Can the Word “Uppity” Be Considered Racist & First Steps Toward a Career in the TV Business

As I write this, I’m listening to CNN (you may have heard that someone considers it to be the most trusted name in news) and I’ve heard where there is a big uproar over the word “uppity”.  It seems that a congressman from Georgia (Lynn Westmoreland) used that term to describe Barack and Michelle Obama.  Some folks don’t see this as a big deal, especially those who grew up in the North.  Having grown up in the southern part of the U-S in a rural setting, the word “uppity” in reference to black people was usually derogatory in nature.  Don’t get me wrong, anyone who has spent any time around me knows that I’m not much on being politically correct.  But I am a realist and when a congressman from Georgia starts using phrases like “uppity” to describe a black couple, it sends a message to me that the Obamas don’t know their place and need to get back to it right away.  This IS 2008 isn’t it?

This past weekend I served as Director for Helium Resources for one of my wife’s marketing clients at the Germantown Festival.  My duties involved moving some large helium tanks and then inflating more balloons than you can shake a stick at over the course of two days.  While engaged as DHR, I happened to notice what could have been a union crew shooting video not too far away.  I say they could have been a union crew since there were about four or five people involved and that didn’t include the “talent” who by the way was dressed in a sport coat, tie, khaki slacks, perfectly coiffed hair, etc. They had one person shooting video, somebody else looking into a separate monitor, one person standing around with a reflector (which wasn’t being used) and two older folks watching everything.  Turns out everyone except for the older folks were students at Germantown High School and I deduced they were with GTV.  I’ve never laid eyes on the GTV operation but have heard good things about it.  Several folks now in the TV business have gone through their program and gone on to bigger and better things.  So when there was a lull in my duties as DHR, I watched what was going on.  I’m not sure if there was a problem with the production or with the talent or a combination of the two but they shot for what seemed to be a while.  I actually felt sorry for the talent as he was all dressed up and Saturday was a nice but fairly warm day.  Hey, anybody who has worked in front of the camera has been there and done that.

Sunday, I was wrapping up at the festival and was walking toward the “Weenie Dog” races (no, I didn’t bet any money)  when I saw a full blown TV production set outside one of the buildings in the park and once again it was manned by students.  They had from what I could see was a three camera set-up complete with prompters, folks manning each camera, probably a floor director and two young ladies serving as talent conducting an interview with someone.  The “talent” was dressed to the nines like Ole Miss coeds headed to a homecoming football game and again I felt sorry for them because on Sunday it was really hot.

Why and I writing all about this?  Well, they’re starting down that path toward a career in the TV business.  But I think they will be surprised once they get past college when they find that there’s “school” and then there’s the real world.  Let’s say they end up in commercial TV news.  It’s possible they could find themselves working a One Man Band/Video Journalist situation.  It’s also possible they could end up working as part of a two man crew on one side of the camera or another.  There they’ll learn to be a little faster on those stories, especially if they expect to get a lunch break before they get sent to another story.

Should they find themselves in a studio setting, they could find (depending on the market size) where they write and produce their own newscasts, set up their own studio cameras and then lock them down,  run their own prompters.  (Heck there are some people in Memphis who produce and anchor their own news shows and may run their own prompters as well.)  They may find it’s rather lonely in the studio where one person may be running three cameras if there is anyone there at all.

Still, these folks at GTV have a leg up on many of those wanting to get into the TV business.  They will enter college with hands-on experience.  That coupled with experience gained in college and melded with an internship at a local TV station can practically guarantee a foot or perhaps an entire body inside the door.  I don’t know who these dozen or so students are at GTV, but someday when they hit the big time I can say I saw them take their first steps toward a career in the glamorous and high paying world of TV.

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5 Comments on “Can the Word “Uppity” Be Considered Racist & First Steps Toward a Career in the TV Business”

  1. Pam Crittendon Roberson Says:

    Joe,

    I’m surprised you resisted the urge to run at the young hopefuls, arms flailing, yelling “Run!! Run like the wind!!”

  2. joelarkins Says:

    No, there are some things that even I won’t do. That would be akin to clubbing baby seals or stomping baby chicks, Besides, think back to the time when you were a young fresh-faced high schooler or college age student with dreams of stardom in TV land. If some old guy with gray hair came up to you to try to dissuade you from pursing a career in TV news, you would have laughed and thought “this person just doesn’t want me to share in the excitement”.
    No, this is a journey of discovery that everyone must make on his or her own.

  3. Doug Johnson Says:

    What – they had seal clubbing? I shoulda gone. What, no? Never mind.

    Having lived in Georgia (although not in Mr. Westmoreland’s district), I have to say I wasn’t surprised when his press flack claimed that the Congressman did not know that the word “uppity” would be offensive to some people. However, while not surprised, I also think it’s a bunch of noise with no bearing on the truth. When a white person in the south uses the term “uppity” to describe black people, that person KNOWS someone will be offended. Or they’re an idiot. Both things might be true in this instance. The necks with red in them in Georgia are just as red as they are anywhere else (Apologies to those with some red in their necks who have better sense than to use that phrase).

    And on the GHS TV front – we had gasoline-powered manual 3/4″ videotape decks when I was in college – so bless these kids if they have the chance to experience the right way to do things. Even if it’s the only time in their lives they’ll see it.

  4. Paul Bogan Says:

    I was interested to read this, especially the “uppity” bit. I’ve always thought that behind McCain’s frequent complaints about Obama’s “elitism,” and calling Obama an “elitist” have been a thinly disguised thrust at what he’d like to call Obama (“uppity”). McCain, unlike Westmoreland, at least won’t go so far as to say it, even if he’s hinted around it frequently.

    Good blog, by the way.

  5. Kalup Phillips Says:

    I love reading blogs of anchors and reporters (currently or retired). I hop to be a reporter/anchor and I love seeing and reading about the behind the scenes stuff that your broadcast journalism professors don’t tell you about. I like how people are honest. a lot of my classmates think that the job is going to be glamorous and fun but I am preparing myself for the years at small market stations. (maybe i might make it to a gig in a bigger city.)


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