EDITORIAL: Personal lives aren’t up for criticism

This frame grab provided by WKBT-TV in La Crosse, Wis., shows television anchorwoman Jennifer Livingston Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2012, during her broadcast responding to a viewer who wrote her an email criticizing her weight. (AP Photo/Courtesy WKBT-TV)

October is National Bullying Prevention Month, but you wouldn’t know it from the recent behavior of some online commentators.

Yesterday, Jennifer Livingston, a news anchor from La Crosse, Wis., used her broadcast as a platform to speak out against bullying, specifically in regard to an email criticizing her weight.

The author of the email said he was “surprised” that her “physical condition hasn’t improved in many years” and said Livingston was not a “suitable example” for young girls.

“I leave you this note hoping that you’ll reconsider your responsibility as a local public personality to present and promote a healthy lifestyle,” the anonymous viewer said at the end of his email.

We, like Livingston, believe this sort of criticism and negativity has no place in a letter to a news anchor, or to anyone for that matter. Livingston’s weight and appearance have nothing to do with her ability to present the news.

We admire her bravery for standing up in front of a camera to draw attention to a very personal attack in hopes of reaching out to others. We also applaud the television station for allowing Livingston to dedicate four and a half minutes of airtime to address the issue.

A YouTube video of Livingston’s segment went viral, mostly accompanied with words of encouragement for her and positive remarks about the importance of anti-bullying awareness, but once the video was featured on Ellen Degeneres’s Twitter account, the poster had to disable comments without approval, due to, you guessed it, bullying.

We are appalled that something that began as a great conversation starter and response to bullying became the subject of even more negativity. We hope that those who watched the video and read these negative comments will learn from this public call to help and prevent other anonymous users from making the same bigoted and hurtful comments.

Despite Marquette being a Jesuit institution, this university is not immune to the plague of cyber-bullying. Many anonymous Twitter accounts unofficially associated with our school have sprouted in the last year – some funny, some hurtful. The Marquette Class of 2016: Real Students, Real Answers Facebook page is filled with nasty bickering and political attacks. This is ridiculous. Students should use the group for its actual purpose, to network with classmates and share important information. This is not a forum for rudeness, especially when you probably wouldn’t say these things to the other user’s face.

The response to one recent cyber bullying incident, however, has restored some of our faith in humanity (and the Internet).

Last week a Reddit user posted a photo of a Sikh woman who, by her religious commitment does not cut any body hair, had a beard. The caption below the photo read, “I’m not sure what to conclude from this.”

The photo went viral, sparking both positive and negative commentary.

Unexpectedly, the woman in the photo, Balpreet Kaur, responded to the post. She said she respects her religion and would rather focus on positive values and her impact on others than what society deems physical beauty.

We commend Kaur for her courage, strength and dedication to her faith. Perhaps even more inspiring than Kaur’s positive response was that the original poster of the photo apologized. Now there’s something you don’t see very often on the Internet. It took true strength for the poster to publicly apologize to Kaur, the Sikh community and anyone else offended by the post.

We also hope that bystanders, both in-person or on the computer, will use Kaur’s story to help speak out against narrow-minded views and work to create a more tolerant and accepting community, on and off Marquette’s campus.