Twitter twits and Facebook fiends

If you’ve spent any time in the public eye, this is going to sound familiar.  Nikki Burdine is a news anchor for LEX 18 in Lexington, KY.  She’s only been there a month and already she’s discovered how the anonymity of social media can bring out the “mean” in people.

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.”

In the rest of the post, Burdine describes how co-workers helped her feel better by assuring her the e-mail attacker was all wrong, and the comments on her blog make it clear that many people in the media have had the same experience.

So, how do you develop a thick skin in an age when people feel within their rights to critcize everything from your hairstyle to your heritage?  It’s not easy, but here are some thoughts from veteran journalists.

“It’s unfortunate, but it’s part of the business,” says Victoria Lim, who works for Brighthouse Sports Network in Florida. “If you’re going to be in front of the camera, you will be judged by your appearance to a certain extent no matter how stellar your work may be. (And yes, men get an extra pass – all the time!  They haven’t shaved, they look “rugged.”  They just throw a hat on or roll up their sleeves, they look like they’ve simply been “digging” for the story… women do that and it’s like, “ewwww!”)

Mike Walter, former anchor at WUSA-TV in Washington, DC, says he knows that nasty comments can hurt.

“My theory on criticism is this,” says Walter,  “if someone says this sucks…your hair or clothing or whatever…and then you get another complaint like that and then another…than maybe you should pay attention to it….but if it’s just random, just let it go. ”

The Web and  social media have, of course, made it even easier for wider audiences to give a broader range of feedback.   If you just can’t handle the criticism, Lim says there is another choice.

“If it’s too much to be judged in this way, maybe you need to do something OFF camera.  Sorry if that’s harsh, but heck – if I grumbled at all the mean-spirited criticisms I get/have gotten, I wouldn’t have made it past my first job right out of college.”

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