NEWS BLOG (WSAU) By now, you’ve probably heard about LaCrosse TV anchorwoman Jennifer Livingston. A listener – a jerk, actually – sent her an email about her weight. Livingston freely admits that she’s a larger woman. Her response, which was part of WKBT’s evening news, was perfect.
The Jerry Bader Show on WSAU had a spirited discussion about whether this rose to the level of bullying, which is an open-ended question. I don’t think Livingston was bullied, although the email writer is incredibly rule and insensitive. The writer’s point is that she’s a poor role model because she’s fat; her personal appearance sends the wrong message to young girls in her audience.
As an aside, I’d be at least as bad a role model if I was on television. So would several of my co-workers at the Broadcast Centre.
Not only is the email writer obtuse, he also happens to be wrong. Television news is a vicious business for young female broadcast journalists. It sends exactly the opposite message which really is damaging to young girls. The message is this: everything is about how you look. Being “camera friendly” is far more important than being a good journalist. Here in Wausau I’ve personally heard complaints about a female reporter who made it to the anchor-desk very quickly because she looked good – yet her colleagues were painfully aware that she wasn’t a very good reporter. Similar stories are told in every TV market in the country.
I’ve worked with two outstanding female broadcast journalists. Both were excellent radio reporters. They asked tough questions, cultivated good news sources, knew how to dig into a story, and were good writers. One was in her late 30s, and was always being beaten out for TV jobs by younger, less experienced women. She eventually settled for an assignment editor job – and has since gotten out of the business. Another of my female colleagues looked a lot like Jennifer Livingston. During a job interview she was told by a TV News Director to “lose 50 pounds, and then we’ll talk…” She is, and continues to be, a world class network-radio news anchor.
To me, this is a devastating message for young girls who are deciding which career to pursue. Get smart, learn your craft, hone your skills, pay your dues --- and if you aren’t a beauty queen, your television news career will never amount to anything.
I don’t know Jennifer Livingston, and I’ve never seen her newscasts until this week. I suspect she’s a very good broadcast journalist. She must be. She may be the only person in her newsroom who isn’t there because of how she looks.