As many were, I was struck when Wisconsin TV anchor/reporter Jennifer Livingston delivered an on-air response to a viewer email she received.
The email, from Kenneth Krause, criticized Livingston’s weight, calling her obese and claiming she is not a good role model.
Surely you don’t consider yourself a suitable example for this community’s young people, girls in particular. Obesity is one of the worst choices a person can make and one of the most dangerous habits to maintain.
The sad truth is this is nothing new to journalists. Readers and viewers regularly launch personal attacks at us for reasons I can’t fathom. It makes no sense to me how your disagreement with someone could translate into personal nastiness. I’d love to know what they feel this accomplishes.
But instead of ignoring the cruelness, as we tend to do, Livingston took a stand.
Those of us in the media get a healthy dose of critiques from our viewers throughout the year, and we realize it comes with having a job in the public eye. But this email was more than that. … The Internet has become a weapon.
As she stood there, addressing her attacker and defending herself, I was moved by her courage. But when she changed course and put this issue into a larger and far more important context, I applauded her.
If you didn’t already know, October is National Anti-Bullying Month. This is a problem that is growing every day in our schools.
Do not let your self worth be defined by bullies. … The cruel words of one are nothing compared to the shouts of many.
What a great lesson to glean from this, I thought. And what an admirable stance to take, especially in light of the harsh, personal criticism that sparked this.
I never would have equated this kind of attack to bullying in general — but I’m also not a mom. I am, however, a journalist. And it angers me that some people think it’s OK, just because we’re in the public eye, to deliver hateful, pointed criticisms at us. I have no problem if you want to disagree with me; I do have a problem if you want to insult me on a personal level, as if you know anything about me.
Yet another example
Unfortunately, Livingston wasn’t the only example I saw this week. A Facebook friend of mine, Huffington Post senior editor Craig Kanalley, posted about dating trouble in New York City.
I try to push myself out of my comfort zone but I get overwhelmed. Where do I begin? How do I put myself out there more? Might it simply be a case of getting every girl to know that I’m “available,” and surely at least one would be interested, and how do I even do that? (Read the full post here.)
It was met with many positive responses — words of encouragement and support; advice and empathy. That is, until a California shock jock launched a negative campaign against him, urging his followers to post comments.
The offensive comments essentially told Craig to “man up,” many using that phrase, and many others using far more obscene words.
I reached out to Craig and asked him about his decision to post such a personal reflection publicly, as well as his reaction to the negativity he received.
Sure, I expected there to be some really critical, even nasty, comments. It should be expected based on the nature of the subject.
I didn’t expect a talk show host to start a campaign on my post, and encourage all his followers to comment on my Facebook post. But that’s what happened. It is what it is. I didn’t agree with the content of a lot of the messages, but I also believe in free speech. So I let the comments stand.
Yes, I agree that having a job in the public eye means we’re going to be publicly criticized. Are the criticisms themselves justified? That’s for each of us to decide ourselves. But this country is based on free speech, and if you’re in the public eye, you’re going to get a lot of comments and public scrutiny.
I think one thing journalists need to remember: you can never please everyone. And if you’re not getting criticisms in some form or another, you’re doing something wrong. No one is perfect. It’s part of the reason I don’t mind being open online; I’m not just a journalist, I’m a human being, and I want people to know that. That means I have flaws and so on, but this is who I am. I hope by being more personable and engaging with those who contact me, people find me more approachable when they have concerns, story tips, or I can be of assistance.
UPDATE (7:48 p.m.): I just saw that Kenneth Krause, the man who wrote the harsh letter to Livingston, issued an “apology” earlier today. I read it, and I don’t buy it.
According to RadarOnline, Krause responded, saying he’s “in no position to bully her … she’s a big media personality. I’m just a working stiff.”
If only that was how bullying actually worked …