Did Jennifer Livingston’s On-Air Editorial Cross a Line?

By Merrill Knox 

TVNewsCheck takes a look at some of the ethical questions raised by WKBT anchor Jennifer Livingston’s on-air response to a viewer who wrote her a critical email about her weight:

“I understand her anger and that we should not be intimidated or bullied by cyber commentators. I also think her intervention sparked good discussion about obesity and how people react to obese people,” says the University of Wisconsin’s Stephen Ward, who heads the Madison campus’s Center for Journalism Ethics.

“That said, I am still uncomfortable when journalists use their power and access to media for their own ends — whatever ends they may be, good or bad,” Ward says. “In particular, I am uncomfortable with using a newscast as the forum for such a personal intervention.”


The piece also features an interview with WKBT news director Anne Paape, who defends Livingston’s editorial:

“With Jennifer, we were comfortable,” says Paape. Livingston, a 15-year market veteran, has a particularly personal relationship with viewers, having ongoing conversations touching on everything from early struggles with infertility to posting pictures of her kids today.

“She has this relationship with people and we are the station who allows it,” Pappe says. “It’s not a one-size-fits-all. It certainly would not be a good fit for all of our anchors, and it wouldn’t be a good fit for many newscasts. This was truly a local conversation that caught fire,” she says.

What do you think about the editorial? Watch it here, and let us know in the comments.