The Erin Andrews Dilemma

I recently came upon a comment from an esteemed sportswriter for the Washington Post by the name of Christine Brennan. She’s won lots of awards for her writing and reporting and she’s enjoyed a long career as one of the top sports journalists in the country. She was commenting recently about the Erin Andrews issue and I must say, I was surprised by her views.  More on that later.

You remember what happened with Erin Andrews, don’t you? She’s the attractive sideline reporter for ESPN who was recently and purportedly surreptitiously videotaped by a peeping tom while she was walking around her hotel room without wearing any articles of clothing.  Erin Andrews, completely nude as she put on her makeup, has caused a national stir among the nation’s 16 year olds as well as among the media who cover such things.

Ms. Brennan made the following comment about Andrews:

“On the Erin Andrews situation, a quick thought for those who have asked: There are hundreds of women covering sports in this country who haven’t had this happen to them. I wish it didn’t happen to Erin, but I also would suggest to her if she asked (and she hasn’t) that she rely on her talent and brains and not succumb to the lowest common denominator in sports media by playing to the frat house.”

A couple of thoughts on Brennan’s observation of Andrews’ dilemma. It’s an interesting comment from another woman in sports media because the female brethren in a male-dominated industry have tended to band together in support of each other when there is a perceived “attack” on one of their own for reasons not related to job performance. When there have been criticisms of on-air women, not for how they perform their jobs but for how they look, there is usually (and rightfully) a cacophony of outrage from the sorority claiming unfair abuses based on looks that on-air men do not have to be confronted with. Professional reporters of the female variety are constantly talking about the double-standard they have to live under regarding youth and looks that male reporters in front of the camera do not have to put up with. And, they are right. There is a double standard and it shouldn’t exist. However, it does exist and the guys in the back offices of these networks who wear the suits continue to choose women with a “certain look” that management feels will appeal to the core of their audience. In the sports business, that audience core tends to be younger males with raging hormones. Like it or not, that’s the fact.

I’m not sure Andrews’ work as a sideline reporter (at which she is very good and very professional) “plays” to the lowest common denominator, Christine. I haven’t seen her hike her skirt up, on air, or lower her neckline so I’m not sure what you’re referring to when you say she is playing to the lowest common denominator. Andrews is  smart and she’s good at what she does. She’s also significantly more attractive than most other female on-air reporters with an audience of 16-24 males. And yes, she does have a bubbly, on-air personality who can ask the tough questions of her subjects.  Her looks and her audience does create an equation built for creating a sexy personna even if she doesn’t play to it. It’s how ESPN and many other networks have chosen to go but it’s nothing new in the business of delivering news or sports on television.

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