CNN’s ultra-reliable Washington political reporter Candy Crowley has had a little work done in recent months, and the network she works for is making some changes too. The relationship between the two may or may not say a lot about the, uh, shape and complexion of the TV news business.
For anyone who’s watched Crowley over the years, the change between Crowley, say, during the 2008 presidential campaign and this year’s model is striking. Physically striking. Simply put, Crowley has lost a significant amount of weight.
“It's stunning to me that something I consider so separate and apart from what I do for a living has taken up so much space in some people's thoughts. I am a hard-news journalist. That is what I do,” she told the Los Angeles Times in November.
How was it done? The Times James Rainey reports the details on Crowley’s downsizing: “There has been no Lap-Band. No gastric bypass. No surgery at all. Rather, Crowley said, she has been dieting, swimming and working out, sometimes with a trainer, since last December.”
“And, in a change she thinks has made the biggest difference, she has taken up Transcendental Meditation. A couple of times a day, Crowley escapes her break-neck schedule to settle into what the TM website describes as a ‘natural state of restful alertness.’
“ ‘I feel great physically. I feel really good,’ the newswoman [said]. "I'm lighter now in a lot of ways.’”
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Fast forward to 2010, and change comes fast: Crowley, a 22-year veteran of the network, was named the new anchor of CNN’S “State of the Union” Sunday morning program, succeeding John King, who moves to a new 7 PM newscast on the network, replacing "Lou Dobbs Tonight," which blessedly went off the air, along with its nativist windbag host, in November. Crowley takes over officially on Feb. 7.
“Candy's rare combination of shrewd insight and healthy irreverence for the games politicians play has made her one of the most honored political journalists and a cult figure among CNN viewers," CNN/US President Jon Klein said in an announcement. "Every Sunday she'll translate Washington-speak into plain English that every American can understand, as she has been doing better than any reporter on the beat for decades.”
All of which is true enough, but given television’s predilections for cosmetic consistency and younger women in the studio, some have wondered — perhaps unfairly — if Crowley would have landed such a plum gig without making some concessions to TV’s bimbette obsession.
“Would I have gotten the job without having lost the weight? I don't know. That's an X factor," she said Friday to Gail Shister at TVNewser. "Does the refrigerator light stay on when you close the door? We'll never know."
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Despite the unfortunate refrigerator metaphor — and no, Candy, the light goes off when you close the fridge door; if yours doesn’t it’s time to step up to a better fridge — Crowley was on point in telling Shister that the “young, blonde thin” woman anchor as default cable-news personality may no longer be the preoccupation it's been in the past.
“I readily admit I'm not the most obvious pick, from a purely cosmetic point of view,” she told Shister. “I'm not going to argue that when you turn on the TV, you basically get young, blonde, thin women. This is changing.”
Well, yeah, some. But not very fast. Now that the glass ceiling has been at least pierced for the YBT (young, blonde & thin) demographic, it’s time to see more advances with other groups.
Tamron Hall, a stunning, competent, stunningly competent MSNBC midday anchor, is one of the few cable-news reporters both female and African American — a combination that seems to be a challenge for the suits in high places to get their heads around. Hall had some company until last year, when her black male counterpart, Carlos Watson, was suddenly absented from MSNBC. Now Hall’s the one shining exception to a rule in cable TV that’s gotten almost too familiar.
For Crowley, her ascension to Sunday-morning gasbag referee was justly deserved. “I think I have the credentials to do this job,” Crowley told Shister. “This company has talked about my credentials first, last and always. I got the job because I'm the best person for the job.” No argument there.
Crowley, who told Shister she lost five dress sizes, inherits a show that’s lost some serious weight of its own, being trimmed from a four-hour Sunday parade float to a manageable hourlong program. It all suggests that CNN is in makeover mode. Here’s hoping that CNN’s initiative is contagious, and other professional journalists whose personal optics are outside TV’s discomfort zone get the same opportunity.
Image credits: Crowley, CNN logo: CNN. Hall: MSNBC.