Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Attack on a Newscaster's Appearance

In Chapter 7 of Amusing Ourselves to Death, Postman brings up the idea of the news as entertainment and the idea that newscasters are basically actors.  He says that they have to appear “ likable” as well as “credible” and this is almost entirely based on their looks. This is not the first time I've thought about this idea really, but I think it is the first time I thought about it in this way.

Some of you might remember a news story that got a lot of attention last year of a Newscaster’s response to a letter calling her fat.

This video, the anchor’s response, only really addressed part of the problem. She talks about the damage to herself and to teens, but it takes much more of an anti-bullying stance.  When I first saw the video, I was outraged just like the many others that posted on various social media sites and wrote letters, but I didn't really think about the video as an example of public discourse or think about the function it serves.

The more I think about it the more I wonder if this isn't more of an attack on the letter writer than bullying. What was the purpose of the news story? Did it change anything? I know I didn't really think about bullying as much as I thought about her personal story. Could this newscast have changed the way people think about this issue? And did her appearance and the way she presented herself have any effect on how you thought about the story?


  1. I personally think she has every right to defend herself and point out this man and used "bullying" as a type of "excuse" to discuss this. Don't get me wrong I'm glad she did - I think she turned a negative situation and used it to explain to children that this happens all the time and you've got to be comfortable with yourself and to not place value in a bullies words. But it is frustrating that society as a whole does tend to place more value on a persons outside appearance rather then their inside abilities.

  2. It seems to me that the news station just wanted to capitalize on a hot button topic, in this case bullying, to score itself some positive press. And clearly because we're talking about it and watching the clip (this isn't the first time I've seen it) it works. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that the message that this news anchor is delivering to her audience is negative or in anyway not genuine. The news anchor or someone else at the station must have felt compelled to run this segment on the broadcast that day, I just bet that the station heads were more than eager to air it and say "Look how great and progressive we are."

  3. I tend to agree with Travis on this one. I think the station thought this story would be good for their image if they ran it. It definitely was worth their time too, considering the topic is an important and very worth while one. Everyone needs to have confidence and be able to withstand their attackers and bullies mentally.

    What I'm wondering, however, is why does this story seem to have gotten more air time than so many other, even more important stories. Sometimes even stories on the war or violent local occurrences don't get that much time. Also, this story was largely without pictures or videos to accompany it. The only break from the camera on the newscaster talking was to show the email that she received. In relation to our current discussion on the constantly changing, entertaining, short memory span television style, this is interesting. This story did not work as hard to keep us entertained, no quickly changing images, no fancy music. Is this a good thing? A neutral thing? Maybe this was to show that the channel supports her on the air, that they don't need fancy images to cover her up or compliment her? Considering the topic of the story, this would be understandable. Just something to think about.

  4. I think it's good that the news station covered the issue of bullying and that this news anchor spoke out about it. I agree with Megan that using this example is a good way to explain to children that the opinions of bullies don't matter and that children shouldn't mind their hateful words. I think that even if the new station did use this topic as an excuse to get press that it helped the bullying cause because it created more public dialogue about the issue and reminded people that bullying is occurring and that it is very hurtful.

  5. It is an acceptable question to ask if this anchor’s response wasn't an attack—maybe even a sense of bullying she was talking about—on the person who wrote the letter. In a sense I think that was the other half of the problem you mentioned. The email was shown to make the person know that it was them that she was talking about—if they watched the show at all. I think it was great of her to do so and stand up for herself—even if it could have been the station’s idea and intention to bring more audience members in and take a stance on something. With or without that intention the issue it raises is still there and is still one that people face and talk about day to day. I will say that she did make this really personal and that could overshadow her message. But at the same time how many anchors make something on this topic personal in a public setting? (I truly don’t know because I do not watch the news very often if not at all.)

    I don’t think this newscast would have changed many—if any—people’s thoughts about the issue of bullying. I say this because usually when someone already has an opinion, it is hard to change that opinion and bullying is one of those sensitive subjects that you are either going to agree with it or hate it. And to talk about her appearance and her presentation, there really was no effect for me. I think she did seem defensive, which makes sense because of the words that were thrown at her so they obviously angered her and by showing that in a professional manner I just made it seem more real. Postman talks about how newscasters have to be actors, and I have to say that it is one hell of an act.

  6. I think this video reaffirms Postman's point that our culture is obsessed with entertainment. Hollywood movies and television shows have made "beautiful" people the norm, so when we see someone that doesn't fit the conventions of beauty it sticks out like a sore thumb. Part of me wants to put all the blame on the individual that wrote the terrible email, but I don't think that all the blame should go on him. The bigger problem here is that the perception of news has clearly been equated with Hollywood garbage. In other words, content (when there is content) is overlooked by how it is wrapped.