Saturday, February 14, 2015


"As long as men look at me that way, I'm earning my keep." Recently a conversation about Philadelphia history brought up Jessica Savitch, who was from here and read the news on KYW-TV in the ’70s before becoming nationally famous. I was smitten with her like so many others were. That line is her story. I read Almost Golden. Historically she's important in TV news because she was one of the first beautiful women it used on camera. Before her era, in the first 20 years of TV, stations wouldn't have them because they thought housewives would be envious and cause a ratings backlash. Savitch had local women fans. So, around the same time as the advent of "Eyewitness News," a.k.a. happy-talk news (the news show as crude theater with stock characters, as parodied by Will Ferrell; passé* in the Internet age?), you had the first newsbabes like her (a stock character: the anchor team as a symbolic couple, a man and a woman). By the way, the real love of her life (husbands, et al. notwithstanding) was her mentor, alpha jerk news producer Ron Kershaw. (The Robert Redford character in the dumb movie very loosely based on her, Up Close and Personal.)

In contrast I'm thinking of two former newsbabes, one of whom I used to be acquainted with. Incidentally, like Savitch she's Jewish. A lovely brunette who was a big-city anchor but left it all (well, she does some cable now) to be a full-time wife and mom. Granted, easy for her since her former career and her husband make her wealthy. Nice person. The other one, whom I don't know, is Stacey Stauffer. Out of the news biz and presenting on QVC (a cable shopping channel), because, my guess, it's close to home (no more long commute to Philadelphia or driving all over the area covering stories) and she's very much in love with her new husband so she wants to concentrate on raising her kids too. Likewise still attractive, though her new show is targeted to other women (where that's about status and emulation; she's a role model). Based on the lady (which she is) I knew, both very happy and fulfilled as women. (Why lefty women hate Sarah Palin.) Savitch lost out on all that.

Conservative talking point: there is no glass ceiling, no chauvinist plot against women. If women were paid less across the board, more of them would be working than men. No, most women hate the rat race so they love to drop out to 1) marry macho executives and 2) bear their children; those and 3) keeping their looks are the feminine trifecta. Men on average work harder and longer hours so on average they make more. It’s that simple.

The news show-within-the-show on the very '70s “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” featuring Ted Baxter, was about five years behind its times, parodying golden-era news shows, before “Eyewitness News”/happy talk, when they consisted of a man with a trained radio announcer’s voice (by the way, may Gary Owens rest in peace; he just died at 80). Ted Knight essentially was doing an impression, sending up John Facenda and other great voices. (But many of the first TV reporters started in newspapers.) Savitch was just the right age, in the change from old-timey announcing to happy talk, that I hear some elocution lessons in her voice, giving her a slightly mid-Atlantic sound.

The British have a better perspective: these are “newsreaders.”

*TV will be fine; it will merge with the Web.

1 comment:

  1. Growing up in Syracuse, I never had it better when Channel 5 News was co-anchored by legendary Ron Curtis (who started anchoring the program in the Fifties) and the ultimate in newsbabery (looks and intelligence) Maureen Green. It was a wonderful team until Green started having babies and the execs fired her. Ever the trooper, she ended up co-anchoring the Channel 9 flagship broadcast with almost-as-legendary Rod Wood (who finally retired last year---another great old-style news voice) until they pushed her out for having the temerity to have more babies and reach middle age. A younger, sluttier woman replaced her in that seat (she's still there now). I wonder what Green is up to today---probably spending time with her big family. Good for her.

    Incidentally, I also remember a young apprentice anchor in Ron Curtis's Channel 5 newsroom: a local boy named David Muir. At least he knew how to use his looks to work his way to the top.


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