“We are better than this email. We are better than the bullies that will try to take us down.”
Jennifer Livingston, a morning anchor on WKBT-TV in LaCrosse, Wis., was speaking about an email that she recently received from one outspoken viewer.
It reads: “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.”
Livingston responded on air, with an emotional four-minute monologue addressing both the author of the email, Kenneth Krause, and the general public.
“The truth is I am overweight. You can call me fat and yes, even obese on a doctor’s chart,” Livingston said. “To the person who wrote me that letter, do you think I don’t know that? Your cruel words are pointing out something I don’t see?”
Her efforts were not in vain. The response went viral overnight and in its wake, hundreds of thousands of people jumped to Livingston’s defense and applauded her bravery. Others questioned the appropriateness of her commentary because, quite frankly, giving pep talks was never in her job description. Furthermore a career in journalism, like any public profession, is subject to criticism.
Criticism, yes. But is it subject to bullies?
Bullying has been a very lively topic of discussion over the past few years because of a rise in Internet bullies and young suicide. Campaigns like “I Choose” aim to give children and adults who have suffered silently a voice to share their story. The documentary “Bully” addressed the problem as “a growing epidemic.”
Most publicly, a handful of celebrities like Kellan Lutz, Jason Derülo, Joe Jonas, Ellen DeGeneres and Chelsea Handler, have spoken about the importance of ending bullying. Their heartfelt messages to fans often times include personal experience with bullies and the suffering that they too have endured.
The common variable that I noticed about our nation’s response to bullying was that people were addressing the problem after it had occurred. Does Kellan Lutz really appear to be suffering on the cover of GQ magazine? Not exactly. The camaraderie, though appreciated, isn’t always relatable. Whereas a news anchor, struggling to make sense of bullying on national television, is.
Livingston took on an issue so fresh in her mind that it brought tears to her eyes. Her plea to end bullying was raw and uncut. She acknowledged the problem in present tense, as it unfolded and before she had healed. She was standing up alongside every person that was feeling the very same hurt that she was, never compromising her story for fear of being judged.
At the end of the day, Livingston’s career is virtually irrelevant. It wasn’t her job as a journalist to speak out against bullying, it was her job as a person. It just so happens that she works on television, and we’re lucky to have her.
Carly Samuelson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.