It's the News,
An Interview with Kathy Pinckert, Spokesperson for the NakedNews.com
By Wil Forbis
The television anchorperson has perhaps the one vocation in the media whose practitioners are asked to downplay their sexuality. Actors, musicians, even comedians know that to get ahead in the business, the best thing you can do is flaunt your business... But the Tom Brokaws and the Connie Chungs of the world know they can't highlight their aesthetic gifts. They're doomed to a life of starched shirts and business skirts as mundane as the pitter patter they have to recite on air.
That's all gone out the window with creation of a streaming video website entitled the "Naked News" (www.nakednews.com). Naked News correspondents know they're sexy and they augment their appeal by... well, taking it all off. They are, as the name says, naked, and the site is having fabulous success with such a formula. Even the mainstream is standing up and paying attention, as Time Magazine, Entertainment Weekly, Playboy and the Howard Stern Show cast light on the web site. Thus, it only seemed fitting that a media giant such as Acid Logic do the same, by featuring the following interview (conducted by phone in March, 2001) with Naked News spokesperson, Kathy Pinckert, on the subject of letting it hang out, Internet style.
The Deflating Internet…Wil: We're currently seeing the implosion of the Internet boom that started in the middle 90's. Some foolish people might argue that a web site offering naked chicks reading the news isn't the most solid business model. What's your response to such claims? Kathy: Well, we are an Internet success story. In December we announced our anniversary and we had four million unique monthly visitors. Wil: That's a little bit more than Acid Logic… Kathy: And that has climbed now to 5.7 million. Talking about business models, ours has two components. One of them is banner advertising. The other is that we recently created a Naked News club. [Which operates on a paid membership basis.] It was actually from a demand by our viewers who are always seeking the highest quality webcasts that they can see. Akamai is providing the club and that's fairly expensive to provide. So to offset the costs, we created a club for that, but it will also become a revenue model as well. Wil: So if I join the Naked News club do I get a cool Naked News membership card? Kathy: We don't have membership cards yet, but maybe in the future…? Wil: I think that'd be what they call a "value add".
Kathy: (Laughs) Value add… whatever…
Porn versus Nudity…Wil: What do you say to people who claim that the Naked News is denigrating the proud, North American tradition of serious television news broadcasts? Kathy: (Laughs) Well… I think we are setting a benchmark for quality content. Our writing is very excellent and it requires you to listen. It's giving you valuable information. So I think it's raising the benchmark that used to be there and that with time in most news arenas has softened. And the Naked News now introduces a really important component and challenge. Wil: Cuz' no one is going soft around the Naked News… Kathy: Mmmm, No. Wil: What do you say to people who claim that the Naked News is denigrating the proud, North American tradition of online pornography? Kathy: We are news, naked. Pornography carries with it an implication of sexual commerce, if you will. We are naked bodies communicating in formation. It has more to do with nudity and people's perception about nudity. Wil: How does the Naked News approach broadcasting stories of violence or tragedy? I imagine you can't have anchorpeople standing there naked, telling stories of Israeli missiles killing people in Palestine or U.S. subs sinking Japanese fishing boats. Kathy: Well, nudity is at some level a fashion statement, just as you might wear a suit, or a shirt and tie, or a T-Shirt and shorts. All of that is just a part of the image and nothing else. We do focus on serious news, or dramatic news, or news that is poignant. If it's part of our international news, which Victoria Sinclair delivers, clothing might be kept on. When Prime Minister Trudeau passed on… I know she was one of his big fans and that was done with clothes on. I will also tell you that all of our news reporting is done with a very serious tone. We treat the stories appropriately. The clothing is nudity. It's really more what you convey in your voice, your facial expression or your hand gesture, just as any other newsreader would be doing. Wil: Do you personally encounter people who say you're making the world a worse place for women, or things to that effect…? Kathy: (Laughs) So far, honestly… the answer is no. I personally don't see it that way. What I see is something in a much larger context and I'll give you an example: Last week we guested on the Howard Stern radio show and it was fantastic. Now some people have some perceptions about Mr. Stern… Wil: That's very true. Kathy: But Mr. Stern is, at the end of the day, a champion of free speech. Whether you like him or not, or whether you like us or not, we are here. Looking at First Amendment rights, they are very important to all of us. On the Internet, which is currently way less regulated than radio, and we hope continues to stay that way, then the Naked News is the counterpart to Howard Stern's radio show for championing the right to exist and to communicate. And it is always going to be about choice. The viewer and the listener have a choice and we can't forget that. Wil: I watch CNN fairly often, and they have a lot of attractive female anchors, and I'd imagine the last thing those anchorwomen would like is for me to be constantly undressing them with my eyes… which is pretty much what I'm doing. Isn't the Naked News simply encouraging this loutish behavior? Kathy: I think it's normal for people to think about other people in different ways. There is nothing about it that is prurient, it's just normal. It's part of human nature and the human animal. The inspiration for the Naked News came because that was speculated. And so the concept was "Why not do the news, naked?" When most people have an idea they don't act on it. Every day you're looking at different newscasters and you're thinking… Wil: "I wonder what they look like naked?" Kathy: Yeah, and I've heard many people say that. Now most people in polite conversation aren't going to say that, but it flickers in one's mind. And so we have taken that one step beyond and have actually created it. Wil: Do you think the Naked News will push other news anchors to appear naked? Like a nude Tom Brokaw or a nude Dan Rather…?
