Protest over Little Rock's "Babe Bracket" spreads nationwide

In this Feb. 1, 2018, photo, Stephanie Sharp at KARK-TV in Little Rock, Ark., takes a break during the noon newscast. Sharp opposes a radio station's "Babe Bracket," which pits 16 local female television personalities in a tournament-like personality contest. A reporter at a competing station, who was last year's runner-up, started a protest Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018, saying the women's professional accomplishments are being ignored. (AP Photo/Kelly P. Kissel)

A TV journalist from Arkansas who was the runner-up in a radio station's "Babe Bracket" last year started a protest that has caught the eye of female reporters nationwide

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The runner-up from last year's "Babe Bracket," a radio station promotion that places local female journalists in a tournament-style contest whether they want to be in it or not, started a protest on Twitter on Thursday.

Winnie Wright, a reporter at KTHV, said her station's management asked her and her colleagues to not speak publicly about the contest, but after Arkansas' governor told the radio station that "everybody enjoys" the contest, Wright took to Twitter and quickly had a following.

Wright used the hashtag "#morethanababe" on Thursday. Soon after, female journalists from other TV markets weighed in with their support. Some also shared their own stories.

"On a daily basis, while I'm working to bring important stories to the people of Arkansas, I am cat-called, have obscenities yelled at me from cars, have men comment on my appearance in a professional setting, and worse. But I am #morethanababe," Wright wrote Thursday in a series of tweets that included a list of her professional accomplishments.

By the end of the day, Marie Claire magazine, the Radio Television Digital News Association and female journalists from markets ranging from New York and Chicago to Macon and Mobile had weighed in.

"Female meteorologists aren't 'weather ladies'. We are scientists," wrote Melissa Nord of WUSA in Washington.

Isabella Moller, a KARK/KLRT journalist, said the local journalists were hopeful their message would spread.

"The goal of today's hashtag was to give the journalists and meteorologists in Little Rock and across the country a chance to say we want to be judged on how hard we work, not on our looks," she said.

A lingerie shop sponsors the "Babe Bracket," carried on KABZ after originating at another Little Rock station in 1997. Promotional material features a silhouette of a scantily clad woman behind a tournament bracket that includes photos of the reporters and anchorwomen.

"We're more than what you see on TV," Moller said.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson went on KABZ last week and told the show's hosts, "Y'all have some fun and everybody enjoys it." The governor also said the contest was done in "good spirit" and that people shouldn't be "too politically correct." He later issued a statement saying he wasn't endorsing the game.

"All women should be treated with respect, and any measurement of workplace success should be based upon talent and performance," Hutchinson said in the statement.

Radio host David Bazzel has said the station intends to continue the contest next month.

"We agree they all are certainly more than babes ... that's just not broadcasters, that's female school teachers, principals, first responders and law enforcement," Bazzel said Thursday. "We love the hashtag and agree with it."

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Follow Kelly P. Kissel on Twitter at www.twitter.com/kisselAP

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