(Part 1: Heaven's Cates/5.4.07)
(Part 2: Screen Savors/5.9.07)
(Part 3: Rock & Roll Queens/6.14.07)
(Part 4: Funny Girls/8.17.07)
Part 5: The Journalists
Having worked in television news for far too long and consequently having known more than my fair share of female journalists, I think I'm tolerably qualified to say that -- as with their male counterparts these days -- they tend to fall into one of two categories: the smart and dedicated who are truly interested in telling a good story and aspiring to the highest standards of excellence (in other words, the ones who take their job and their responsibilities seriously), and the ones who enjoy seeing themselves on TV or on paper and are in it pretty much for their own personal gain. Unfortunately, the attractive journalist who has to prove that she falls into the former category rather than the latter is practically an archetype by this point; I've met plenty of very smart women who also happen to be great looking and who've spent a good portion of their careers frustrated over their inability to be recognized for their talent and intelligence in a position where such consideration is paramount. There are a whole lot of gorgeous TV news anchors and reporters out there -- and quite a few of them are dumb as a box of rocks. But whereas an attractive man's lack of two brain cells to rub together tends to reflect only on himself and go no further, a beautiful woman's dopiness is seen as an indictment of female journalists in general (as well as, one would hope, the lecherous, pudgy white dipshits in upper management who keep hiring her ilk). I realize that the same can be said for most businesses these days, but in the world of journalism there exists a positively monumental chasm between the indispensible and the worthless, and yet the dregs are often the ones raking in a fortune, while the truly gifted are working impossible hours, sometimes in dangerous situations, and are generally being paid crap for their trouble. Imagine being faced with that latter situation and having to work against the stereotype perpetuated by the other half of the equation. In all facets of journalism, there are women who manage to be both beautiful and brilliant at the same time. Quite a few in fact are astonishingly sexy because they're brilliant.
Here are just a few, from a cross-section of media.
Anyone whose bio reads that she currently lives "at an undisclosed location in Baghdad" is damn serious about her job. As a bureau chief for NPR, Jamie Tarabay has spent the past several years traveling from one war zone to another, covering some of the most important news events of this generation. She's Australian by birth, Lebanese by heritage, and only 32 years old -- which makes me feel very, very lazy.
I've been a fan of this self-proclaimed "Jersey Girl" for quite awhile. Jancee Dunn started out as the only bright spot in the MTV2 VJ lineup, then went on to write for Rolling Stone, where she's now a contributing editor. She was also a special correspondent to Good Morning America for a few years and is the author of But Enough About Me... How much do I like Jancee? I'm willing to overlook the fact that she occasionally writes for Oprah's magazine.
I love Arianna Huffington. There, I said it. Not so much a field journalist as a columnist and commentator, Arianna somehow pulled off what was seemingly one of the most absolute about-faces in political affiliation history. Over the course of a few years, she reinvented herself -- in a way which was astonishingly believable, her motives never really coming into question -- turning her back on the Republican party she once counted herself a member of, and emerging as an outspoken critic of the Bush Administration. Her online newspaper and blog, The Huffington Post, is required daily reading and she can often be seen on Real Time with Bill Maher, as she and Maher are close friends (she was a regular contributor to his previous show, Politically Incorrect). She's also the author of On Becoming Fearless.... in Love, Work and Life. On top of all that, she's just really, really sexy.
There are fansites aplenty devoted to Jennifer Eccleston, and a few of them even recognize the brain behind her admittedly gorgeous face. Jennifer's been to every hell-hole on Earth during her career, reporting for Fox News, NBC and now CNN. At the risk of sounding patronizing, she's put herself in the line of fire time and time again when she quite frankly didn't have to. This is not in any way an obscene claim that unattractive journalists have no choice but to take the tough jobs; that's not the case at all. My point is that there's an entire vat full of myopic news directors growing somewhere that would be more than happy to make her an anchor and pay her a fortune to read a teleprompter in the comfort of an air-conditioned studio for the rest of her career. Maybe it's stupid of me to credit someone for simply doing something she loves -- something she considers rewarding -- but I've watched big money and a luxurious lifestyle occasionally tempt even the strongest journalist toward ruin. Jennifer is still out there, and news audiences are better for it.
See above. The crap Jennifer Eccleston has sometimes had to deal with? CBS's Lara Logan has had it worse. Yes she's stunning -- she's also a good journalist. Enough said.
I interviewed Ariel Levy awhile back and was impressed with quite a bit about her: She's smart, spirited in the best possible way, she's not afraid to joust at some pretty big cultural windmills and yes, she's very attractive. This last quality might not matter one way or the other were it not for the fact that the Goliaths she frequently takes on include Girls Gone Wild, the porn industry, and so on. These are the kinds of entities that usually pull the frat boyish argument that a jealous desire for inclusion -- and the lack of such -- is the true motive behind the venom of any female detractor. Admittedly, Ariel may have had her conclusions all laid out before she even researched her very good book Female Chauvanist Pigs, but to put it bluntly, somebody had to say it. Ariel makes no attempt to hide her loathe for women who feel that stripping or screwing in front of a camera somehow qualifies as empowerment. Her stance: You're free to do whatever the hell you want with your life girls, but don't you dare think that the power that comes from having tits and being willing to show them off makes you some kind of latter-day Betty Friedan.
If there's a flavor-of-the-week among the "Hot TV Newswoman" set, it's Erin Burnett. The host of CNBC's Street Signs is known as much for her looks as her knowledge of the markets. Her background with Goldman Sachs and Citigroup ensures that she knows what the hell she's talking about, but I'm mentioning her here not because of her journalistic abilities, nor even because of her looks per se. She's worth talking about because of the reaction she consistently elicits from her supposedly professional male co-workers; all in all it's pretty fucking sickening. Over a period of just a few weeks, MSNBC's resident loudmouth Chris Matthews and his populist knucklehead colleague Joe Scarborough both behaved like horny schoolboys during separate live interviews with Burnett; this all happened on the air mind you. While Erin was attempting to talk about the subprime mortgage crisis -- a topic of tremendous importance -- Tweety Bird Matthews essentially ignored the words coming out of her mouth in favor of drooling over her mouth itself. He even admitted to being distracted by her beauty, thus proving both my initial assertion about the difficulties many women face in this business and the fact that Matthews is an idiot.
A couple of weeks ago I called New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd the sexiest brain in journalism. That just about says it all.
Next: The Classics