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The Daily Tar Heel

Reporters Not Only Pretty Faces

The contest concluded Jan. 12, and surprisingly, CBS sideline reporter Jill Arrington (26 percent of the vote) defeated ABC's Melissa Stark (23 percent). That might be the outrage.

Playboy.com's poll isn't demeaning or insulting because all of the women involved were hired because they are beautiful.

Television sportscasting operates on a double standard. Someone like Stark, who does know her stuff and is a talented reporter, must look like Barbie to get on air while John Madden's gut gets celebrated.

Getting a vote by the Playboy.com poll simply shows that viewers recognize and gravitate to a pretty face, something that television has long betted on to snag higher ratings.

Arrington's victory guarantees CBS that at least one viewer will switch the channel to check out the babe who knows her football.

And while men are ogling Arrington or actually listening to her, CBS's competitors' ratings slip. CBS's go up and so do their advertising rates. The network makes money off of its pretty sideline reporter.

There's absolutely nothing wrong with using sexuality to advance one's self. Arrington declined Playboy's offer to pose nude, but doesn't have to be ashamed that she's attractive.

Despite the disservice that so-called-sportscasters like FOX's Jillian Barberie (a glorified weathergirl) do to the cause of women in sports journalism, talent still wins over beauty.

When ABC cleaned the Monday Night Football house last year, the network gave longtime NFL vet Leslie Visser the boot and gave her job to Stark, who had cultivated a following covering games for ESPN.

But ABC would never let some dumb blonde loose on Monday Night Football.

Stark had to have the skills to work her way to a cushy job on network television. Being beautiful and popular with the ever-important 18-35 male demographic didn't hurt, it only helped her climb the ladder faster.

Getting in sports broadcasting and staying there is much easier for men. Boomer Esiason is just one proven case of a former football player floundering in the broadcast booth.

Visser may have gotten too old in ABC's eyes, but she's still very good at what she does. CBS signed her up after the Monday Night Football shakeup.

Although Visser was the unfortunate victim of age discrimination, she probably has benefitted in the past.

Television is like that. Sex sells. Always has, always will.

When Arrington, Stark and their fellow sexy counterparts have been around for 15, 20 more years, they'll start losing their jobs to the next bright and beautiful talent.

I'm saying it's not right; it's a fact. It takes an amazing combination of brains, personality, drive, luck and beauty to last long in television media.

Playboy.com's poll, while trivial and silly, revealed that male broadcasters were just utterly insulted for the women they worked with. ABC refused to give Playboy.com a photo of Stark. Keith Olbermann ranted about it on his show.

Please.

I didn't hear any outrage from Arrington, Stark or Barberie. A couple of contestants, including a pregnant Hannah Storm (who came in third), said they were flattered.

There's no reason they shouldn't be.

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Rachel Carter can be reached at racarter@email.unc.edu.