I didn't hear a word she said for about sixty seconds, because all I could do was stare at her hair.
The anchor in question had apparently lost a battle with a weed whacker. Either that or her stylist decided to cut her hair while wearing a blindfold. It was that bad. If my dad were around and she were his daughter, his comment would be, "I sure hope you didn't pay for that."
After the shock wore off it occurred to me that I was being unfair to this woman. She was still a good anchor, still the same person. I had become superficial in a superficial business. I had time-warped back to the Mad Men era.
Yes, women still have it tougher than men in this business. You can be an average looking guy and have a decent career as a broadcast journalist, but if you're a woman who looks like Quasimodo, fuhgeddaboudit. Behind the scenes you go.
Women have to look their best, always. They must not have a hair out of place, they must not ever gain weight, their makeup and clothes must be flawless. They have to wear heels to Wal-Mart.
Guys? Well, we're guys, ya know? We can get away with more.
When Katie Couric debuted as an anchor on CBS, much was written about her wardrobe. She wore white after Labor Day! Oh, the horror!
But does anyone notice anything about the appearance of male anchors? I can tell you Brian Williams favors purple ties and Bob Schieffer likes loud ones, but other than that I couldn't tell you what suit they wore or if they got haircuts recently.
And to make this worse, men, even on the networks, have gotten more casual lately. Years ago you never, ever saw a guy on television without a necktie. Now it seems that casual Friday is everyday.
Except for the women.
And over the years, the complaint calls I've fielded at local stations regarding females always had something to do with appearance. My all time favorite: "She spends too much time worrying about her jewelry."
What does all this mean? It means, grasshopper, that nothing has really changed. Women still have an uphill battle in the news business and just about everything else. Look at politics. In 2008 Hillary Clinton was described as "shrill." Would anyone say that about a male candidate? And don't even get me started about Michelle Bachmann's Newsweek cover photo.
It also means that at the end of the day, men still look at you as women. We still hold doors, pull out chairs in restaurants, and pick up the check. (At least we're supposed to.)
Is it fair that women have to meet higher standards? No. Do I have any idea how to change this? Not a clue. So for now, anyway, you still have to look as if you stepped out of a Spiegel catalog. Meanwhile, guys, it wouldn't hurt for you to step things up in the appearance department. If the women have to do it, so should we.
Back in the day when women were first getting into the business, the best compliment a woman could receive was that "she's one of the guys."
TVNEWSGRAPEVINE, copyright 2011 © Randy Tatano