Ariz. author: Wis. TV anchor who took on e-mail bully a 'great role model'

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by Catherine Holland

GMAZ interview by Kaley O'Kelley

Posted on October 4, 2012 at 2:08 PM

Poll:
If you received an email like the one Kenneth Kraus sent to Jennifer Livingston, how would you handle it.

PHOENIX -- Video of a Wisconsin television anchor addressing the author of a critical email on live television has been making the Internet rounds all week.

Most people have applauded Jennifer Livingston's comments regarding the note from Kenneth Krause, whom many describe as a bully.

"He made a comment that she wasn't a 'suitable example' for the community's youth," said Sedona author Debra Beck. "I believe she's a great role model. ... We need to accept everybody for who they are ... and know that our character lies within. It's not about how we look."

Beck, author of "My Feet Aren't Ugly: A Girl's Guide to Loving Herself From the Inside Out," says its import to look at people "heart to heart."

Beck believes Livingston's editorial is exactly what people, especially those who might be the targets of bullies, need to hear.

The 37-year-old anchor originally planned to brush off Krause's comments, but her husband Mike Thompson, also an anchor at WKBT-TV, posted the email on Facebook and people responded in a huge way.

Here's the email as Thompson posted it on Sept. 28:

“It’s unusual that I see your morning show, but I did so for a very short time today. I was surprised indeed to witness that your physical condition hasn’t improved for many years. Surely you don’t consider yourself a suitable example for this community’s young people, girls in particular. 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.”

Thompson said the note "infuriated" him.

"Seriously, the fact that there are people out there like this ... makes me sick to my stomach," he wrote.

Thousands agreed.

After a few local radio stations did segments on bullying, Livingston, mother to three young daughters, decided to speak out. Her words resonated with people across the country.

"To all of the children out there who feel lost, who are struggling with your weight, with the color of your skin, your sexual preference, your disability, even the acne on your face, listen to me right now: Do not let your self-worth be defined by bullies," she said on the air. "Learn from my experience — that the cruel words of one are nothing compared to the shouts of many."

As of Thursday morning, one clip of Livingston (see below) had nearly 5.5 million hits on YouTube.

Was this a case of bullying?

While Krause is not backing down from his belief that Livingston is not a good role model and continues to urge her to take action "by transforming herself for all her viewers to see over the next year," many have taken her response to his original note as a battle cry against bullying, which has become a pervasive issue in recent years. 

Others, however, have taken issue with her use of the word "bully," something she wrote about Thursday on her Facebook page.

"I would like to address a criticism that has popped up regarding my use of the term 'bully' and whether the e-mail at the center of my editorial truly constitutes the label," she wrote. "Does it have to be done in public? Does it have to be a repeated act? It's a fair point and a good discussion.

"I am not a bullying expert and would never want to be considered one," she continued. "However – I am a mom and a journalist. If my child came home and told me she received that type of negative e-mail from someone at school, there’s no way I would wait for it to happen again. Should we wait to speak up until someone is utterly beaten down by repeated rants? Or should we take a stand the first time to say, 'this is not okay.'

"Call it bullying, out of line, mean – call it what you want. I won't accept it and I don't think you should have to either."

Within two hours, more than 500 people had commented to that post and more than 3,000 had liked it.

In an interesting twist of timing, October is National Bullying Prevention Month.

On the home front

Phoenix first lady Nicole Stanton is hosting an Arizona Anti-Bullying Summit on Oct. 5 at Arizona State University. She also is launching her Stop Bullying AZ initiative.

“Bullying is a malignancy that has afflicted our schools for way too long," Stanton said in a news release.

One of her goals is to empower not just the kids who are targeted, which is a fairly standard approach, but also bystanders who witness bullying.

"If we can provide tools, a safe place and a set of best practices for students, faculty, administration and parents to follow, I believe we may just solve this thing," she said.

3TV's Carey Peña talked to Stanton about her both her initiative and about Livingston's editorial. She'll have that story, including input from a world-renowned expert on bullying, at 9 p.m. on 3TV.

Watch Livingston's entire response to Krause's email

Pick up reading where I left off.

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