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Media Mistakes - I Knew it and Blew it
By Brenda Nixon   Printer Friendly Version

In my hometown of Kansas City, I do a regular TV segment on Wednesdays. During our noon news, I speak on a parenting issue.

This assignment came on the heels of an interview with the station's news anchor. She did a feature on my toilet teaching audiotape. Then while on maternity leave, she encountered the desperate lack of practical parenting on the news. Upon her return to work she called to propose I do this weekly segment.

Although it's live, I don't panic. Having appeared on network affiliated and cable programs I feel somewhat competent. I am not a media expert but from experience and feedback I am learning what works, what doesn't, what to do, and avoid.

For instance, one week, my teenager counseled, Mom, don't wear white. But it's summer and white is an appropriate choice, I countered. The camera already puts on 10 pounds and that white blouse will make you look even bigger, she explained. I knew TV makes people look larger and I still wore white.

While reviewing the clip of my segment I gasped in horror. My eyes watched as a well-coifed, slender news anchor discussed parenting concerns with an intelligent, puffy marshmallow. I knew it, still blew it, but learned through it. And have never worn total white again.

Other on camera no-no's are plaids and stripes. These minute patterns can wreak havoc on the tube. It's best to wear solids in brown, blue, gray, or fuscha. Sound boring? If you're a man you jazz up your suit with a rowdy tie. Women can add lively accessories or a contrasting color. First Lady Laura Bush's inaugural suit, of royal blue with black collar, was camera friendly.

Some colors look different to home viewers. Navy blue often appears black, green can look yellow or neon. I'm learning through review of clips which colors transpose. Uncommon hues like purple are not taboo, just practice wearing a little then watch a clip of your on air appearance to see how it appears.

With women, cosmetics can be a blessing . . . or a blunder. For some reason, the camera removes my top lip. So I take advantage of lip liner. In person, I probably look like the former Tammy Faye Bakker but on camera I've a proportioned mouth. If you tend to flush when nervous pat on extra foundation on face and neck. Unless you're on a network program with a makeup artist for guests, be careful what color you put on your face. Use caution with bright or too much eye shadow remembering colors can turn.

Since studio lights generate a great deal of heat, I wear more face powder than when speaking from the platform. Most television personalities, even men, wear pancake makeup. Its pasty consistency evens out facial disparities and absorbs excess moisture.

The good news is that some minor flaws do not appear. The first time I met another station's anchor I was surprised to see his teeth stains. On television his looked pearly white. Unless it's a sustained head-shot, like the infamous Monica Lewinsky interview, your unsightly details won't be detected. Spare yourself the worry.

Another instance of humble learning took place recently. My teenager accompanied me to the studio and sat off stage while I did my segment. I was feeling pretty casual but forgot what I knew. I knew to sit erect. However, during the entire three minute segment -- which is a good amount on TV -- I hunched forward on the desk with full weight supported by my left arm. After the segment I asked, How'd it look, Lynsey? Well, she hesitated, you leaned on your arm and it made you look like a body builder. Besides that Mom, she continued, it looked like you had part of your anatomy in a headlock.

Poise is extremely important. I knew it and blew it. When the camera is on, sit straight yet relaxed. A pillow behind the back can help. Some people sit on a telephone book.

If you naturally move your hands while talking, go ahead, but avoid exaggerated gestures. Finally, smile! Look at your interviewer or, if instructed, directly into the camera and you'll project confidence.

Fortunately, the public is forgiving or forgetful. Following my body builder episode the phone rang with invitations to speak. Content must have overcome mistakes. Now I hope you know it and don't blow it.

Copyright 2001, Brenda Nixon

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