THE BLOG
02/02/2007 11:25 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Melissa Summers: Not (So) Afraid Anymore and a Whole Lot Wiser

The other day, Melissa Summers, a fellow blogger whom I've had the
pleasure of meeting and interviewing in person, went on the Today Show.
To understand what that means, you'd have to know that Melissa doesn't
even like to speak on the phone with people, let alone meet in person,
because she feels she might make a fool of herself. She shines
particularly bright through her writing, where you get a strong sense of
who she is and what it's like to walk in her shoes. Thousands of people
read her daily because her honesty flies right off the screen and into
their hearts. For Melissa to gather the courage to go on live television
and speak with the likes of Meredith Viera and a woman with a doctorate
degree took guts. And when she first wrote about it on her blog, you
knew that the blogging community was behind her. We were rooting for
her. One of 'Us' got a break. Who knew what the exposure could do for
her and her writing? Or 'Us' simply by knowing her? The trickle down
effect is a reality in the blogging community where the simple act of
linking to someone can push them to a new level of exposure, which leads
to more readers, which in some cases equals more income for those who
have ads on their site or new print writing opportunities for those that
pursue that. Anytime something good happens to one of us, it can feel
like it's happening to all of us.

I know I wasn't the only one that was surprised at the obvious slanted
'reporting' for Melissa's segment. Yes, it was about mothers who drink
alcohol, which I suppose at first glance, could look like an incendiary
topic. But really, I don't believe there is a single mother out there
who doesn't know a mother that has an occasional drink and sometimes
when their children are in the room. Every person knows people that
drink responsibly and people that don't. And here is what I think: it
doesn't matter and it wasn't even the point.

The Today Show saw a topic that they could use for ratings. They used it
to get people to watch. They edited the segment to show that moms who
drink around their kids are lushes by having the video shot near large
wine bottles with the focus on a young child nearby. From the look of
the footage, you would think that these women are carting around gallons
of wine and pouring glass after glass at the playground. None of that is
surprising, I guess. We are talking about television here. But, they
asked Meredith Viera to point the questions towards making the woman
with the doctorate look smarter and even went so far as writing 'Mother
of 4, Doctor' under her image whenever she was on screen. What did they
put under Melissa's name? 'Mother of 2, Pro Blogger'? How about 'Read by
Thousands of Internet Readers'? No. They simply put 'blogger.' They
didn't even put her blog domain up for people to find her online.

Now, if prior to her appearance on the Today Show, they had told Melissa
that she would be pitted against a doctor who's belief was that having a
glass of wine around children was akin to abuse and mediated by a woman
hoping to get as many viewers for her segment as possible (even if she
asked questions that put her entire I'm-An-Understanding-Mom Image and
Fellow Female Blogger Cultivator Image into question), would Melissa
have chosen to go on? Maybe. Maybe not. But if she did, she would have
been prepared. She would have figured out the best way to say what she
meant. She would have had time to think of responses to questions in
case they were asked. And she wouldn't have felt tricked. It is Meredith
Viera's decision if she wants to be a party to a TV segment that divides
women and slants it towards ratings. And it should have been Melissa's
choice to attend.

When I spoke to Melissa, she told me that the worst part of the entire
experience was being naively misled about the purpose of the segment.
She said, "I'm not angry about how i was portrayed, I am angry about the
way the subject was handled in such black and white terms definitely
skewed against mothers who feel they can handle a drink and their
children. The manipulation of viewers really doesn't sit well with me."

I asked her what she would change if she could go back. "I would have
been more prepared for anything and ready to ask the questions Meredith
Viera was not." And as far as learning lessons and moving forward? "In
the future, no matter how kind a television producer or reporter is, I
will not take their word as anything but hot air. It could have been a
lot worse, but my naiveté about the whole thing was risky."

What she's learned will help out the rest of us bloggers. Thank God for
the trickledown effect in the blogging world. And thank you, Melissa,
for being a pioneer. Your bravery has helped us all get a little smarter
and a little wiser.

Read Melissa at suburbanbliss.net