The Power of Spoken Words: Why Video Works For News Anchor Jennifer Livingston

WKBT-TV Anchor Jennifer Livingston received an incredibly hurtful email from a viewer…one who actually claims it is ‘unusual’ that they watch her on the show.  And yet, he felt compelled to write her, not about the stories she reports, not about an actual mistake she had made on air that needed correcting, but about her personally – specifically her weight and how this viewer believes her ‘outside’, what he refers to as ‘obesity’, effects her job as a role model for the community, especially young girls.

He said, in part, “Obesity is one of the worst choices a person can make and one of the most dangerous habits to maintain….I leave you this note hoping that you’ll reconsider your responsibility as a local public personality to present and promote a healthy lifestyle.”

As someone who used to have a job like Jennifer Livingston, I know how hurtful those emails and letters can be.  And I am delighted she responded as she has….using her experience as a lesson for greater good.

Livingston could have simply written this viewer a return note, or continued a conversation with viewers on Facebook, but instead, she chose to use her voice and the power of video and media to reply. You can see her brilliant reply here and below. When I first saw her video yesterday it had just over 300 views.  As of this writing, it is just shy of 2 MILLION. Here is why I think it works:

Here is Jennifer Livingston’s actual reply:

This story has touched a nerve with many people. While I am clear on my support of what Livingston had to say, I will say, I did see on my Facebook page, some disagreement.  There were comments that fell into the ‘what’s the big deal’ category and those that believed the email wasn’t actually ‘bullying’.

I would love to know what you think. Share away.  And what do you think about the use of video as a means to communicate a point, an emotion or story?

Complaining About Media Hype Around Hurricane Irene? Put a sock in it….

People.  If you live on the East Coast and your home and streets didn’t flood, you are LUCKY.

If you live in New York City and had to evacuate and you came back to a home or business FREE of flooding and damage, you are LUCKY.

If you DON’T live on the East Coast and you are blathering on about the media over-hyping Hurricane Irene (or if you are frustrated you evacuated for ‘nothing’), I respectfully ask you to put a sock in it.

It is easy to find commentary condemning the media’s (and many politician’s) representation of what became Tropical Storm Irene…like Daily Beast author, Howard Katz claimed, in a scathing review, “Cable News was utterly swept away by the notion that Irene would turn out to be Armageddon”.

I’m confused… isn’t Hurricane Irene now in the Top 10 most expensive natural disasters in U.S. History?

Isn’t it possible, likely even… that the death toll was LESS as a result of the hyped would-be ‘Armaggedon’?

Is it REALLY considered ‘over-hype’ because New York CITY didn’t suffer the predicted wrath of Irene?

Just what is your complaint?  That you had to LISTEN to the media talk about Hurricane Irene?  If it doesn’t effect you, AND you are so bothered by the ‘over-hype’, TURN IT OFF. Maybe you are frustrated you were forced to evacuate. How about embracing the blessing of coming back to a home? Because there are THOUSANDS of people sleeping on cots right now….and their homes are gone.

It is incredibly easy to Monday morning quarterback this disaster from the comfort of your own couch, with your fingers on your laptop – because THAT’S RIGHT, you have POWER, oh…. and you can leave your home because the streets aren’t closed.

And?  You aren’t one of the 45 families who lost a loved one during the storm.

Have you actually seen the pictures of the Hurricane Irene damage?

Let me help you out. (click twice to enlarge to full screen) This is what you get when you search Google images for Vermont Hurricane Irene damage:

Or…. how about this:  A google seach for Catskills Hurricane Irene Damage:

As of this writing, there are more than a million  people still without power and the cost is estimated to be in the Billions.  Yes, billions.  Considering the state of New York alone is $1 billion.

I find it hard to believe  that the people yapping about the media hype have seen these pictures.  There are people who lost everything. Everything.  Their homes, their pictures, their furniture and clothes….even their cars.  And yet, the complaints of ‘over-hype’ persist.

The media did their job.  They warned the public. Sure, Irene wasn’t as bad as predicted.


She was still horrific.  Still fatal.  Still dream-shattering.

Perspective, friends.  Let’s find some.

Photo Credit: Screenshot of the story.

Kids and Online Safety: I let My Daughter Start a Blog

Yes – you read that right…  I let my daughter, my SIX year old (almost SEVEN) start a blog today.  She had had more than 400 hits to the site on her first day.  She has dozens of comments.  She?  Is in heaven.  She is reading, writing, (typing), spelling, laughing and thinking creatively.  I’ve heard great feedback:  ’what a big girl’, ‘how fabulous for her creativity’, ‘is she really writing it on her own?’  Yes – she does seem so big to me, yes, her joy and creativity went through the roof today and YES – she really is writing and responding on her own.  With me right next to her.  But I’ve also been asked about the not-so-pretty-side of children being online. These are my thoughts….  I’d love for you to chime in.

(P.S. your volume will NOT need to be loud – the audio is strong)


Social Media Makes a Difference for Victims of Joplin Tornado

When you jump online during times of disaster, you never know just how much (if at all) you are helping.

