If all you knew about Amanda Congdon was that she hosted an awkward infotainment show on ABCNews.com, I guess it might surprise that the same Congdon once shined as the dynamic anchor of the videoblog Rocketboom.
Before showing up at ABC, Congdon wowed the Web as a dynamic citizen journalist, and it’s largely for that role that Congdon received the #8 spot in the Forbes Web 25 list.
Here was a woman who was both pretty and smart, a counterpoint to the dumb blonde cliche and a marked evolution from Web 1.0 fare (remember The Naked News?). But now that Congdon is reporting weekly for ABC News, her stunts seem forced. Recent pieces about methane farms and naked art projects are too juvenile for the network. At Rocketboom, she was an ironic foil to network news. But now that she’s at ABC, it looks like she’s playing dress-up.
If you’re looking for a reason why Congdon’s reporting has taken a turn for the retarded lately, scuttlebutt has it that she’s still shellshocked from her move to L.A. And while it’s true she did the same type of sophomoric reporting for Rocketboom, there are different expectations for a vlog. So far, Congdon isn’t producing the smarter stuff she said the move would allow for. Clearly, she needs some direction that she’s not getting yet. As for ABC, the network is obviously trying to make itself relevant to the online conversation, but the truth is they simply don’t know what to do with their new talent.
And then there’s the tasering. Beyond the porntastic quality of the stunt, it also felt derivative. I immediately heard my third-grade teacher say “Well if Erik Estrada jumped off a bridge would you do that too?”
So I guess what I’m saying is I feel disappointed. Congdon made a serious career jump going from Rocketboom to ABC News, but the quality of the work hasn’t changed for the better. At the time, she said she was interested in doing more in-depth reporting with better fact-checking, but I haven’t seen the evidence. And with those network resources behind her, she could be covering anything — how online video is affecting the awards season, why the nation is or isn’t ready to elect a female president, whatever — instead I just watched one minute about how to microwave bacteria on a sponge.
Yeah I know, Congdon’s irascible personality is part of her charm. But she also represents, in a very real and tangible way, citizen journalists and the rise of the amateur videoblogger. So drop the dumb blonde act, Amanda. Network television has plenty of those. It’s time to start acting like a reporter.
Steve Bryant is a New York-based writer. His work can also be found on the Reel Pop blog. This is his first contribution to NewTeeVee.