HIGHTOWER: Virtually Vacuous News

Just when you thought that television news could not get any more vapid, and that the puffed and powdered anchors who read the news could not get any more vacuous ... along comes Ananova.

She's an internet newscaster, offering 2-minute news updates to those who go to her web site and providing special e-mail bulletins on sports, stock prices, and other topics for those who pay for them. Actually though, Ananova is not a "she," she's an it -- a virtual, computer-driven, animated cyber-anchor that pops on the screen looking vaguely human-like, moving in rather robotic fashion with a limited range of human expressions, and digitally mouthing her newsbites.

Ananova is the creation of the Press Association of Britain, which is promoting its wide-eyed, green-haired creation as a glamorous "cyberbabe," claiming that marriage proposals already are pouring in. Yet, the company also expects us to take its computer creature seriously: "She's a lot more than a talking head that reads the news" a spokesman assures us -- "She's a computer with a face in front of it." Thanks for clarifying that.

Indeed, Ananova has said in her computerized voice: "I want to be judged on what I do and not on my looks. Just because I'm good looking some people think I'm a bimbo." Ananova ... bimbos are people, not a collection of computer chips. Yet, continuing to warp reality with this corporate fiction, the company asserts that Ananova is designed to appeal to web surfers who want an almost human touch, adding rather bizarrely that "It is important Ananova becomes someone you warm to." Human touch? Warm to? Too weird. As a real reporter asked, are people so pathetic they have to make a relationship with an animated puppet? But it might get weirder. The company is planning a male colleague called "Kenanova."

This is Jim Hightower saying ... Who needs Peter, Tom, and Dan when virtual vacuousness is just a click away?

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