This is Pakistan and what most people love to watch – for information as well as entertainment – is the spin cycle of news, most of which makes it to ‘breaking’ standards. And who delivers these buckets full of news to millions of viewers across the country? Not responsibly attired and well-groomed women who can be trusted, by the ‘looks’ of things. Not nuanced, well read and well-disposed women, who’d immediately garner the trust of viewers by their disposition. Our news is dispatched via the proverbial dumb blond.
Quite simply, the era of Shaista Zaid has been over since 2012, the day she retired from news reading after being at the helm of PTV News for 43 years. There has been no one who has managed to replace her dignified persona, despite the fact that numerous news channels have eaten into PTV News’ monopoly. Ironically, the one (and only) thing that will always be missed about the state run news channel is Shaista Zaid.
Unfortunately, most newscasters today have an issue of misplaced identity. They’re told to read the news but they are asked to dress like they’re the sparkles on top of a Christmas tree. It would seem that the era of the item girl has transcended beyond the silver screen and onto the news desk, blurring the line between what a newscaster should look and sound like and what she actually does look and sound like in Pakistan.
So much colour, that blends into a blinding shade of bling. So much embellishment, you’d listen to what she’s saying if you could get past the appliques on her chest. Those blow dried tresses that have been hair sprayed into ramrod submission. The number of things happening on our average female newscaster’s outfit looks to be directly proportionate to the number of things happening on our TV screens. Not exactly a pretty picture of dignity.
While I will refrain from naming the local style offenders, I will name newscasters who position themselves with exemplary grace and respect. Christiane Amanpour, always in a suit with minimal jewellery that will add chic sophistication but never bling, is one. She’s made her safari jackets her uniform, which she says simplifies the job when she’s on assignment.
“The way you present yourself is the way people see you,” Amanpour once said in an interview with Huffington Post. “Whether it’s what you wear, how you speak, how you organise your thoughts – all of that is style. How you present whatever issue you are presenting. How you communicate determines whether people see you as honest and with integrity, authority and credibility, and I think that’s very important.”
“I started wearing them (safari suits) about eight years ago and I kept it up because it was so practical when you are doing the kind of job I do,” she furthered. “I don’t have the time to think about multiple clothes and accessories – nor do I think it’s appropriate – and I don’t want to waste my time when I’m working worrying about my clothes.”
Amanpour’s words neatly sum up the issue at hand. Newscasters are essentially supposed to be serious and level-headed journalists, interested in dispatching quick and credible news. In our country most of them are cut to look like the male newscasters’ sidekick. What else would explain the fact that you’ll see a woman in several shades of the rainbow but never a man in a Hawaiian shirt? How is it that the male newscasters’ look has been dignified with thought but the ladies’ hasn’t?
Other anchors who have managed to build a solid reputation as well as a stylish impression as news transmitters: Barbara Walters, Katie Couric, Diane Sawyer and closer to home, Mishal Husain.
Just a few words of advice: Let’s bring in a newscasters’ official dress code, which would include monochrome outfits, deep and sober colours and professional hair cuts. I would say jewellery is a desirable part of a newscaster’s outfit, as long as it is chic and minimal. A watch is even better. Let’s bring in a professional stylist to help our newscasters out; let’s stop borrowing from morning show or drama serial wardrobes. And ladies, while ‘deep blue eyes’ may be associated with trust in Frank Sinatra songs, your coloured contact lenses are not. Time to give them a miss.