Appropriate Attire in the Newsroom and A Guy Many People Traveled to Work With in Memphis Gets the Boot.

Just what is considered appropriate attire for those working on-air in a TV newsroom? There was a time when that question would never even be asked. But a sports guy in Baton Rouge may start asking after he got hit with a suspension for wearing blue jeans. I will admit I don’t know the particulars but it made me think about how the dress code has gotten more relaxed over the past 25 years I was in the business. It’s been growing in the corporate world for some time with Casual Fridays.
But back to my point. I remember seeing old clips of a man delivering the news while wearing a fedora. The folks may have been smoking a pipe or cigarette but they were always dressed in coat and tie unless by chance they covered breaking news. Even then they wore a dress shirt and tie.
Until I moved to Memphis, I was a stickler about being properly dressed when I anchored and wearing a tie when I was in the field reporting. When I did some one man band work in southeast Missouri I worked with one news director who told me he did NOT want to see me with my shirt sleeves rolled up at anytime on camera, even in the summer. He said if I was hot, I should wear a dress shirt with short sleeves and I should not have my collar and tie loosened at any time I was on camera. I personally thought that was a little extreme especially when I was talking to farmers in their fields and it was close to 100 degrees but “Hey” he was the boss.
When I got to Memphis, I got a lesson about proper attire when I covered the Memphis in May Barbecue Fest. I was wearing a dress shirt and it was so hot I had soaked through my shirt. The PR person finally gave me a MIM T-shirt to put on so I would be cooler. I didn’t stand out like a sore thumb after I put it on.
I finally got it. Dress for the occasion. I still wore a coat and tie on most stories but I also carried a pair of jeans and a nice short sleeved shirt to change into when I went into the field. Years later when a videographer and I showed up at a shoot in the Great Smoky Mountains for a black bear relocation story, the folks involved seemed to be amazed. They told us we were the first TV news crew they had worked with who came dressed appropriately for a story in the mountains. They said most of the time they had news guys coming out in coat and ties and some of the news women had shown up in a skirt and heels.
Time now for a disclosure: The last few years I worked Down on the River I would show up at work once a week with a coat, dress shirt and tie and either bluejeans or shorts. There was a reason for that. Once a week, after getting off the morning show, I would go out with the crew from our NC3 Outdoors and tape the INs and OUTs for that week’s show. At first I used to change from shorts or bluejeans to dress slacks but sometimes we got back just before the Noon show and I barely had time to get my dress shirt and tie on and get on set. I was told more than once that when I wore shorts and a coat and tie that I reminded people of Angus Young of AC-DC.
I still insisted on wearing a coat and tie when I anchored and Hurricane Elvis changed that when it hit on 7/22/2003 and knocked out power for several days to the station. Our generator could only power the necessary equipment to keep us on the air and could not power air conditioning. I wore shorts every day and the mosquitoes came in through open doors and congregated under the news desk where they feasted on my bare legs, managing to find the only places I hadn’t sprayed with repellant. I was finally told by the GM to take off my sport coat when I was on set.
I actually felt kind of naked without my coat on set. I know that some sports guys have worn sports shirts to do their thing on set but I always liked the coat and tie look on camera while on the set. Sometimes I think we’ve gotten too casual.
And switching gears, I see longevity and loyalty don’t carry much weight in the radio business these days. Longtime WMC FM 100 personality Steve Conley got the boot Monday after the new owners of the station took over. He had been around since 1979 and is truly a nice guy. I know parents would listen to the Ron, Steve and Karen as they took their kids to daycare or school. Now once they dropped off the kids some of those parents might switch over to someone like Drake and Zeke which has more adult oriented fare but the morning show at FM 100 has a loyal following. And it’s not necessarily about the music. People can get music from a variety of places anymore from IPods to CDs. People tune in for a variety of reasons and it’s usually something akin to sharing the ride with old friends who joined them by way of the radio.
On the plus side, SC is well known in the market and he wants to stay in Memphis so he shouldn’t have too much trouble landing back on radio if he can find a station that isn’t owned by this group. Expanding ownership in markets does make that problematic though. And if he decides to go elsewhere, I think he could find a sport with a company looking for a spokesperson. Either way it goes, good luck with it Steve.

