By  on January 21, 1994

NEW YORK -- Last November, it looked as if fashion had finally become a fit subject for big-time network news.

The collections here resembled an electronic beehive with TV crews virtually tripping over one another. Some even had prominent print reporters manning their microphones.

All the attention, however, appears to have been fleeting. While network producers say their viewers are interested in fashion -- and concede they were bitten by the Bryant Park bug -- they're not likely to make fashion a regular beat.

Some network shows, like CBS's "This Morning," find runway flash appealing; others, like ABC's "Good Morning America" and NBC's "Today" take a more practical, how-to approach. Typical ABC segments, for example, have included "Figure Flaws and How to Minimize Them," "How to Wear Color," and "Packing for a Business Trip."

But fashion, they note, is generally too "helter skelter" and simply not a priority when compared with other news. And, like a seasoned mainstream manufacturer, some question the relevance of what's on a runway to what ultimately makes it into the stores.

In short, when it comes to fashion on TV, cable will continue to rule and a number of new players are expected to hit that circuit this year.

"Poorly," is how Steve Friedman, executive producer of the "Today" show, described how the networks cover fashion.

"Because it's helter-skelter, it's not a regular beat like health and science. We take fashion by the moment," said Friedman. "What I found is that fashion is so eclectic these days. There's no such thing as the Paris fashion show setting the trends."

Friedman said "Today" features about six to eight fashion segments a year on topics such as swimwear and back-to-school clothing for kids. The show will bring in on-camera veterans such as Christy Ferer, or a specialist in a particular fashion category.

One area Friedman said will get more attention next fall is men's fashion, which, he noted, "is no longer blue pinstriped suits."

Friedman said the "Today" show had a crew at the Bryant Park shows, but it didn't turn into a major piece, since it got bumped by a more pressing news story.

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