There have been so many pioneers in the field of broadcast journalism, so many bold men and women, so many new and societally beneficial ideas.
There was Douglas Edwards, who first anchored a regularly-scheduled, daily network newscast.
There was Edward R. Murrow, who first brought investigative reporting to television with his See It Now series.
There was Don Hewitt, who came up with the idea of the newsmagazine.
There was Ted Turner, who came up with the idea of the all-news network.
And now there is Gretchen Frazier, who sits in front of a camera and reads a story about campaign finance reform in the United States and takes off her sweater. Then she reads a story about escalating tensions in the Middle East and takes off her blouse. Then she reads a story about a bus crash in South America and takes off her bra. At which point the viewer of male gender may be forgiven for not remembering the subject of the next story.
Pioneer Frazier, you see, is one of the anchors of Naked News, a Canadian webcast that comes out of Toronto and features female anchors on one program and males on another, is available seven days a week via the Internet, and once a week on IN Demand, the world’s largest pay-per-view television network.
Less than three years old, Naked News is, if not the future of broadcast journalism, at least a remarkably successful component of the present. The website attracts about six million hits a month, compared to nine million for CNN.com, and the IN Demand version of the show was one of the pay-per-view service’s top five new programs of 2001.
"We constantly get e-mails from viewers who say they checked us out because of the naked chicks or the cool guys," says executive producer Kathy Pinckert, "but they stuck with us because conventional newscasts alienated them."
"If you were to close your eyes," says Frazier, describing an impossible situation, "we’d sound just like any other newscast."
Actually, as Miami Herald reporter Glenn Garvin points out, Naked News sounds better than a lot of newscasts. He writes that a typical episode might "include more than four minutes of foreign news—that may top network newscasts on some nights—and none of the phony ‘promotional’ stories,’ like plugs for Survivor, that often turn up on local newscasts."
Makes you wonder why Doug Edwards didn’t think of it. Or Murrow or Hewitt or Turner.
And, in fact, it makes you wonder why other fields of endeavor don’t copy the idea. Imagine Naked Realty—this middle-aged woman with frosted hair and too much lip gloss peeling off her tartan-plaid Talbots skirt as she walks you through the dining room of a three-quarters-of-a-million dollar tract house, then discarding her Nine West platform heels in the living room and her Christian Dior pantyhose as she leans against the kitchen counter and swears to you that the Sub-Zero refrigerator next to the microwave is the answer to your food-storage prayers.
Or Naked Pre-Owned Car Shopping—this middle-aged man with a gut flopping over his belt and wispy strands of hair combed across a frisbee-sized bald spot tugging off his J.C. Penney’s blue blazer with fake gold buttons as he leads you past some rusted-out Toyotas, then ripping away his yellowing white shirt and coffee-stained Men’s Warehouse tie in front of a Jeep whose odometer reading is in the six-figures after it’s been turned back, and finally sliding down his dung-colored Dockers and dropping his BVDs as he assures you that the ’86 Chevy you are now looking at rides as smooth as one of them new Mercedes-Benzes.
Of course, what matters more than a person’s apparel, or lack of it, is commitment, the degree of enthusiasm that he or she brings to the job. Gretchen Frazier says she once got so wrapped up in the weather report she was delivering that she forgot to unburden herself of her attire. She came to the end of the report and—to dismay of her entire audience—was fully clothed, not so much as a button unbuttoned or a zipper zipped down.
"I was so embarrassed," she admits. "We had to tape the whole thing over again."
Hard to imagine, say, Judy Woodruff ever losing control like that.
Eric Burns is the host of Fox News Watch which airs Saturdays at 6:30 p.m. ET/3:30 p.m. PT and Sundays at 1:30 a.m. ET/10:30 p.m. PT, 6:30 a.m. ET/3:30 a.m. PT, and 11 p.m. ET/8 p.m. PT .
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