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17 Comments on “Appropriate Attire in the Newsroom and A Guy Many People Traveled to Work With in Memphis Gets the Boot.”

  1. Tommy Stafford Says:

    Wow, Steve Conley gone from FM-100. I’d expect nothing less from the corporate rocket scientists running both radio and television stations these days. Conley is a class act and obviously the new management team has again missed knowing their listeners. I agree Joe, he won’t have any problem being picked up by someone else if he so chooses. I listened to that guy for years from my previous home up in NW-TN before moving to Virginia.

    As for the dress code, I agree the anchors should always be nicely dressed in the studio. However, I always laugh when I see these reporters at floods, interviewing farmers, on a prison break, etc in their suit and shiny shoes. Or high heels!

    I heard it for years from the people I once covered out in the DMA. They always felt those types were out of touch with the regular people and certainly with the person they were interviewing. I personally like to see the anchors, reporters, weather people, etc loosen up a bit from time to time. It makes them more approachable and viewers like to know they are just like them… Or maybe that’s the problem. Many reporters and television folks these days think they are much more important than the poeple watching.

    Note to ND about the sports guy wearing jeans, loosen up. It’s sports, not the supreme court!

  2. Anonymous Says:

    Hi Joe, Leon Griffin once left FM-100 and ended up doing the weather gig at Fox 13. Henry Nelson, Greg Hamilton, Keith Hembrick and others left there and did well so I agree, Steve should end up with something good before long. Look at Jim Jaggers! (DJ makes good on TV)
    On another note: You and Joe Birch have to be the tops as far as well groomed for the viewing audience. May have been some other motive, but you 2 seemed to “do it for the fans” and it is/was appreciated. The mosquitos from the river have their own air traffic controllers!
    ………..JD

  3. Anonymous Says:

    One of my pet peeves is the folks at the Weather Channel. First is the way the women dress. Most of the guys look nice and wear traditional “TV clothes” as in jacket and ties. Most of the women look like they are dressed to go out on the town after work. There are some exceptions but I mostly hear myself remarking about the women -“Why would she wear that???” Second is the color coordination thing that they make the morning people do. It is really silly and distracts from the people themselves. Fortunately I’m waiting for the maps for the most part…..

  4. Joe Larkins Says:

    I’m glad you mentioned the Weather Channel. My lovely and talented bride has remarked for years that those folks on the morning portion of TWC must have been OVER-consulted. She says it used to be just two of the folks who are color-coordinated but in recent weeks the second woman is now matching them on colors. She says it strikes her as childish that they must all match and it reminds her of back when the members of pop/rock bands all dressed alike when they went on stage. So, do these folks call each other at night to figure out what each other plans to wear. Does the guy just keep a rack of ties at work in case someone changes her mind?
    And then there is the matter of what some of the women are wearing on TWC. You’re right that the guys all look professional in coat and tie but some of the women look like they are on the prowl. Nothing wrong with that except that IMHO it doesn’t look very professional on TV.
    At the station DOTR there was always what I called the Miss Rachel Test. Miss Rachel, the Newsroom secretary/administrator would sometimes pull female reporters or anchors to the side and talk to them about their attire if she felt it didn’t project professionalism and might reflect poorly on the station. She would also talk to the guys as well but heaven help the female who flashed too much cleavage or looked a bit on the trashy side when they came in to work.
    Every newsroom needs a Ms. Rachel. I always respected her and her opinion.

  5. AMNewsBoy Says:

    Steve Conley gone… wow, that’s almost as surprising as Bob Barker retiring. (OK, Bob wasn’t quite as much of a surprise, but work with me here.) I had thought they’d become a little soccer-mom towards the end of the 90s, but not having “Ron and Steve in the Morning” on Memphis radio just isn’t the same.

