I, Claudia

Claudia DiFolco isn't really a ditz. She just plays one on TV.

DiFolco turned down multiple offers in larger markets -- one with a major sports network -- in coming to Phoenix. She thought she'd be shortchanging the viewer because she knows nothing of sports. Phoenix was the best choice.

"The big job is always going to be there for me. The job in L.A., the big-paying job in L.A. with all the glitz and glamour is always going to be there. If you're good at what you do, it's all there."

St. James believes DiFolco's determination will take her far.

"Women don't sweat, they glisten," says DiFolco.
Paolo Vescia
"Women don't sweat, they glisten," says DiFolco.
The future's so bright...
Paolo Vescia
The future's so bright...

"When you see how focused she is and career motivated," he says, "you know she won't be a quick burn. . . . I think she's got a tremendous future.

". . . unfortunately, we don't treat women equally and they don't get the fair shake for the fair level of talent. We throw all these other equations into it. You know -- 'Well, what does she look like? She's not gonna be one of those pushy ones, is she?' So I think she is trying to be cautious and smart about it at the same time. She's a nice girl, but she's not so nice as to get run over."

DiFolco claims she doesn't mind that it's a man's world. "I mean, I have more problems with women than I do with men."

Does she believe she stands a much better chance at gaining whatever interview, say, ambushing a rock star at an airport, because of her persona -- that men find her desirable -- more than somebody else doing a similar job?

"No, because this is all being done [arranged] over the phone. But I don't know. Maybe it is about that [persona]. Maybe it is about the exterior. If I looked like Ricki Lake -- and I don't mean to make names here, I think everybody's beautiful -- I dunno, would I get an entertainment gig at some station? No. They would probably give me an anchor gig. But then again, if I wanted to do serious news, would that come really easy to me? Probably not. People associate beautiful women with being really stupid. So it could work for you and against you, too."

When Smokey Robinson balked at an interview, DiFolco says she turned up the heat.

"I told the manager, 'Listen, we've promoted this, you're gonna do it with us or you're gonna look really bad. Don't expect your fans to go to Virgin tomorrow and pick up CDs, because it's not gonna happen.' So that scared him."

She got the interview.

Part of DiFolco's work includes a spotlight on a local band. The band typically is interviewed by DiFolco and plays between news pieces. Some may argue that by trumpeting so many local bands hardly worthy of prime TV airtime, that she's trumpeting mediocrity.

"Just because a band from around here doesn't have a No. 1 record around the world, it doesn't mean that they are not a good band. It doesn't mean that I wouldn't take pleasure in covering [them]. But does it get monotonous sometimes? Yes, it does. But was it crazy doing what I did before? It was crazy. I had [in Canada] six very successful and stressful years where it was live, every day live."

"DiFolco always gets a reaction," says Phil Alvidrez. "She was different than anybody else who'd been on television. She's a pretty normal person. She's very different, I think, in person than the image. I mean, Phoenix is a fairly conservative market. I think [anchor] Liz Habib standing up [to read the news] and Claudia are the two things that threw people. I'm sure there were those that thought, 'They've finally gone and lost their minds there at Channel 3.'"

Phoenix? Conservative?

DiFolco wore a navel-revealing top on a recent NewShow. Cries of "slut" arrived in the form of e-mails and calls from as far west as Sun City. As Susan Faludi pointed out in Backlash, as women's assurance in the professional field has grown, so their confidence has been assaulted by a growing media obsession with their appearance.

That same NewShow episode was screened for a group of 20 or so senior citizens that happened to be taking a tour of the station the next day. Alvidrez says the group was divided; half thought it extremely unprofessional, the other half saw nothing wrong with it.

"It just kind of highlighted the fact that if you do something that is perceived as controversial, then it runs the risk of being polarizing," he says. "For us it was tough, because if you don't like criticism, at least it was a reinforcement that the NewShow wasn't being seen as the same kind of show as everybody else's 10 o'clock newscast."

Which is surely the point for the honchos at Channel 3. Hence, NewShow, not necessarily the News Show.

DiFolco herself is mildly defensive about the belly imbroglio. "You know, people call Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston sluts, too. So someone is going to call me a slut for showing my navel? To an intelligent person, does that make sense? And who are these people? They are usually people who are two times as old as we are who have totally different lifestyles. . . . These are women that have very monotonous lives, or women who could be incredibly unhappy with themselves.

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