Chef Hugh Acheson was on TV last week, and Mayor Kelly Girtz the week before. The 24-hour news cycle is interested in our town’s response to the pandemic, which means that anybody who has an opinion about it could wind up on TV. But, of course, these days you’re not invited into the studio; you have to Skype or Facetime or Zoom yourself into the frame directly from your home, constantly readjusting the picture and audio.
Initially, it seemed, everybody broadcasting from home had a shelf full of their old college textbooks behind them. As these home transmissions have progressed, the interlocutors have moved out into other areas of their residences and now are frequently ensconced in front of pleasingly arranged mantels or nooks hung with inviting paintings. “Morning Joe’s” John Heilemann even comes to us from his kitchen, with compliments from the hosts on how well he cleaned it up beforehand.
All this is to say, if you are in any danger of national TV hauling you onto the air from the privacy of your own home, you would be well advised to prepare beforehand, instead of just plopping down and starting to babble in whatever room you have set up shop.
My assumption is that you don’t get much warning. (Need to check this with Kelly.) So you might as well go on and get set up, so that you and your spouse won’t have to be lugging your desk out of the laundry room and unpacking your graduate school tomes. All you really need to do is look around your domicile and decide what image you want to project. Lighting is all-important, of course, so you’ll want the window in front of you, not behind. But this is the make-or-break question: Who are you? Expert? Art lover? Interior decorator?
If you do go with Expert, that probably means you have bought books since graduate school, and you’ll want those in the background to enhance the image you’re projecting. But what image do you want to project? Maybe you want to come across as an expert on government, so you’ve got to sort through your books and assemble those that lend gravitas to your comments on the state of society. On the other hand, you may want to downplay your stuffiness and throw in some popular novels and art books—maybe a couple of graphic novels and some winning family photos scattered throughout the shelf.
The important thing is to select titles written in large types that show up well. That means short. War and Peace. 1984. W. No matter how impressive, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire is just not going to show up well on a book spine.
Then, I guess you’ve got to give some thought to what you’re going to wear. You certainly don’t want to look like you put on a pantsuit every day to work at home, but, at the same time, pajamas are out. It’s the kind of basic decision men must make: Will I not be taken seriously if I don’t have on a coat and tie? Most people these days just compromise by wearing the white shirt and suit coat without the cravat. Basically, it makes them look like they just got home from church.
And then there’s hair. It always looks better after a shampoo, so you’ve got to wash your hair every morning, just so you don’t have to run to do it after you get the call, when you need to be moving the desk and arranging the books.
I’ve decided I’m just going to wear comfortable, dark clothes that show up well. I don’t have to worry about my hair. I think I will wear my glasses. I’ve got a lightweight table that I can plop down in front of the bookcase at a moment’s notice, and I’m going to fill one section with books that have short, big titles, whatever they’re about. My old friend Jim Meade always says, “Don’t never let ‘em get your number.” They’ll be so busy trying to figure out what all those book titles say about me, they won’t have any idea who I am.
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