Miss America gets a face lift

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    By Kacey Earl

    The Miss America Organization made a few alterations to their annual pageant in hopes of raising their ratings with a new, upbeat image.

    The 2003 competition, which aired Sept. 21, not only crowned Miss Illinois as the new Miss America, but also experimented with techniques to attract and retain viewers.

    “I guess before I got there I didn”t think it would be such a big deal. But when I got there and listened to everything they were planning on changing, to be honest, I was a little disappointed about how concerned they were about ratings,” said Natalie Johnson, Miss Utah 2002, who just returned from the Atlantic City competition.

    One of the first alterations to the program is an extended swimsuit competition. This portion was intentionally placed to “bridge the hour” which locally occurred between 7-8 p.m. in hopes of keeping viewers from switching the channel at 8 p.m.

    Johnson said this portion of the competition is only worth 10 percent and did not deserve the extra emphasis it was given.

    The evening gown portion of the evening, which many consider boring, was cut to only about six minutes.

    Another major addition was the extended game show portion at the end of the evening, attempting to give the show a “TV Reality Series” appeal. This was the most controversial addition to the program.

    The top five contestants participated in a multiple-choice quiz show and were asked questions similar to those on game shows.

    “They have this quiz show, which was pretty much just laughable. I thought the questions were really easy and didn”t have anything to do with being Miss America,” said Johnson. “You”re not going to be asked by the media about the musical Hairspray and what city it was held in, and that was one of the questions asked!”

    After all of this effort, were they successful? Not according to a report by the Atlantic City Press. The show lost an estimated 1.6 million viewers this year, making this the lowest rated pageant ever. The audience was cut in half as compared to pageants held in the early 1990”s.

    But some in the organization still have hope. The competition drew more viewers than any other primetime Saturday night program, which some credit to the new program additions. Others blame the decrease in ratings to the new format.

    “Personally, I think they have thrown the baby out with the bathwater with the changes they have made,” said Leonard Horn, former CEO of the pageant. “I think this year”s show lacked emotion. It was dry and boring. I think it”s clear that they are now even losing the pageant”s most ardent fans.”

    Miss Utah had similar thoughts about the changes.

    “Here I am participating in this program because it”s about scholarship money and it emphasizes your ability to do service. Then I get to the national level and their main focus was to get more viewers.”

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