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The Cold Filtered Ramblings of Gene Mueller

Keyboard "courage"

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The fact that a La Crosse TV anchor received a snarky letter taking her to task for her weight the other day isn't really news to anyone who ever toiled in front of a camera or microphone.   Most will tell you it comes with the turf and may will say that the nastier the comment the more likely it is that the letter/email will be unsigned

That is one of the more surprising revelations in the Jennifer Livingston story: the author of the crap-o-gram actually included his name..  That doesn't add dignity to what he did, or make it any more less hurtful to Livingston who likens the comments to bullying and is making her case to a nationwide audience.

Maybe it's part of the Internet's frontier spirit.   Maybe it's because we're lazy, or at least a little more crass.   Whatever the cause, the result is this: mountains of digital comments are unsigned.   The more caustic and more vile, the more likely it will be an intellectual orphan.  

Milwaukee once had a digital place where radio fans could post comments, serve up rumors and occasionally break some actual media news.   It was also a hotbed for vicious, unfounded and mean-spirited attacks on media personalities, a spot for those with "keyboard courage" could dump their buckets of bile without fear of recourse.   One of my co-workers dubbed it "the pain train."  

Some of the blame goes to us.  "Comment" sections barnacle onto almost every online newspaper story and blog, like this one.  Dialog isn't encouraged.   It would be nice to actually engage with a reader who has a different take, a critical comment, a unique point of view but it's hard to write someone back who doesn't include a return address.   

That Livingston got a crap-o-gram from a viewer about her appearance isn't new.  I've heard for years about some of the calls, letters and e-mails TV reporters receive, not about their work in the field but the way they come across on the screen: hair too long/short, ties too bright, etc.   Being heard and not seen, radio people are usually spared, but it' amazing what people will sometimes say when they see you in the flesh.   I've been called too fat or thin, depending on where I am in my dietary cycle.   I had a woman tell me my beard looked stupid (she was right).   I've had others tell me I'm old.

At least I could look them in the eye when they did.   I had a chance to fight back.  And so does Jennifer Livingston.  She did, not by going fetal or playing a victim card.   She's using the email as a learning opportunity to teach others who might find themselves at the other end of an unsolicited/unwarranted jab to stand up and fight back.  It's not who said it, in Livingston's estimation.  It's what was said.

The fact that it had a name attached to it, in this age of "keyboard courage", is almost a story onto itself.




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