Star Tribune columnist inappropriately shames TV journalist

How an anchor covering a Minnesota tragedy was only seen for fashion expression

More stories from Sadie Sedlmayr

When watching breaking news on your television screens, do you tune in for contents of the story or who’s covering the story? According to an anonymous Star Tribune gossip columnist, “C.J. Columnist,” if you want to be a respected female journalist in this country, you need to choose your wardrobe wisely.

C.J. had taken it upon herself to write a pillar piece criticizing and publicly shaming, news anchor Jana Shortal, for sporting skinny jeans during her coverage of the tragic kidnapping case of Jacob Wetterling.

“Being hip in skintight pants while discussing this story was unseemly, perhaps disrespectful,” C.J. said.

She’d be right if she wasn’t being such a hypocrite. Who is she to deem what is and isn’t respectable attire when broadcasting stories? I have to shake my head in disbelief at this woman’s entitlement because I didn’t know she was an expert on other people’s wardrobe choices for work. Just because she’s a journalist herself doesn’t make her the expert on what another pupil in her field should wear. For her to think such a thing is wrong on so many levels.

Further on in the column piece, C.J. said Shortal’s outfit was “inappropriate” considering the serious issue in which she was reporting on.

“She looked great from the waist up in a polka-dot shirt and cool blazer, but the skinny jeans did not work,” C.J. writes. “I was among a number of media types who found them inappropriate and, given the gravity of the day’s subject matter, downright jarring.”

On a side note, I guess myself and all future women reporters should be taking notes because this would be news to us that there is now a standard way to dress for work.

The irony in C.J.’s statement is this: while other media outlets were reporting on the heartbreak of an 11-year-old lost boy’s remains being found 17 years after he went missing, she was the only one to focus on the attire of the source delivering the news. C.J., maybe without realizing it, or perhaps without caring, took something insignificant and made it the main focal point of a tragedy.

C.J. went on to describe the proper dress code for a female news anchor.

“Many TV types keep a spare set of clothes around the station just in case what they are wearing isn’t appropriate for what they end up covering,” she said. “Maybe Shortal doesn’t.”

I wonder what she means by “spare set of clothes” because that could mean anything. What if the second set of clothes I bring don’t meet this so-called “requirement type” that C.J. speaks of? It’s ridiculous to entertain this way of thinking. The simple fact of the matter is, there is absolutely no reason for any working-class American not to wear jeans. These days, jeans are used in many dressy occasions and that shouldn’t be subject to change because of one person’s biased, insensitive opinion.

“Do you wish you’d worn different jeans/pants @janashortal on Tuesday’s Breaking the News which dealt mostly with Jacob Wetterling’s death?” C.J. tweeted.

Shortal responded to this splurge of philistinism as best she could.

“I don’t know what my clothing has to do with covering the tragedy of Jacob’s death,” Shortal replied. “My only ‘wish’ on Tuesday was for Jacob’s family.”

This should have been C.J.’s concern all along. If she cared at all about what was actually being reported, then she would have never even made such a big deal about such a minor issue; someone else’s appearance. Why does she care, anyway? It’s not like she’s the voice of fashion. Shame on her for thinking otherwise.

Shortal responded to C.J. on Facebook further, where she refused to use the columnist’s name.

“I gave that newscast every single shred of hope and love I had for Jacob. For his family. And for every single one of you who was hurting. I left everything I had on that newsroom floor. And today. You took that away,” Shortal writes. “You made it about my pants.”

Star Tribune editors, in order to save face at the overwhelming negative reactions from their readers, immediately took down the story and made a public apology to Shortal.

“We briefly posted a column that criticized KARE’s Jana Shortal for her appearance while reporting on the Jacob Wetterling story. The piece was inappropriate, insensitive and did not meet the standards of the Star Tribune,” they said. “We have apologized to Ms. Shortal and her station. And we apologize to you.”
I don’t agree with any form of body shaming or style shaming in general and when it came out, this story made me emotional.

It angered me to my core, because it shouldn’t even be a story. I feel bad for the parents of the deceased boy because his tragedy was completely overshadowed by this lady’s selfish, unwarranted opinion. To me, the way I see it is C.J. wanted to make it about her and she accomplished just that, because now no one is talking about the Wetterling’s son anymore.

That the focus shifted to an examination of personal style was unacceptable. C.J. did herself and journalists all around no favors. Ultimately, her choice created a disservice to journalism, not Shortal.