Monday, October 08, 2012

Minerva Perez talks TV anchor bullying

No doubt you've heard of the La Crosse, Wisconsin television anchor bullying incident and subsequent response from WKBT News 8's Jennifer Livingston. Livingston's on air statement went viral and landed her on the network morning shows.

The anchor bullying event struck a chord with one Houston talk show host and former TV anchor. Minerva Perez, host of Latina Voices, and former KTRK 13 Houston and KTLA 5 Los Angeles anchor, contacted me to share her experiences on the subject with you.

The following is a guest blog post from Minerva Perez:

Jennifer Livingston is NOT ALONE

Watching La Crosse, Wisconsin anchor Jennifer Livingston deliver what will go down as one of the gutsiest editorials in the annals of TV news, in response to hate mail about her weight from a male viewer, struck a chord with me. As a former News Anchor at Top 10 Markets, who had similar experiences throughout my career, I cheered her on while at the same time was reminded of similar real life experiences throughout my career.

She is not alone.

From the beginning of my career in a small Rio Grande Valley market, which was 95% Latino and from where all my family hails, I was questioned about the way I used a Spanish pronunciation of my name, correctly and accurately rolling the rrrr’s in both my first and last names: Minerva Pérez...sacrosanct where I come from.

My nickname as a kid was Minnie, Minnie Mouse and Mini Skirt. Would viewers take me seriously if I used nicknames? I was supposed to come across as a serious Journalist.

After leaving the Valley, and moving to the mid-size market of San Antonio and away from family and friends, the catty comments started coming. Some of my colleagues, especially, laughed and sniped behind my back. I knew it and I ignored it. My news director brought me in and said “perhaps you should consider the way you say your name.” I ignored him. I refused to homogenize my name and identity for the sake of my job and instead stayed true to my heritage. It was the decade of the Hispanics, after all.

Several markets later, and arriving in the 2nd largest TV Market in the country of Los Angeles, the hate or bullying heated up. It was there, the biggest Latino market next to Mexico City that the hate mail started arriving. “You’re too Latina,” one cowardly and anonymous person wrote. Another suggested I should “go back to México!” As Anchor Jen openly told the author of her egregious email and her viewers, “you don’t know me.” Little did my haters know I am a 4th generation Texan, whose family goes back hundreds of years…before Tejas was taken by the Texians. The common Tejano saying goes, “the border crossed us.” We still own part of a major land grant.

Consistently, some colleagues in all the TV markets where I worked, friends, I wrongly thought, generated some of this bullying. In one market, one co-anchor with an air of much superiority, turned to me and pointedly asked, “Why do you say your name that way?” A not-so-kind, icy query. Another one would encounter me in the hallway and loudly mimic me, “Minerrrrrva Pérrrrrez.” I laughed as his insulting words. Another one said the way I pronounced my name “jarred the ear.” Jarred the ear? This, while they all went out of their way to correctly pronounce Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. They went crazy with French names. Latino names? Not so much.

Conversely, I also received a lot of praise from Latinos in every community in which I worked. They loved that I represented them proudly in what they considered a not-so-welcoming “white world.” To see me on TV was to see themselves.

Jennifer Livingston’s criticism by a male viewer is typical and discriminatory. Only female anchors are targeted. There are many men, some currently on national and local TV, who could use a trim down.

Why don’t viewers approach them about their weight? Not an issue when it comes to male anchors. The question is WHY?

For a time, due to chronic illness and badly prescribed medications, not to mention Menopause, I too was a “plump anchor.” Sadly, men in TV can’t or won’t understand that one. Neither does the average Joe. One male viewer picked up the phone, called in and told the AP that answered, “tell Minerva she’s been eating too many cookies.” I was 7 months pregnant for darn sake! Even a local columnist took it upon himself to send a message. Without naming names, the columnist wrote about “plump anchors.” It, no doubt, came from the inside as a veiled message to me. That is bullying and to top it off, it was done in a cowardly fashion.

To describe what happened to me for years, is now described as “bullying,” the new catch phrase. I was a victim my entire career and chose to ignore it for fear of more personal attacks. So cheers to Jennifer Livingston who chose not to. She’s speaking for all of us who were “bullied” then and now.

Minerrrrva Pérrrrez
Executive Producer/Show Creator
Latina Voices: Smart Talk
Past President of the Houston Association of Hispanic Media Professionals HAHMP
Lifetime member, National Association of Hispanic Journalists NAHJ

- Former KTRK anchor Minerva Perez to KHOU 11
- Former KTRK 13 anchor Minerva Perez talks to Mike McGuff about new show, U2
- Houston TV anchor sampled by U2


  1. Awwww. Guess I'd be more sympathetic if a then-svelte Minerva hadn't burst into Houston and KTRK openly going after Shara Fryer and Melanie Lawson's jobs, making derogatory comments about their various physical shortcomings. And there's not a Latino/a on-air personality who hasn't gone through what she's experienced. It's called ignorance and/or racism, and it's on a different plane from bullying. Get over yourself, Minnie. Being on-air is an unforgiving business, and with some exceptions, men face the same scrutiny. Why do you think Bob Boudreaux is no longer anchoring but Art Rascon and Eric Barajas are?

  2. Oh please . . . "I was a victim my entire career." Cry me a river. You rose to positions in some of the top markets in the U.S. (Houston and LA) based on both your skills and your ethnicity - making more money than probably 80 percent of the U.S. population - and now you want to cry that you're a "victim"????? Wish I could be a victim. This is part of the growing need to be either constantly offended or victimized, and it's pathetic. Jennifer Livingston was brave, but you're just whining. Stop, please - just stop. It's embarrassing.

  3. I sympathize and empathize with Minerva. You go Girl. It is OK to be ethnic as long as you don't wear it on your sleeve a la Melanie, Art and many others. You can be conservative as heck a la Greg Hurst and be praised for your words. But let a black anchor be on screen with an afro or braids and they will be criticized for being too ethnic just as Minerva and other Latinos are ridiculed for pronouncing Latin words correctly. BTW, I don't think Bob Boudreaux is a good example...

  4. Ellma Barrera had her beat big time on the rolling rrrr's

  5. Minnie... all those years ago, I had no idea you were going through similar things that I was going through at that small Rio Grande Valley market station.

    I'm also sorry that my brother contributed to your unhappiness during those years. He was very ill, and I didn't realize it then. He is now deceased.

    God bless you... always.

    C. C.