If there's a collective sense of local style, the Portland sensibility is rooted in indie credibility and individualism. We pride ourselves on following trends on our own terms here in "Do It Your Own Way" Stumptown. Which prompts the question: Why do almost all of our local news anchors appear so, well, cookie-cutterish?

TV image, of course, varies from market to market. "In Phoenix and L.A., you'll see the bleach blond and heavy makeup," says Patrick McCreery, news director for KPTV Fox-12. "In the Midwest, it's more meat and potatoes. Portland is very unique. Image is not as important here. [We] have some very good-looking people, but they're journalists, too-not just anchors."

So as a television market, we're the pretty brainiac, like Saturday Night Live's Tina Fey, though not all our anchors measure up to the Fey standard. Political correctness aside, let's be frank: At some level, all of us evaluate TV's talking heads-especially women-on their appearance. It's a cruel, unfair bias, but in the local news business, bad hair can affect ratings. "I've seen people lose their job because of their look," says Donna Fujii, a San Francisco-based consultant with Univision and a member of the Association of Image Consultants International.

Nationally, news watchers are viewing the changing of the anchor guard, with the death last week of ABC's Peter Jennings, on the heels of the retirements of CBS's Dan Rather and NBC's Tom Brokaw. At the same time, the feud between the morning shows' most high-wattage women, Today's Katie Couric and Good Morning America's Diane Sawyer, is heating up again.

While the archetype of the national news anchor is in flux, it seemed like an appropriate time to consider this very visible cultural representation of PDX style. After all, for all we know, aliens could be checking out KGW right now and noting the curiously solid hair consistency and colorful power suits of the Portlandia species. As Laura Hernández, a Chicago-based news consultant with the communications firm Crawford Johnson & Northcott, confirms: "A fresh look is important. Anchors should stay hip, connected to style. If they're plugged into fashion, we assume they're on the ball."

So WW arranged a focus group-not controlled in any way, and certainly not scientific-featuring a cross-section of Portland personae. We enlisted drag queen Poison Waters to represent our alternative side; wig-boutique owner Stefanie Pinniger, a.k.a. Madame Bouffant, a fierce proponent of self-improvement via hair; local stylist and makeup artist Kymm Ernst, presenting the westside view; and Everyman Erik, a guy's guy. (OK, his chief qualification is that he's a small-business owner who lives next door to me.)

This style crew evaluated current publicity photos from each station's website, weighing in on the hair, makeup and fashion choices, and then offering a few tips on how these ladies (and gents! there's less variety among the men's suits and coifs, but we threw Matt Zaffino in, too) could kick it up a notch and improve their on-air fabulousness. Then we created hair-o-meter ratings on a scale of 1 to 10, our scoring working like a reverse applause-o-meter, with the strongest negative reactions translating into a lower score.

It's a delicate balance, of course: Not every hard-hitting nighttime TV reporter is blessed with the beauty and style sense of, say, KPTV's morning-anchor and local news fashionista Kimberly Maus (love the hair, Kim).

We realize our judgments might represent tough love for the Q-ratings of some of our favorite folks, but the truth is we're just printing what viewers say to the television every night. Here's hoping these talking heads will take our advice in the spirit it's intended.

kelley day

Evening anchor, KOIN

On air in Portland since: 1998

Total years on air: 11

Madame Bouffant: The Beaverton Mom combover does not work. If she does want to keep that bouffant look, I think she should make it four times bigger.

Everyman Erik: She's got a nice smile, but she doesn't jump out at you as a news anchor. Needs to spice things up a little.

Kymm Ernst: We have over 60 jewelry designers in Portland that Kelley could work with. Why do we have to wear a necklace that looks like [it came from] Marshalls? I don't blame her, though. It's whoever is controlling her wardrobe.

Hair-o-meter: 4/10

katy brown

Sports director, KATU

On air in Portland since: 1997

Total years on air: 12

Madame: I love the length of her hair, but I would add about 6 inches of height. She looks like a redhead, but she'd look really cool going a platinum blonde.

Poison Waters: I like that she has nice full hair on top, but Katy needs to butch it up a little. It's OK for people to think you're a lesbian if you're a sports person. Even if you're not.

Kymm: That lipstick color always makes you have thin lips, but if you already have thin lips-it's bad. No red lipstick. She needs to use a natural lip color.

Hair-o-meter: 9/10

matt zaffino

Chief meteorologist, KGW

On air in Portland since: 1988 (moved from KATU to KGW in 1997)

Total years on air: 21

Madame: Oh my goodness: EYEBROW WAXING!!!! You might not be a metrosexual, but seriously, honey, don't let your garden grow. As far as Matt's hair-I love it. It's a mini-afro. It goes perfect with his personality.

Erik: The afro turf works for me.

Kymm: His hair needs to be cut. It looks like a helmet. Why isn't the front trimmed to look GQ? And he should get an amazing suit like the guys on ESPN. Matt needs to go to Michael Allen's or Mario's.

Hair-o-meter: 8/10

rhonda shelby

Meteorologist, KATU

On air in Portland since: 1993

Total years on air: 12

Madame: Rhonda is beautiful, but you can't see her underneath this plastered-down mall claw. These individual spindly hairs around her face make it look like her hair is actually eating her.

Poison: I used to hate her hair. This hair looks like it could actually move if there was a breeze. She has weather hair!

Erik: I like Rhonda because she likes to fish. She's really girl-next-door. Maybe she could grow her bangs out a bit?

Kymm: Rhonda would look amazing with the latest hairstyle that Oprah has right now. That soft curl would be great.

Hair-o-meter: 5/10

shauna parsons

Evening anchor, KPTV Fox 12

On air in Portland since: 2000

Total years on air: 12

Madame: Totally beautiful, hate the haircut. She needs to have loooong hair. Long, pretty, feminine, straight beautiful hair. Shauna looks like she's got a lot of style. I bet when she's not on camera she looks a hell of lot better.

Poison: She's making an attempt to look cute and modern. Don't change anything.

Erik: She's good-looking. Shauna's more CNN than Fox 12. And that's a good thing.

Kymm: Her flip is not done right. It looks like her haircut has grown out a bit. If you don't keep up the cut, you lose the maintainability of the hair. Someone needs to show her how to do it. It's hard for anybody to do that themselves.

Hair-o-meter: 6/10

tracy barry

Evening anchor, KGW

On air in Portland since: 1985

Total years on air: 28

Madame: She's gorgeous, but you can tell that she probably sleeps and wakes up in exactly the same hairstyle. I would tell her to go midlength with the hair. And definitely get bigger earrings. Bigger. Waaaaay bigger.

Erik: She looks like a good soul. The kind of woman who's totally happy in the kitchen with the kids. Not so much a news anchor.

Kymm: Her eyebrows are nonexistent, which is a shame because she has a nice face for them. She should use a blond eyebrow pencil. I'd tell her to cut the self-tan and get away from that red lipstick.

Hair-o-meter: 6/10


's panel o' "experts"

Poison Marie Waters, entertainer and former anchor wannabe, www.poisonwaters.com

Stefanie Pinniger-a.k.a. Madame Bouffant-owner of a wig studio of the same name at 1130 SW Alder St., 219-9447;

Kymm Ernst, stylist and makeup artist, who has worked on editorial shoots for Cosmopolitan, Oprah, Esquire and GQ magazines, as well as advertising campaigns for Adidas and Nike, kymmernst.com, 209-7895;

Erik Skoog, the writer's neighbor in Northeast Portland, fisherman and store owner.