Kathy: Ahhh… most likely not. Because you can deliver the news with dignity and class with or without clothes. We're just making a completely different type of statement, and what we are doing by doing that is grabbing people's attention. One of the most refreshing aspects about the emails we get is that people who have been ignoring the news or have been turned off by the news, because it is, especially in the United States, very violent - There's a Kelsey Grammer bit from that movie "15 seconds", "If it bleeds, it leads" - and people after a while don't want to hear that. So what they are doing is turning off the news. And with Naked News, they are turning it on… it's a "look and see", and then it moves into "listen". People write us and they say "Whoa, the first week, we were hooked on this nudity stuff, but then we started to listen!" And then they keep coming back. You don't go from 0 to four million, to 5.7 million, without having something to say. It would get old too fast.
A Rainbow of People…Wil: I can't help but notice that the Naked News is pretty limited in terms of racial diversity. Don't you feel any obligation to offer a fuller spectrum of womanhood to your viewers? Kathy: When's the last time you watched Naked News? Wil: I actually watched it a couple nights ago, though I freely admit I didn't watch the whole thing. Kathy: (Laughs) Well, then you wouldn't have asked the question. Wil: Clue me in. Kathy: We have been, since February, auditioning male and female web casters. What we are doing currently is that we have Lilly Kwan who is an addition as a reporter. Wil: I assume she is Korean or Vietnamese..? Kathy: No, she is Chinese. So we are very open to having a rainbow of people! Wil: So what prompted you to make the decision to look for a more diversified cast? Kathy: Well, we are looking for cast. So when you're auditioning, you can only be responsive to those who respond. You don't have a choice over that. All you can do is tell the public that you're auditioning, and then the public will respond. That's kind of up to the fates as to who's responding. We're not making an active solicitation by going to people, they're coming to us. Wil: You say you're adding some men. Is that going after a gay market or a female market, or a little of both…? Kathy: Well, it does not matter at all. In response to female viewers -we have about 20 percent female viewers - and they enjoy Naked News very much, and they have written in and they have emailed and they say, "Where's the men?" Wil: So it'll all be part of one program? It won't be split off to one for women, one for men? Kathy: Probably not, as we look for candidates, they will probably have some influence on what would be appropriate for them to be reporting on. They might have a passion for sports, for example. So we'll be moving into those areas and that's already in the works.
(Note: Naked News added Lucas Tyler on April 12, 2001.)
Make a Run For The Border…Wil: Do you think Canada is more receptive than the US in terms of something like the Naked News. Maybe not so much in viewers but in terms of getting funding…?
Kathy: The concept originated in Canada. I really think this is something without borders. It's about who had the idea and where they were when they were doing that, rather than a place. This place just happens to be Toronto.
Working for a living…Now it must be kind of a kick working for a company called the "Naked News". What kind of reaction do you get from people when you tell them where you work? Kathy: They want my job! Wil: Do they think that you sit around naked all day? Kathy: (Laughs) Nobody thinks that. I have an incredible job, because, number one: I work with incredible, creative, innovative people. Also, in the realm of the Internet or any other industry, being first in the pole position is becoming a rarity. We're in the pole position. Anyone who comes after us, comes after us. We are the leaders and we are the pioneers. It's exciting to be a part of something that's unique and innovative and is grabbing people's attention.
Wil Forbis is a well known international playboy who lives a fast paced life attending chic parties, performing feats of derring-do and making love to the world's most beautiful women. Together with his partner, Scrotum-Boy, he is making the world safe for democracy. Email - firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit Wil's web log, The Wil Forbis Blog, and receive complete enlightenment.