    As for anchor dress… I do agree with the “dress for the occasion” theory (although I know some anchors who wear jeans under the desk)… but I’m ambivalent about station logo outerwear. Witness CNN’s “hurricane gear”, with logos as big as the reporter’s faces… IMHO, I think I’d rather see a reporter wearing a simple coat than the station branding, s’all…

  6. bishop Says:

    I noticed this week that Markova and Chris have been matching. They both had on red today. I wonder what’s that all about?

  7. jamey tucker Says:

    I think it’d be cool if news teams dressed like the Commodores

  8. Joe Larkins Says:

    JT,
    I will assume you mean the musical group and not Vandy, although as an alumna my lovely and talented bride might like that. If you are talking about anchors dressing like the group should the news theme music be “Brickhouse”?

  9. Anonymous Says:

    I am one of the soccer moms who turned in to listen to FM 100 with Steve,Ron and Karen. They were my morning coffee friends and now there is just someone missing. Guess the soccer moms and dad are not important to the station. Sad, you would think a soccer mom would have more money to spend on those products/services advertised on FM100 than some supposed younger market.

  10. Joe Larkins Says:

    I would think that since so many women control the purse strings in families, especially those in what I consider the soccer mom range, managers would be doing everything they could to keep them happy. Still, it’s all about the bottom line and if they think they can do pretty much the same with less, they’ll opt for less everytime.

  11. Anonymous Says:

    different subject. this regards nighty news’ visit to Memphis. did you see it? I think it was a little skewed toward Ford. They used an extreme email to start their show in an effort to make Conservatives look crazy. They should have gone live from Nashville, the state capitol and a neutral area. Williams should have spent part of this day with Corker and part with Ford. Having the two shots with Ford and Williams looks like favoritism. All in all though it was interesting.

  12. Joe Larkins Says:

    I didn’t see it and I’m disappointed I didn’t remember to TIVO it as I knew it would happen. Isn’t FOX News and Shep Smith supposed to be in Memphis as well?
    As for the news being one-sided toward Ford, I’m starting to wonder: Is there such a thing as truly Fair & Balanced by anybody? Everybody and I mean everybody seems to have an agenda these days.

  13. John Says:

    Yep, Joe, FOX and Shepard Smith will be in Germantown tomorrow for his 2 and 6 PM show. Ford is supposed to be doing a live interview on there, and Corker is apparently going to be in town (13 is promoting an interview w/him tomorrow on their morning show)so he might be as well.

    I’ve heard many people complaining about NBC’s visit to Memphis being unfair, yet nothing about FOX. As far as geography is concerned, Germantown is not that much different than Memphis, for purposes of this national broadcast they will probably be considered one in the same. Interesting indeed…

  14. Anonymous Says:

    I would think Germantown would be considered more of a conserveative area than Memphis is.

  15. geno722 Says:

    Joe, I do miss you on TV, and I agree – it’s a shocker that Conley got sacked. He was my favorite DJ on FM100. On the subject of anchor dress: at least on the weekends, Atlanta TV anchors have done field reporting in golf shirts, blue jeans, and blazers for a while now. And…if you remember the reports from my hometown of New Orleans during the Katrina disaster, Brian Williams sure wasn’t wearing a coat and tie!

  16. Cookegirl2 Says:

    Hi Joe! You answered both of my questions. I have been missing you and Steve.

  17. Tina Sansone Says:

    I had emailed fm100 to see where Steve was and now I know. Sorry, Ron and Karen, the show is not the same. The crazy comments between Ron & Steve cracked me up every morning. It just is not the same. I’ve found myself more than once checking out “The River”. Hope I find out where Steve will be and I’ll check him out there. He will be missed. If FM 100 was smart they’d get him back soon…

    Tina Sansone
    Germantown, TN


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