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Anchor Away!

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We had a bit of fun with the CNN-YouTube debate last month keeping track of how many times CNN decided they'd toss in a quote-unquote story about the fact that the night's debate was "groundbreaking" and "first of its kind." (Though not as much fun as Billiam the Snowman, who seems to be trying to parlay his appearance on the debate into a role as a snowy kingmaker.)

It got messy. On the day of the debate, there were 117 mentions of it on CNN and its sibling CNN Headline News combined.

As I wrote while tracking the mentions that day: "CNN owes its viewers more than an 8 hour pre-game show during their broadcast day … Today's cable news hucksterism insults the most casual viewer."

But at least the YouTube debate could be called a news event.

By contrast, this week Fox News Channel has been passing off Fox entertainment programming cross-promotional chaff as news content. Yes, the show "Anchorwoman" premiers tonight on – you might remember Public Eye calling it the "nadir" of women in journalism or "underwhelming" television – with former model and professional wrestling diva Lauren Jones becoming a small town news anchor. And the Fox synergy machine has kicked in.

So far this week, Ms. Jones has appeared on Fox programming at least three times, according to a search enabled by TVEyes.

  • "The O'Reilly Factor" – Where the combative Bill O'Reilly chatted up the model, saying "You're not just a pretty face out there."
  • "The Big Story with John Gibson" – Where the restive host gabbed away a few minutes and closed the segment out by letting Jones read the tease for the upcoming segment off the teleprompter.
  • "Fox and Friends" – Where the cast did their normal wide-eyed "She learned to be an anchor, but first she was in a bikini. Can it be done?" schtick.

    One of this writer's biggest bugaboos when it comes to today's journalism is the amount of synergy dressed up as news. I wrote something a few months ago here and my Public Eye colleagues regularly have kept an eye on CBS' own forays into the practice with "Big Brother" interviews and the like -- we've asked where the promotional line is to be drawn on the lighter morning shows. It's a murky business, but three interviews on one cable news channel in under 24 hours? With the former official model of HaterWear?

    A Pew study out this week showed Fox News Channel to be spending half as much time as their two competitors on the war in Iraq. What are they covering instead? Now we have an idea.

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