When that wretched tornado hit Joplin a few weeks ago, I was glued to Twitter, to Facebook and to the traditional media.  I spread whatever news, avenues of assistence and cries for missing people I possible could.  I even wrote about the beauty of playing a small role in helping to locate a missing family .

I cried about it then.

And today, I felt my heart swell again.

I received this email:

Ms. Smith:

Thank you for recognizing the contributions social media played and
continues to play in the Joplin rebuilding process. I am one of the
the Social Media Specialists for the Greater Ozarks Red Cross
(regional chapter for Joplin office) as well as an administrator for
several of the larger Joplin response SM venues. I was on scene in
Joplin the day after the tornado and worked the shelter Safe & Well
table while sending out content on Facebook. It is important to
recognize that social media worked when cell phones failed there. It
is indeed the new frontier of disaster response and I only see the
fantastic contributions it can make in saving lives and assisting in

Again, thank you for your interest.

Bill Benson
American Red Cross Volunteer

I didn’t save any lives.  I didn’t raise thousands of dollars, but in some small way, I helped.  And this letter from the Red Cross ensures that I will spend dozens of hours in future on disasters just like this one – helping in any small way I can.

Social Media is powerful.

Thank you, Bill Benson, for acknowleding the power of good that comes from Social Media and the people like me who recognize and embrace its power for good.

For Bill’s first hand account of arriving in Joplin to help, read here.


Social Media Spreads Messages of Devastating Joplin, Missouri Tornado

My heart hurts.

But YOU, my social media friends?  You are just the salve I need.  You give me hope and remind me that this new frontier – this crazy space we are creating moment by moment, tweet by tweet, post by post – is, in fact powerful AND, even better – moved by GOOD.

By now you have to know, Joplin, Missouri – a small town in the SouthWest corner of the state was absolutely devastated by a tornado late this afternoon.  I’ve been mesmerized by the coverage and the ability of the people in this social media world to respond, to help, to share.

Photo Credit - AP Mark Schiefelbein

As I began to write this last night, 24 people were confirmed dead.  The pictures are apocalyptic.  The city’s main hospital looks like it belongs in a war zone.  The high school suffered ‘catastropic damage’.  Debris from Joplin is landing more than 80 miles away in the towns surrounding Springfield, Missouri.

I called Springfield home for 4 years…. so this story particularly makes me ache.  As I ached, I did what I normally do – I tweeted.  I listened.  I watched. I shared information. And you, in turn, shared it again and again.

Every time you sent it out, you potentially put the information in front of someone else who needed it.  And never was that more clear for me than when I tweeted about a woman named Tami Roderick.  I learned about Tami on one of many Facebook pages that popped up to provide updates, to reunite family and friends and to provide ways for people to help.  On this particular page, Joplin, MO Tornado Recovery, I learned via @HealthByMom, Tami was looking for her mom and brother, Terri and Joel Stim.  So I tweeted about it.

And because you are amazing and fabulous? And like me  - so many of you are moved by good, you simply couldn’t bear the thought of this woman sitting in her home, unable to reach her family, devastated as she watched the video on the news. So you re-tweeted it and re-tweeted it.

My stream was a beautiful mess of Re-tweets.  And it reminded me just how much I love what I do…. how happy I am to be a part of something so big, so strong, with the ability to reach out and touch people in minutes, in hours.

The Tornado hit shortly before 6pm Sunday night.  The first Facebook page of the Recovery was available, I believe, within an hour and a half.  As I lay in my bed writing this, nearly 5.5 hours later…. that Facebook page had over 33-thousand ‘likes’.  Now, the next morning – it is up over 44-thousand. While that may not solve the problems Joplin is experiencing, and while the daylight is bringing more heartache, it is comforting to me to know there are thousands of people who care enough to share a message.

And this morning…  though I cried as I watched the news – hearing the death toll had reached 89 and was still climbing….  witnessing the loss, I also cried as I read this in my twitter stream.

Thank you to the many, many people who shared this message…. who helped to get the word out.  The Red Cross has services set up to help families and friends find each other, but I truly believe all of the extra word of mouth helps.  And, just knowing that you are *maybe* helping in some small way?  That is priceless.

If you can help, please donate to the Red Cross of the Ozarks.

Thank you for keeping the power of good strong in my heart and mind and in those of the people of Joplin.

The Royal Wedding – To Watch or Not To Watch

Official Engagement Photo, Taken By Mario Testino

Did you know? Prince William and Kate Middleton are getting married. On Friday. Of course you already knew that. Unless you have been hiding under a very large rock. Because, really? Every TV station, Radio station, Magazine cover is covering you in a blanket of all things Royal. If you want to SEE.IT.HAPPEN.LIVE, you best be setting your alarm for o’dark’thirty – I believe it is 4am for us here in the States, is it not?  The question I have is:  Will you be watching?  I keep hearing, “MILLIONS of people will be watching….”….  Will you be one of them?