The Downside to Being Part of the Media

I have worked in media my entire career, and the beauty of that choice is the ability to share my experiences and be familiar with my audience. When a listener comes up to me and says they feel like I am one of their friends because they have heard about my life on air, I let them know they are correct and it’s okay for us to feel close in the moment. However, there is a downside to being part of media and its the ability for people to feel comfortable with me.

I was at an appearance the other day at a local grocery store and a man walked up to me and asked if I was Melissa Carter. I said yes, and despite confirming his suspicion he still appeared confused. Here it comes, I thought, since I recognize that expression. It usually means something insulting is on the way, and the person’s comfort with me has dissolved any filter she or he may have with another stranger.

“I thought you were gray,” he said.

I smiled and said, “Nope, just blonde.”

He continued his argument that my hair was the wrong color, saying that pictures of me look gray. I wasn’t sure what to say and just smiled, and after a few awkward seconds I finally thanked him for stopping by. The hint finally worked and he shook my hand and went shopping.

It happens all the time. Mostly when people let me know that they either don’t listen to my particular radio station or don’t listen to radio at all when they meet me. Seriously, do you even realize how insulting this is? It is the equivalent of my telling a Coke employee that I prefer Pepsi, or an accountant that I really prefer doing my own taxes. Regardless if these facts are true, you simply don’t say it to the person. It is rude, and there are plenty of rude people to those of us who work in radio or television.

There was a time I was at an appearance with my entire morning show team and as one listener went down the line to shake all our hands she stopped in front of me, refusing to take mine. Leaning in, she whispered, “I’m not gay,” and walked away. Oh yes, I forgot gay people only shake other gay people’s hands.

I have been guilty of passing judgment on those far more famous than myself. For some reason I have felt completely in the right analyzing a celebrity’s life and made choices in what I watch and listen to based on it. The difference is I would never say the negative things I think to their face. Of course if I ever met one of these celebrities I likely wouldn’t say anything at all because I would be awestruck.

I love my job, and my favorite part of the job is talking with listeners. Those odd moments with certain loosed-tongued folks don’t ruin my affection for them, but when they do happen I am fascinated at these individuals’ need to be candid. It brings to mind age-old advice from youth:

When you have nothing nice – or flattering – to say, please, please don’t say anything at all.

Article originally published in the Georgia Voice.

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