, and it doesn't matter why they like you, as long as they do. You can still be a skilled interviewer and writer, and give a little wink now and then.

The feminists object to that, but most of them live in a world of ideological platitudes. TV news is the trenches. A mean, nasty world where cutthroat competition decides who stays and who goes. News-reading gladiators all over the United States are just a bad ratings book away from having to get a real job. TV news is survival of the fittest, and sometimes that means the prettiest and sexiest. Sometimes it means other things, too, but you use what you've got.

The American people, I believe, know very well that many TV anchorpeople are full of it and know little about the news. It's showbiz, and the audience chooses which show means the most to them.

In the case of the male audience ages 25 to 54, a great-looking lady helps the news about Mullah Omar go down just a little smoother. Nothing wrong with that. And you can't fight it, Paula. Just be happy you look the way you do. And here's lookin' at you, kid.

JWR contributor Bill O'Reilly is host of the Fox News show, "The O'Reilly Factor," and author of the new book, "The No-Spin Zone: Confrontations with the Powerful and Famous in America" Comments by clicking here.


01/07/02: And justice for none
12/31/01: All that's left
12/24/01: Santa is appalled
12/17/01: Fight the power
12/10/01: The black challenge
12/03/01: How things have changed
11/26/01: Waiting in the Bushes
11/19/01: The sign of the Cross
11/09/01: Hollyweird strikes back
11/06/01: The fear factor
10/26/01: Show me the money
10/22/01: See no evil
10/15/01: Peace, but no quiet
10/08/01: The air war
10/01/01: I don't understand
09/24/01: We are all soldiers, and we have a job to do
09/14/01: Evil on display
09/11/01: Family matters!
09/04/01: End of summer blues
08/27/01: Summertime -- and the livin' ain't easy
08/20/01: The rap on rap
08/13/01: The truth hurts
08/06/01: Amnesty for illegals: Bush's political investment
07/30/01: The big picture on Condit-Levy
07/24/01: Silence of the Shams
07/16/01: Condit, Kennedy and cable news
07/09/01: Heather needs a childhood: The unnecessary loss of innocence
07/02/01: What would have happened if Steven Spielberg had recut "Schindler's List" for German audiences so they wouldn't be confronted with "emotional issues"?
06/25/01: Freak dancing
06/18/01: Work or die
06/11/01: Soundbite nation
06/04/01: Paying through the nose
05/29/01: Graduation Day 2001
05/21/01: Accepting the unacceptable
05/14/01: The Clinton legacy
05/07/01: Kerrey's ordeal
04/27/01: Is the party over?
04/20/01: Racism in public education
04/16/01: The fleecing of America
04/10/01: People who need perspective
04/03/01: Dubya's bottom line --- and ours
03/27/01: Don't tell, don't ask
03/20/01: Greenspan with envy
03/13/01: Clinton and Jackson
03/07/01: All that's left in America
02/27/01: The Letterman experience
02/20/01: Bread and circuses
02/06/01: How the Clintons do it
01/30/01: The Bush dilemma
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01/17/01: Sifting Ashcroft's record

© 2001 Creators Syndicate