Friday, April 27, 2007

The superficial

Lately my collegues and I have been joking around in the newsroom and brainstorming catchy, alliterative "broadcast names" to replace our hard-to-pronounce, hard-to-spell, non-TV-friendly surnames. As someone with a last name that has been mispronounced and misspelled my entire life, this topic of discussion is especially interesting. (I also have to admit that I have always been interested in names for some odd reason.) But these fun little talks have made me wonder about what bearing superficial things, like your name, have on your future in broadcasting. I would like to think very little, but I guess I can't be entirely sure.

I read in interesting article in Slate a few months ago about how names have affected the fate of political candidates. It was quite clever, but it's hard to determine if things like this have more to do with coincidence than anything else.

I hope that we've moved on from the cookie-cutter newscaster persona and are willing to welcome diversity in terms of name, looks, hair, style and personality. But I think we've all succumb to some pressure to conform to broadcast standards. Most of us recently cut our hair, waxed our eyebrows, bought expensive makeup, shopped for conservative clothing and some, who shall remain nameless (no pun intended), have toyed with the idea of changing their names. I can't lie; the thought has crossed my mind. I have decided against it mainly because A. Even though I'm not crazy about my last name, I don't really want to change it and B. I don't really know if it would make any difference anyway.

I would hate to think my name really determines my success as a journalist. Even more, I would hate to think that wearing dangly earrings or getting on the desk without a blazer would affect my journalistic ability. But don't get me wrong, I'm not downplaying the importance of appearance for television personalities. It's the first thing people see. You have to look nice and speak well or otherwise viewers will miss the important story you have to tell.

I'm also starting to think that with so many people competing for broadcasting jobs, diversity may work in a prospective employee's favor. As a caucasian female, I don't exactly stand out in the pool of applicants. Therefore I have to stand out as far as talent, personality and unique style. I hope that we will continue to embrace diversity and judge at skill over the superficial. For now, I'll wear my broadcast suit, tease my hair and hope that my unfortunate last name doesn't work against me.


At Sunday, April 29, 2007, Blogger J? said...

Ah, what a great post. I would hope that a name doesn't determine our future. I would hope that aesthics (questionable spelling on my part) mean nothing. Ultimately, I don't know what role they will play in my success. Personally, I have finally decided against changing my name, after getting input from just about everybody. I like your point about diversity. It's so true that maybe one's name could hurt them, but it can also help. I also think there is a certain pride in keeping one's last name, a pride that I don't want to lose. So basically, I agree with just about everything you have written. So I guess I'll just have to rely on the makeup and teasing my hair.


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