Young female TV reporters all 'tits and teeth'

By James Ihaka

Janet Wilson. Photo / Norrie Montgomery
Janet Wilson. Photo / Norrie Montgomery

They're often 20-something, usually blonde and not too hard to look at.

But a former newsreader and journalist reckons that is all viewers are getting with the current crop of female television reporters, whom she says provide great "eye-candy" but deliver little else.

In her blog Adjust Your Set, former reporter Janet Wilson gives rival stations and her old bosses TVNZ and TV3 a serve, saying they are guilty of hiring pretty, young females for their looks and not their news-sense.

"They're not there because they can do the job better than anyone else; sniff a story out at ten paces or craft a yarn that makes us think," said Wilson.

"They're there because they simply LOOK good. Try contrasting that with female reporters in the American networks who aren't considered up-to-speed journalistically until they're approaching middle-age."

Just one TVNZ reporter, Christchurch-based Charlotte Bellis, who was schooled in journalism in the United States, escapes Wilson's tirade.

Bellis, Wilson says, "seems to have got off her chuff and stopped the tits-and-teeth smirking and got out there and told me something I hadn't heard before ... after all, it is news."

"The rest belong to that inglorious group, the Pick Me Tribe. These are the prancers who endlessly pick up stories from the front page of that day's Herald and simperingly regurgitate it on camera."

TV3 fared little better and in Wilson's blog she mentions how it was suggested to highly experienced senior current affairs journalist Melanie Reid that she should consider a behind-the-scenes role as she might be a little "old" to be on camera.

She said things were "even worse" on the show she used to front, Nightline.

"The 20th anniversary show highlighted a trail of bland female presenters, (oh, and one uptight Old Trout, me) who looked fabulous but whose journalism for the most part (notable exception, incumbent Rachel Smalley) was entirely forgettable."

Weekend Herald attempts to contact some of the TVNZ reporters concerned were unsuccessful but spokeswoman Andi Brotherston said in an email: "As a former employee, Janet's entitled to her opinions. We disagree with them."

But Mark Jennings, TV3's director of news, said his hiring policy had not changed in his 16 years on the job.

He said TV3 had just one blonde reporter in its Auckland newsroom, "And Simon Shepherd is a very competent journalist".

"Nobody has ever got a job here because they are either good looking or blonde," said Mr Jennings.

"Journalism comes first, second and third ... looks and hair colour are not even considered."

Mr Jennings said Wilson's comments must have been aimed at One News.

"After all, she is an 'attractive blonde' but it didn't enter my thinking when I made her our Nightline presenter many years ago ... her reporting and presenting skills got her that job."

He said retaining older female journalists in newsrooms was difficult as most left to start families and could return only in a part-time capacity at best.

- NZ Herald

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