The news out of the Gulf may be ugly these days, but at least the guys delivering it aren’t.
For this we can thank ABC, onetime home of Howard Smith’s Issues and Answers, now Diane Sawyer’s personal Abercrombie and Fitch. This summer, the network has sent a boy band’s assemblage of bright-eyed, sharp-tongued correspondents to the Gulf Coast, where they’ve broken news, landed big-get interviews and done it all in impossibly tight T-shirts. Other outlets fielded their own formidable crews to cover the oil spill, but only ABC fielded a lacrosse team.
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They are: Dave Muir, iron-jawed veteran of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a caffeine-guzzling Scorpio once photographed spread-eagle in Men’s Vogue; Matt Gutman, the brow-furrowing newcomer who came up through ABC Radio but has a torso for TV; Jeffrey Kofman, the tall, dark, and handsome Miami correspondent who got the first broadcast interview with shamed BP CEO Tony Hayward and who speaks fluent French ( ooh la la); Ryan Owens, the Dallas-based Emmy-winner who’s reportedly from both the Louisiana and Persian Gulfs; towheaded weatherman Sam Champion, Manhattan man-about-town; and Spandex-sporting Chris Cuomo, a scion of the New York political dynasty, who recently blogged about his “manly man physique.”
We’ve heard plenty over the years about television’s Barbie army, the puffy-lipped peroxide queens of Fox News and the network airwaves. But ABC is charting new territory with its GQ brigade, the first ripply abbed, all-male journalism revue. They inherit the proud mantle of “silver fox” Anderson Cooper, “scud stud” Arthur Kent, and the original towering anchor-titan, ABC’s own Peter Jennings, but together, they’re more than just the sum of their diligently toned parts.
Any network can find and polish a one-off hottie to fight back tears at the disaster site du jour. But ABC’s A-team is fearsome and ubiquitous. Rival network producers speculate about network-mandated workout regimes and jokingly wonder whether they’re doping. Gay blogs are aflame. Of Gutman, blogger Antoine Reid wrote, “It’s like Christmas when this guy comes on to report about something—he has that stereotypical immaculate dark news anchor hair, a nice build to him, wears the tightest shirts he can find. Wooh, heat wave! I feel like Blanche from The Golden Girls whenever ABC drags him out of hiding.”
We’ve heard plenty over the years about television’s Barbie army, the puffy-lipped peroxide queens of Fox News and the network airwaves. But ABC is charting new territory with its GQ brigade, the first ripply abbed, all-male journalism revue.
It almost makes you feel worse for NBC bug-eater Mark Potter or poor, abandoned Larry King, lost relics of a less look-ist era for men in television news. Of course, the other broadcast and cable networks are all chock-a-block with their own comely, breakout stars— itemized in this week’s New York Times—but none would do as well at the old Roxy as ABC’s.
Whether the ‘NSync-ification of broadcast news is a positive development—for the republic, the Fourth Estate or even just for Nielsen ratings—remains to be seen. Viewership of the network evening newscasts was down a million viewers in the second quarter, although perpetually second-place ABC did lose the least of the three.
And with hurricane season coming, there could be three more months of big news from the Gulf—and the possibility of those tight T-shirts getting wet.
Rebecca Dana is a senior correspondent for The Daily Beast. A former editor and reporter for the Wall Street Journal, she has also written for the New York Times, the New York Observer, Rolling Stone and Slate, among other publications.