Radio station feels the heat after putting a ‘hottest TV newswoman’ poll online

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UPDATE: WDEA has changed the name of the online poll to “Who is your Favorite TV Newswoman in Maine?” on Monday afternoon.

The page with the poll also is update with an apology. “It seems we offended a few of you out there with our use of the word ‘Hottest’ to describe these lovely and talented journalists. It was not our intent to offend, so we’ve changed it to ‘Favorite’.”

ELLSWORTH — An online beauty contest posted by an Ellsworth radio station has outraged the news director for two of the state’s broadcast TV stations.

DJ Fred Miller of radio station WDEA, owned by Townsquare Media, posted a poll on the station’s website Monday morning asking readers to vote for “the hottest TV newswoman in Maine.” The poll lists six TV news reporters and anchors.

The women and their network affiliations are listed, along with photos and brief descriptions reminiscent of beauty contest biographies, including information such as what school the women attended and what sports teams they root for.

About one reporter, Miller wrote: “She helps out with Brewer’s Youth Hockey Learn to Skate & Learn to Play program and plays on a men’s league team. Hip check anyone?” He also wrote that the sight of one multilingual reporter leaves him “so awestruck we can’t form a word in any language.”

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Mike Redding is news director for NBC network sister stations WLBZ in Bangor and WCSH in Portland. Two of his reporters, Melissa Kim and Jackie Ward, were included on the list. He said the station contacted Kim and Ward to request photos for the contest.

The women declined to participate, Redding said, but the radio station included them anyway.

Redding called the poll “sexist and objectifying” and said it reduced the journalists to their appearance while glossing over the serious work they do to produce and report the news.

“They find it demeaning, and I find it demeaning. Our whole newsroom is offended by it,” he said. “No journalist worth her salt would participate in a contest like this.”

Townsquare Media, Miller, WDEA and the other journalists included in the poll did not immediately respond to requests for comment Monday.

Redding said he’d considered not responding publicly to the poll, but said he felt like he owed it to his reporters to “defend them.” He said that while TV news personalities are expected to look professional on the air, it’s not a beauty contest.

“In most cases, we have to have someone help us with our image,” he said. “We’re trying to do journalism. I have reporters, male and female, who forget about their appearance entirely. They’re busy doing journalism all day.”

Chris Facchini, an anchor for WLBZ, also took to Facebook to defend his co-workers: “They are both bright, hardworking professionals that do not deserve to be objectified in this way,” he wrote.

But not every reporter seemed to be offended. Nicole Gerber, an anchor, reporter and producer for WVII, Bangor’s Fox affiliate, posted a link to the poll on Twitter and Facebook on Monday morning, asking her fans to “send some support.”

Gerber declined to comment on the poll, and deleted the social media posts after being contacted by the Bangor Daily News.

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