We are arrested by this pandemic and hardly able to see beyond it. Even so, I have been thinking about what I will miss from these months when we can finally look back at them through the rear view mirror of history.
When we get back to “normal” or to the next normal, I will miss seeing television anchors, correspondents, and commentators at home without professional make-up and lighting. I have greatly enjoyed peeking into Colin Powell’s study, John Meacham’s library, and Alicia Garza’s living room. Seeing Mika, Chris, and Rachel in the early days of the pandemic, when they were suddenly broadcasting from home and not really ready for it, was an odd and pleasant leveling.
So, imagine if people on the screen looked like us? That is what we do in literature when a character is dressed up and covered over. An author will describe the masquerade and, at the very least, intimate what he or she is hiding or trying to manipulate. Often the reader will be told outright what the well-manicured facade is meant to hide or who it is meant to deceive. What if the newsroom facade was peeled away permanently?
What if news anchors and correspondents truly represented the socio-economic as well as racial and ethnic diversity of our country, and they came to work dressed in Carhartt, Levis, Loft, Gap, Express, and Champion? As it is now, most of the correspondents look scrubbed and coiffed in their LL Bean and Talbots, while the anchors are way over-represented by the successful attorney or suburban country club look. Before the pandemic it made me chuckle when news anchors, dressed by their wardrobe departments, would interview newspaper reporters. The print journalists are often so rumpled and casual that a close-up would likely reveal spilled soup or sandwich juice on their shirt.
With the sudden domestication of news anchors, I felt much more willing to welcome them into my home. Glamorous perfection had always been a boundary of separation between them in their studio castle, and me in my house. Whereas Mr. Rogers worked hard to be that guy who might climb out of the glass and sit at your kitchen table, news anchors from CNN, FOX, CBS, and NBC are so manicured and elegant they would be out of place in most of our homes. But now we have seen them in their homes, at least some of them, and while some have magnificent kitchens, studies, and living rooms well beyond the norm, the normalcy of their faces and unstyled hair muted the distance between us.
I would like to hear Southern drawls, Midwestern twangs, or Brooklyn brogues coming from behind those desks and reporter’s microphones, instead of the homogeneous preppydom applied to people when they go to Yale, Stanford, or Northwestern. How about some anchors, commentators, and correspondents who went Ball State (David Letterman), American River College (Guy Fieri), Chabot College (Tom Hanks), Manhattan Community College (Queen Latifah), or San Jose City College (Amy Tan)? How about a plumber, mechanic, or farmer trained for reporting, who could deliver the story with a different perspective and speak a more common language? Let’s democratize the airwaves while we go about cleaning out the White House and Congress.