Speaking without thinking

It may take three to make a series of events, but I’m sure the third of this will come sooner rather than later. I’m talking about TV people who use words they don’t know and embarrassing themselves in front of the world.

WJW, February 23, 2015
WJW, February 23, 2015

The first happened Monday morning in Cleveland, on WJW-Channel 8’s morning newscast. Kristi Capel used the racially offensive term “jigaboo” to describe the musical arrangements during Lady Gaga‘s performance at the Academy Awards, the night before.

2015-02-22 Lady Gaga Oscars
Lady Gaga

That J-word is considered derogatory towards African-Americans.
Yesterday, Capel took to the air, saying she deeply regrets her “insensitive comment” and “truly did not know the meaning of the word and would never intentionally use such hurtful language.” I believe her. She won’t be on TV for the rest of the week. The station isn’t saying if it’s a suspension.

E!, February 24, 2015
E!, February 24, 2015
2015-02-22 Zendaya Oscars

Also Monday, Giuliana Rancic (somebody I’ve never heard of) on E!’s Fashion Police (a cable channel I never watch) joked that singer-actress Zendaya’s (somebody else I’ve never heard of) dreadlocks at the previous night’s Oscars suggested a smell “like patchouli oil or weed.”
(E! should apologize for all the Kardashians but that’s another story!)
Then yesterday, Rancic apologized and said the reaction to her remarks has increased her awareness of damaging “clichés and stereotypes,” and – get this – on-air people have the responsibility to avoid perpetuating them. I believe her, as well.
These days, the bar to get on TV is very low. Right now I’m sitting at Firestone, waiting for an oil change, and they have some stupid show called The Real on TV. It’s awful! But my point is, people on TV or speaking before the public should be literate. They should know the language they’re speaking, and have some fluency, and make sense. Sometimes we forget words. That happens. It’s part of aging. But using words or phrases we don’t know?
When I was teaching, students and parents thought I knew Spanish. I don’t. Just a couple of words. But I only used words that I knew. People overheard and told me they hadn’t realized I knew the language. This happened frequently even though I sounded like a gringo.
If you know more words or languages, then good for you! You can use them. But if you don’t, stay away from trouble. It’s not worth it. Instead of coming across as smart, you come across as the total opposite.
I was taught to write for TV on a 3rd grade level, because nobody watches with a dictionary in front of them. In other words, keep it simple. There’s even a phrase for that and I’ve been told many times (but for overthinking): KISS. Keep It Simple, Stupid (Silly).
But these remarks weren’t overthinking. They were probably both unscripted ad libs. My advice: Be yourself. Don’t try to impress too much. You already got the job!
Neither of these TV people did anything malicious. They just said things that weren’t too smart. And who hasn’t? Hopefully, all the publicity will be their lessons and teach others as well.

About the author

The journalism “business” has changed — from standards to platforms to layoffs — along with the American public, and I’ve managed to survive somewhat on my own terms.

I started in 1994, becoming an award-winning and respected TV newscast producer.

Even better was creatively producing websites and social media, and serving as a station's digital media manager — writing news, creating graphics and getting evidence of growing my audience here in the nation's fourth largest market, Philadelphia.

I also taught first grade for eight years. My principal saw my class website and made me electronic gradebook manager to assist co-workers when we stopped using paper gradebooks.

In 2018, I took courses and earned the Google IT Support Professional Certificate.

In 2019, I was a freelance newspaper reporter, but enjoyed copy editing and reviving the publication’s social media even more.

That got me striking out on my own with a local news website to join the blog I created, designed and write.

Ask me about all the details.

I did drive Uber to make ends meet until I started as a customer service representative at one of the world’s largest web-hosting companies, with more than 8 million customer contracts and hosting more than 12 million domains.

With classroom and newsroom experience, I know how to prioritize, analyze and take the best course of action. Getting results means attention to detail, following through and following up.

Something to add? Disagree? Let us all know!

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