Fat Shaming In The News: WKTB Anchor Fights Back
I spent my summer working the graveyard shift, waking up at 3 p.m. to go to work from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. On my days off, I still had to keep to my nocturnal schedule, and finding ways to keep yourself occupied when normal people are sleeping can be difficult.
As I had just graduated with a degree in mass communication and hoped to get a job in journalism, I made a resolution to try and catch at least one major network’s 11 o’clock (p.m.) and 6 o’clock (a.m.) news.
While the 11 p.m. news is peppered with the excitement of an entire day (which unfortunately in Baltimore usually meant homicide), the 6 a.m. news always seemed a little too chipper for an audience still working on their morning cup of coffee. Traffic, the weather, and maybe an interview with the organizer of an event happening later in the day was the routine for the local affiliates of FOX, ABC, and the like.
What I would have given to see something like morning news anchor Jennifer Livingston of Wisconsin’s WKTB News 8 speak out against fat shaming in a passionate live segment.
If you haven’t seen the now viral video of Livingston’s speech, the veteran morning news anchor took four minutes from the broadcast to address an email sent to her from a viewer, who said her “choice” to be obese set a terrible example for young women of the community.
After reading the email without revealing the writer’s identity (La Crosse, Wisc. man Kenneth Krause has since come forward as the note’s author), Livingston defended her right and the right of everyone, struggling with weight issues or not, to not be bullied or shamed for their looks or beliefs.
“You don’t know me, so you know nothing about me but what you see on the outside, and I am much more than a number on a scale,” Livingston said without a crack in her voice or tears in her eyes. “If you are at home and you are talking about the fat news lady, guess what? Your children are probably going to go to school and call someone fat.”
Despite the positive response Livingston received from friends and viewers before making her statement, as well as the support of the Internet community after the video was shared online, some journalists have questioned the station’s use of airtime not devoted to news.
WKBT News Director Anne Paape told Poynter reporter Al Tompkins that “When Jen decided she wanted to address this on air during our morning newscast today, I knew she had the opportunity to do great good and told her she had my full encouragement to comment on how this was impacting her as a professional and as a person.”
Livingston knows that she is reporting in a world of thin newscasters. And sometimes, being thin isn’t even enough. In a Sept. 12 media editorial in Atlantic, author Liza Mundy described her experience appearing on FOX to promote her book: “I watched as the makeup artist lavished blue shadow onto my lids, so much shadow that I felt I should be wearing a sash and tiara.” But this was the norm for the “foxy” anchors of FOX news.
So who should young women, like Livingston’s daughters, view as role models when they watch the news? Why should a news anchor’s appearance impact their ability to deliver factual, unbiased reporting? Will Livingston’s acknowledgement of the damage of fat shaming and bullying challenge the behavior of children and their parents and encourage conversation on these often shied-away from topics? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.
Written by Lauren Slavin