October is National Bullying Prevention Month.
Of course it’s also National Breast Cancer Awareness month, National Black History Month and National Popcorn Poppin’ Month. The point is, I don’t pay a whole lot of attention to these designations aimed at calling my attention to some cause or event. But a TV anchor in Wisconsin has become something of a poster person for bullying prevention after a 4 minute video that aired on her station then went viral across the internet.
Jennifer Livingston had received an e-mail from a viewer who chastised her for being overweight. Well, here’s what he wrote:
“Hi Jennifer, It’s unusual that I see your morning show, but I did so for a very short time today. I was surprised indeed to witness that your physical condition hasn’t improved for many years. 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. I leave you this note hoping that you’ll reconsider your responsibility as a local public personality to present and promote a healthy lifestyle.”
Livingston and her husband, who is also an anchor at the LaCrosse TV station, decided to go public with the email calling it an example of bullying. The station management agreed to give her all the time she wanted to call out her accuser. Here’s part of what she said in an emotional video response that aired on WKBT:
Before long people were calling for the emailer’s head on a platter and Jennifer was besieged with, and granting, requests for national interviews.
Was it bullying?
Stupid, insensitive, hurtful and classless yes..but bullying? I’m not so sure. When an upper classman used to shove me around and point out my pudginess at every opportunity in high school; that was bullying. When a few of us boys bought a can of deodorant and put it in the desk of a hygiene-challenged classmate, that was stupid and insensitive but bullying?
Half the people in this country, including yours truly, are fat. So it’s not surprising that support and sympathy for Ms. Livingston has been overwhelming. The local lawyer who wrote the email, Kenneth Krause, has been outed and, under enormous public pressure, apologized..saying he never meant to hurt Jennifer.
In all my years on local television, I don’t ever remember receiving a viewer letter critical of my appearance. Oh, wait, a few had trouble with some of my dubious wardrobe choices or whether my hair was actually MY hair but that’s about it. Women TV personalities, on the other hand, receive letters and comments all the time about how they look on the air and some are downright mean. I don’t know why some people can be so critical of females while guys usually get a pass. But I do know that it’s an old rule of journalism that reporters and anchors should never BE THE STORY and never use your position the in media for personal retribution. Basically, grin and bear it..shrug it off..develop a thick skin. Not easy to do when you’ve been hurt.
Ms. Livingston is asking that people take it easy on Krause and to leave him alone. She’s also starting to feel the heat of her national exposure as blogs and anonymous comments rip into her for being a publicity hound.
The internet giveth and the internet taketh away.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all follow our mother’s advice; “If you can’t say something good about someone, keep your mouth shut?”
A lesson she and her friends might have learned rubber-necking on the ol’ party line.