From the Anchor Chair: Social Media Requires Thick Skin

Here’s my latest blog for RTDNA. This posting was sparked by a viewer email I got a couple of weeks ago. Would love to hear your thoughts. 

By Nikki Burdine, LEX-18

This is my first blog from my new home in Lexington, Kentucky. I left WHAG in Hagerstown, Maryland to take the weekend anchor and general assignment reporter position at LEX-18 at the end of Setember. I’ve been in Lexington for about a month now, and I am absolutely loving it!

Moving to a new city means making adjustments to most everything in my life, including my work. Getting used to new coworkers, how the station operates and of course my new viewers!

My first weekend of anchoring went pretty well, with the exception of mispronouncing a few street and town names. (Versailles is pronounced Ver-sails instead of Ver-sigh, for example).

But other than that, it went pretty smoothly! Or, so I thought.

It was my second week on the job and I got an email through my personal website (nikkiburdine.com). The beauty of my website is that people can contact me by using the little form, and it goes straight to me inbox. The bad part, those wishing to contact me do not have to use a valid email address.

Case in point, the email I got that sparked this blog post:

“I love Channel 18 and you have in a short period of time you destroyed my news. You look like you are constipated or had botox, your face never moves with expressions, your voice is monotoned and boring and your make-up is way too severe and you need to cover up your cleveage. I change the channel the second I see you and I’m not the only one that thinks this way. Kentucky doesn’t need you. You are so phoney and think you’re all that and a bag of chips…wrong honey.”

Wow! Mean, right? Plus, who says “all that and a bag of chips?” That is so 1993. But, I digress.

After reading that email, the first thing I felt was hurt. I was genuinely upset. I showed the email to my coworkers and friends; they all, thankfully, told me this person was wrong and just crazy. Also, amost all of them had gotten some sort of hate mail throughout their careers. That made me feel better, but also got me to thinking. Even if you have something that mean to say, who would ever say that to someone? Someone who is pretty gutsy, right?

But this person had no guts. How do I know that? Because the email comes from “SandraLeigh .” SandraLeigh didn’t even put her real email address down. Which makes it all the more clear, this person is very sad on the inside.

When I was growing up, watching the local news, never would I or anyone in my family pick up the phone to call the news anchor and tell them how horrible their hair looked that day. Most people wouldn’t back then either. It may be a sign of the times, after all The Today Show did a piece last week on “Is Civility Dead?” Quite possibly, yes.

The truth is, the internet gives people a mask to hide behind, where they can be as indignant as they want and share their unedited thoughts freely. Is social media blurring the lines between strangers? Would a complete stranger walk up to me and tell me I was awful? Probably not. (I’m looking at you, SandraLeigh.)

Another instance that drove this point home, was the day after I received this email. I was in my car listening to the local radio station, and they were reading off emails from listeners. No surprise, most of them were not nice emails. That’s not because those D.J.’s were bad people, either. It’s because people will nine times out of 10 say what they want through the annonymity of the internet, but not to your face.

This is definitely not the first mean email a news anchor has received, nor will it be the last I receive. That is the beauty of social media, and the anonymity it gives us.

If you are going to put yourself out there as a journalist on Twitter, Facebook, your own website (which I highly recommend), you better be prepared for feedback. Good, bad and plain irrational. Social media gives us all a platform to connect and socialize, but it also gives crazies the ability to contact you anonymously. Being an on-air news anchor, people often feel like they know you, and all too often feel self-righteous enough to contact you and tell yo how you feel. Facebook lets you do that without talking to someone face to face. So does Twitter and email. Let’s be honest, I highly doubt SandraLeigh would say those things to my face.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Facebook and Twitter as much as the next person. Actually probably more. But the email just opened my eyes and made my skin a little bit thicker. So some advce to future journalists out there, make sure you can take things with a grain of salt. Constructive criticism is great, but other than that, it’s not worth your worries.

The same goes for cyber-bullying, which is an entirely new can of worms. Now I know how those teenagers feel.

So treat others as you want to be treated, brush the “haters” off, and be open to construcive criticism. When you sign up for Twitter and Facebook, make sure in addition to your password, you have thick skin. And, to those reading this, please don’t be afraid to send me your critiques. I’ll accept them with open arms.

So journalists, just keep giving them something to talk about. It’s better than not being talked about at all, right?

Nikki is the weekend anchor and general assignment reporter for LEX-18 in Lexington, KY. She also writes a blog for RTDNA. Follow her on Twitter here.

Leave a Reply