September 9, 2005 Television: Welcome To The Machine

New PC Warning For TV Journalists: Don’t Flirt, Don't Tell


We found Daniel Cappello's interview of Ken Auletta in the August 1st, 2005 edition of The New Yorker Magazine Online very informative. Auletta shared some advice about news journalism today that seems reminiscent of advice that was taught over the last 2 decades during "PC sensitivity trainings."

We imagine that the same advice Auletta discussed with Capello about at length in The New Yorker article was taught years ago with Fat-Cat suit&tie, suspender guys, many wearing aramis cologne or Polo, who needed to be warned that their good ole boy behavior would no longer be tolerated in the office.

According to Auletta: "Remember that the audience is almost seventy per cent women. There are lots of other strictures—don’t flirt, don’t do too much sports, don’t be long-winded..."

Smart and sound advice for sure, only this time, Auletta's advice was for Diane Sawyer and Katy Couric.


A well respected journalist covering the media, Auletta says "The rules are unwritten..." We checked to see if there were other unwritten rules such as "no spitting" or "no hitting below the belt" though found none. Yet, given the profits that go along with Morning TV "News" programming, other than too much flirting, too much sports talk or "having diarrhea of the mouth," anything goes.

katie couric.jpg

Of course the term "diarrhea of the mouth" is a MadAve-ism term used every now and again for the term "long winded" and was not used in the article. Though it is often thrown about among AE's at agencies everywhere. Normally, it's used in the context, "That new Brand Manager [or, art director, copywriter etc...] has diarrhea of the mouth, again another colloquialism for being long-winded.

But that's nothing compared to the paradoxical "unwritten rules" Mr. Auletta discusses with Cappello: "Every morning, the anchors are dancing with this devil. They are gifted dancers, but they are expected to show some leg, to be likable." What gives? Don't flirt, but show some leg?


Some may be bewildered by Auletta's seemingly contradictory analysis. One can only imagine during the locker-room pep-talk Diane and Katie receive each day from their etiquette-ethicist trainer/producers how to tight-rope walk these unwritten rules. For example, would it be uncouth for Diane to make a suggestive smile to her husband Mike Nichols while interviewing him about his latest film, or for Katie to kick it up with the Rockettes, the world’s most famous chorus line, spitting distance from NBC headquarters. No wonder these anchors make the big bucks. They deserve every million they earn.

Since Matt Laurer, Charles Gibson or Al Roker rarely lift their suit pants attire above the ankle, it's questionable if these three anchors are exempt from the "leg rule". And when they do, their ankles are often covered up by socks.

Medical definitions seem to suggest that the leg and the ankle are indeed separate, connected by "the shank," as detailed below:

shank (shngk) n.
1. a. The part of the human leg between the knee and ankle.
b. A corresponding part in other vertebrates.
2. a. The whole leg of a human.
b. A leg or leglike part.

In news circles, the expression "this story has legs" could be a literal translation to what hub-bub follows Auletta's interview. One has to wonder, if whether Auletta's rule book is actually a subtle way of warning America's morning anchors that they are being watched?

Rumor has it that Ralph Lauren may be launching a new suit following in the path of the once fashionable Bay City Rollers, who very provocatively expose their ankles for all to see


With much made about "unwritten rules," considering the recent New York Magazine "Celebrity Psychos" article, will Lauer, Gibson or Roker have other rules (this time) written into their contracts. Will a "shank rule" emerge after the smoke clears? Or worse, will our morning TV journalists be forced to perform stunt-related gimmicks like Tom Cruise or Robert Novak of CNN that take the attention off the story and thus becoming the story


According to Steven Spielberg as reported in the same New York Magazine article, there's more here than meets the eye, "The media and the movie industry don’t always agree with each other, but they’re both out to entertain,” says Steven Spielberg. “People should not be fooled.”

New York Magazine also summarized a study of celebrity stressors developed by Charles Figley, a professor at Florida State University, "The gossip keeps pouring in as we simultaneously honor and revile our celebrities in a more intimate manner than ever before..."

Professor Figley claims that it is we - society - to blame, as we simultaneously honor and revile our celebrities. Since Katie and Diane are TV Journalists, which are technically not celebrities, perhaps they are casualities of being inadvertently swept into the limelight of celebrity-hood, as they interview them, painstakingly on a daily basis.

In essence, our morning anchors are now subject to excessive media attention. We can only hope that their leg-based pressure will not lead to additional guilt that takes away from their "all news all the time" TV journalist responsibilities. If so, the ramifications on the the over-emphasis of their appearance could send a different message to college-bound students majoring in chemical, hydraulic and electrical engineering with minors in the fashion, beauty and cosmetology sciences.

The fear of course is that this newly identified pressure on our morning TV Journalists - role models in the most important sense for 21st century youth - could influence kids to reverse their direction; that is to throw away those thick glasses, pocket protectors and uncuffed trousers for sizzors, makeup and eyeshadow applicators, thus decreasing our ability to increase our much needed hydrogen/nuclear/anthrax bomb inventory, whose current ratio only projects our ability to obliterate the total global population by a factor of 643 times over threshold.

As reported and interviewed on all 3 the morning news progams simultaneously, Dr. StrangeFeld, an expert from Military Industrial Complex, LLC suggested that in order to shrink the current "obliteration gap," the US will need the next generation of engineers to increase the "Dynamic Obliteration Archive" index (referred to as the "DOA Index" by insiders) by at least 50% more in order to achieve true "safe-hood."


Considering this, perhaps Auletta's view is not so contradictory after all. Surely the embarrassment and frustration Matt Lauer felt with all the unnecessary media attention in late 2004 when Esquire Magazine accused Lauer as being one of the "best dressed men in the world." Sources indicated this left Lauer "fumming." Esquire Associate Editor Chris Berend heightened the controversy with the statement, "We call him our best dressed wake-up call," said Berend. "Essentially he is the best dressed cup of coffee in the morning." NBC refused to comment.


Another example of a news reporter's physical appearance taking the attention off the story and on to themselves happened most recently on CNN when James Carville called attention to Robert Novak's spinal cord, "He's got to show the right-wingers that he's got backbone, said Carville, a Democrat.


To further irritate his political rival. Carville then suggested that another news media vehicle might find Nova's physique attractive with the shocking, "Go ahead, the Wall Street Journal editorial page is watching. Show them you're tough." Does Carville know something we don't know? Is the Journal planning a muscle fitness issue similar in scope to Sports Illustrated's Swimsuit issue? Only time will tell.

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