Jill Jacobs: A buffer's guide to delivering the bad news

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The Independent Online

Feeling a little depressed after watching the news these days? Have reports of terror, war and economic hard times left you wishing the news could be different?

Hello Naked News TV.

The popular Toronto-based internet site boasting close to 6 million monthly visitors, recently began airing its weekly naked newscasts in the United States on cable's pay-per-view at a cost of $3.95 (£2.70).

Lead anchor Devon Calwell begins each 55-minute newscast by reporting the news while performing a gradual striptease, until completely naked. Other reporters soon follow her lead by taking turns whipping off their clothes while delivering the latest in domestic and foreign affairs, sports, lifestyle and celebrity news.

Somehow the difficult news of the day seems more tolerable when delivered by attractive men and women wearing nothing more than a smile. But show producers scoff at the suggestion that Naked News TV is simply more late-night adult entertainment. According to executive producer, Kathy Pinckert: "This is just a job that is performed nude. To do your job nude, with no props, no desk or a suit, kind of makes it much more empowering. Gestures, voice and facial expressions take on a whole new meaning."

Perhaps Ms Pinckert has a point, but my guess is that most viewers aren't tuning into The Naked News TV to partake in its journalistic offerings or for the unique facial expressions reporters incorporate while delivering the news in the buff. I guess we can also agree to disagree about our vastly different definition about what constitutes a prop.

Trivialisation of the news, particularly during a time when journalists have risked and lost their lives in an attempt to convey truth to an all too often indifferent public during turbulent times of war, is not only disconcerting, but also disappointing.

But blurring the lines of entertainment under the guise of news is not new. CNN offers its viewers a daily geography lesson by the use of giant floor maps as anchors leap from country to country like a big game of hopscotch, in an effort to teach Americans the location of key countries involved in a war while providing further empirical evidence (for those few remaining sceptics), that Jalalabad is not the name of the new burrito special from Taco Bell.

The Fox News war correspondent, Geraldo Rivera, now stationed in Afghanistan, recently revealed he was packing some heat and described his preference for shooting Osama bin Laden rather than interviewing him. (While a nice idea, I suspect it may overstep the bounds of his current job description.)

While we all need diversion during these stressful times, this is not the time to zone out. To the contrary, this is a time to be vigilant and pay close attention to what's going on in the world.

Since 11 September, our political and social landscape has certainly changed. Wire taps, secret tribunals, prison massacres, racial profiling, innocent civilian deaths, (now known only as "collateral damage"), have all become an acceptable part of our daily vocabulary and ideology, and much of this information is accepted without question.

Are naked newscasters a bad idea? I don't know. But the further trivialisation of the news in a society that already has a tendency toward celebration of the trivial as newsworthy, serves to further dull the senses of its viewers, while allowing the Government to implement political policies with little resistance.

So journalists, put some clothes on, lots of clothes, perhaps consider an overcoat and hat. Anything to prevent Americans from becoming distracted from the enormity of the issues we are faced with and their serious implications for the future.

If you want to see some naked people, buy a magazine, rent a movie, or tune in to National Geographic.

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