Sun, Jul 04, 2004 - Page 17 News List

Not just a beautiful face

News anchorwomen don't just read out the day's events, they are stars in their own right

By Yu Sen-lun  /  STAFF REPORTER

In the 1995 award-winning movie To Die For, Nicole Kidman plays an ambitious but obsessed woman determined to be a TV anchorwoman. She struggles to climb up the slippery career ladder from being a weather reporter. She even lures three teenagers into a scheme to murder her husband. Her character's mantra is: "You're not anybody in America unless you're on TV.

"On TV it's where we learn about who we really are. Because what's the point of doing anything worthwhile if nobody's watching? And if people are watching, it makes you a better person."

The movie may be a fiction about an obsessed woman, but it has a grain of truth that applies to Taiwan as well.

Last week, Next Magazine (壹週刊) spotted and photographed celebrity anchor woman Patty Ho (侯佩岑) and Sean Lien (連勝文), son of Chinese Nationalist Party Chairman Lien Chan (連戰), kissing in Lien's car. The news made headlines in major Chinese-language newspapers for the next three days. Even a week later, the media is still following up the story.

Ho is the most popular anchorwoman on Era TV News (年代新聞). Her name is frequently in the entertainment pages and she has, more than once been voted by Internet polls as the dream girl of Taiwanese men, especially among those in military service.

As for Lien, he is an executive at several investment banks. It is estimated that his properties are worth more than NT$2 billion.

Although there are heartbroken fans of Patty Ho calling Lien a pig (Lien weighs 100kg) and claiming it's unfair just because he is rich, the news about the couple is still hotly chased.

"In Taiwan, anchorwomen have been marketed as an embellishment of the news shows with the aim of stimulating more ratings," said Sun Mine-ping (孫曼蘋), associate professor in journalism at National Cheng-chi University.

What shocked Sun most about the Ho and Lien affair is that the two major, non-tabloid newspapers China Times (中國實報) and United Daily News (聯合報) treated the news as front-page stories.

On the same day, there was news about Iran releasing UK servicemen and US aiding North Korea. "I was stunned. Is a hostage problem in the Middle-East less important than the dating of Ho and Lien? This proves that the major papers have also been `tabloidized,'" she said.

In Taiwan, TV anchors are trained and developed following the model of three major US broadcasting networks, Sun said.

When a news anchorwoman first appears on TV, the TV station publishes PR releases to all the major media, detailing her height, educational background, hobbies and her personality. Then, during major Chinese festivals, such as the Dragon Boat Festival or the Lunar New Year, there will be another bunch of PR pictures of the anchors eating zhongzi or posing holding Spring Festival couplets.

And if the anchor gets to interview celebrity politicians, or finally gets out of the newsroom to cover a story at the scene, there will be another bunch of news releases.

The TV stations treat their anchorwomen as celebrities. In response, the newspapers also report about them as celebrities. In Chinese-language newspapers such as the China Times, United Daily News and the Liberty Times (自由時報) there are reporters who are assigned specifically to the so-called "anchorwomen beat."

"Our daily job is to write the gossip about these women," said Daniel Ku (who did not want to give his Chinese name), an entertainment reporter from the Liberty Times.

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