Weighing In


I’m sure you’ve heard about Jennifer Livingston, the La Crosse news anchor who received an email from a viewer criticizing her weight, saying in part:

“Surely you don’t consider yourself a suitable example for this community’s young people, girls in particular.”

I wondered if this viewer had the guts to email the same verbiage to Oprah. He certainly couldn’t want that fatty influencing our young girls either. I think everyone agrees that being overweight is not healthy, but I believe Ms. Livingston’s weight is her business, and has nothing to do with the news business. This situation really got me thinking about the business of television news, and as often happens with my thinking, one rambling thought led to another.

A few years ago, the (now cancelled) NBC show Mercy featured a character named “Still Bill” who awoke from a 10-year coma. He was busy processing all the changes that had occurred in the world since 1999. With halted speech, he remarked,

“I’m starting….to notice…..things…. like…now the TV weather MEN are all beautiful Asian women with big boobs.”

Yes, the news business has definitely changed.  Thankfully, women now have an equal presence, and much of the credit for this should go to Barbara Walters. Not only was Barbara a trailblazer, she has had a front row seat to almost every event in modern history.  Her memoir Audition is a great read. As a child of the 60’s, I was fascinated to read her account of how women were treated in the business world and newsroom at the start of her career, and to see how things have evolved. In addition to women, we also have anchors and correspondents of all races working in television news. It is amazing to think that all these advancements have taken place in my lifetime.

However, as with many things, aesthetics play a role. Recently, I have noticed a Baywatch effect in the newsroom. Remember how David Hasselhoff’s character, Mitch Buchannon would hold a meeting in the lifeguard office? He’d be all bundled up and snuggly warm in his red jacket, while poor C.J. (Pamela Anderson) and the girls (and by “girls” I really am referring to the other female guards) surely must have been shivering, attired only in their red swimsuits. The same thing is happening in the newsroom:  Men are all buttoned-up in suits and ties, while some women  are going sleeveless, wearing tank tops, spaghetti straps and even one-shoulder tops. I hope these news women chose their wardrobe, and would be free to wear a crisp blouse if they wanted to.

It seems the dress code isn’t the only thing that has relaxed. I think we need to bring some decorum back to the newsroom. No, not Victorian collars for women. I could however, do with a little less glamour and a little more focus on grammar. It is the sloppy use of the English language that needs to be tightened up, because bad grammar is rampant. Even the distracting crawl at the bottom of the screen has errors. I realize not every talking head on television graduated with a degree in journalism, but I’d like to think that having a basic knowledge of proper grammar would be a requirement for the job.

There are two offenses in particular that have become commonplace, and they drive me CRAZY.

  1. “Let’s look at these ones.” Thirty-five years ago, I actually paid attention to the prim and proper Mrs. Johnston, so I know “these ones” is redundant. It is sufficient and correct to say: “Let’s look at these.”  How do the professionals who have landed a spot on a major network not know this?
  2. We are in prime season for the offense that is my biggest pet peeve. Talking points are frequently and painfully listed as follows:  Firstly….Secondly…..Thirdly….and then the conclusion of the talking points is what really annoys me. I cringe in anticipation. I know its coming, and then….there it is, the grating finish:  Lastly….

I had the good fortune to be in Mrs. Adele Nelson’s Speech class during my senior year of high school. Speech was widely considered a “cake” class. It didn’t compare in difficulty to Advanced Chemistry or Calculus. However, I believe that anyone who took this course gained knowledge and communication skills applicable on a daily basis, to life as an adult. In contrast, I am not sure I would be utilizing any Advanced Chemistry lessons at this point in my life.

Because of this class, I know the proper way to list talking points is:

  • First, state your most important point and refrain from saying firstly
  • Second, notice that the word second is not secondly
  • Third, notice how we don’t even miss the “ly”!
  • Finally, and most importantly, never say lastly

Not only is this grammatically correct, but  “finally” is smoother and more polished than “lastly.”

Maybe hoping for the return of proper grammar is futile, when we are using fewer actual words, and life is moving too fast to use complete sentences. OMG. IDK. LOL. The word “okay” was so long it had to be shortened to “OK.” Now it is just too exhausting to type that pesky O (at least while driving) so we have made the maximum cuts possible and downsized to “K.” Poor K has to do all the work once done by the entire okey-dokey team.

Downsizing may soon affect the television news. It appears we could get by with fewer interviewers, because lately, interview subjects seem to be able to take care of both the answers and the questions. Have you noticed this annoying trend? During interviews, people commonly respond to an interviewer’s initial question with a question, and then proceed to ask and answer their own line of questioning. For example:

Anderson Cooper:  “What do you think of the situation with Ms. Livingston in La Crosse?”

Me:   “Thank you for asking, Andy.

Do I think she would be healthier and feel better if she lost weight? Maybe, but that is her business, not mine.

Do I think her weight is a factor in her job performance or appeal to viewers? Not at all, in fact I think diversity of all types is good. Women should not have a size requirement, or feel that they need to wear sexy cocktail hour attire to deliver the news, any more than men should be required to have a full head of hair.

What man needs hair anyway? I mean, have you seen Jim Cantore? Forget the funnel cloud, I’d chase him.

What did you say? Have I actually ever been to La Crosse? No, where is it at?”

Yes, I’m aware I ended that sentence with a preposition. It only appears to be grammatically incorrect. Where I come from, that particular sentence is regionally, perfectly, beautifully, grammatically correct. It is an exception to the rule, and music to my ears. It sounds like home and I’ll keep saying it, at least until my television debut.

Sure,  I’d like to be glamorous, but I’m busy striving to be more grammarous.

How bout u?  What is ur grammar pet peeve?


16 responses »

  1. I don’t notice poor grammar as much as I notice shiny, caked-on lip gloss. I do, however likes me an adorable weather man. Miss Grammarous, what’s wrong with the above? Oh ya, “K” drives me insane – especially coming from a middle-aged man.


  2. I was exclaiming “I know! I know!” as I read this one . . . spot on! I have one I hate: poor use of plural vs. possessive! When in doubt, throw an apostrophe in? I don’t think so. Also, is it bad that I take a red pen to almost everything I read – including resumes from potential candidates? And yes, I have given them their corrected version during an interview. I must have been a proofreader in a former life . . .


    • Every time a server in a restaurant says, “Are you guys all done here?” I always respond, “Yes, I’m finished.”
      Don’t get even me started on “you guys” to adress a table of women, or senior citizens!
      Love your confession about red lining resumes! That is awesome! Thanks for reading. I hope Bean comments, as she probably has a very long list!


  3. Years ago, I was seated on a plane next to an English teacher. I suddenly became aware of my grammar. I stuttered, filtering everything I said. I’m a product of a state that says: Y’all. YOu guys, Wanna, gotta, and (my favorite) Everything’s (as in everything’s all right.)


  4. Great post! I notice people tend to write “your” when they mean “you’re” but it’s so common I think it’s become acceptable– just as abbreviating words has, which I am guilty of. It’s sheer laziness. But for the sake of this post I’ll refrain. K? 😉


  5. I wonder how many men have received letters saying that their weight makes them less of a role model? Love your point about Oprah. She’s one of the best role models around – regardless of what she weighs. Great post – smart and funny!


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