Be careful out there!
October 2002

by Jim Parisi

There’s a major difference from being a journalist for print, radio and television that most of us never speak of, and many simply never realize. Television people are far more often targets of the obsessive. For those seeking fame, or even worse.

Most TV anchors have more than one story of being stalked. Most photojournalists have been followed while they were driving ‘marked’ news cars. No wonder my photogs in NY begged me to use un-marked cars when as News Director I was touting the merits of our vehicles as ‘moving billboards’.

We expect a certain amount of this in the bigger cities. In Hartford a few years ago, only two weeks on the job as anchor at WTIC-TV, my wife had her first ‘encounter’ with an obsessed ‘fan’. His telephone calls to the station, asking about her personal life, weren’t getting forwarded to her. So he drove there and asked to meet her. He tried delivering flowers. Then waited in the parking lot. Luckily station managers took it seriously and she got an escort to her car that night.

In Albany, before I was News Director there, a man who had more than a little attraction to one of the reporters came into the station with a gun. The situation was diffused by quick-thinking employees.

Even in South Bend, as anchor/news director, I was barraged with five letters a day from the same woman, every day, threatening me because she wrongly assumed I had fired her favorite anchor. It went on for months, with the police gathering each letter.

But I’m here to tell you that in the tiniest of markets the situation is more dangerous. In these sleepy towns where you’d never expect to have to watch your back, is where you should be most on guard. Whether you’re a photographer, reporter or anchor. In beautifully quaint small towns most viewers treat us like movie stars, like celebrities. And therein lies the danger.

In New York and other major markets, people view TV news with a cynicism. Often they’re simply not impressed. Viewers are more informed, too, and they see anchors, photographers and reporters as just professionals, doing a job much like their own.

Not so in Clarksburg, West Virginia. Prison inmates routinely wrote to our on-air talent there, infatuated by our attractive female talent. There, when we walked into a store people gushed and pointed at the “TV anchors”. We were treated so special by everyone it was almost like a fairytale existence.

No doubt Jennifer Servo was excited about her first on-air job. The start of her own fairytale life. She moved from Montana to Abilene, Texas at just 22 years old, full of promise and excitement. Hired by a man I respected enough to bring in as my assistant News Director some years ago in Albany, New York. He is a strong, kind person with a big heart, who isn’t sleeping much these days. Jennifer, his newest on-air employee, was on the job just two months when she was murdered. This week I read with sadness the Montana newspaper account of her funeral. The first sentence reads this way:

“Jennifer Lynn Servo was loved by her friends and family for her impish wit and goofy laugh, her courage in moving to her first job at KRBC-TV in Abilene, and her ambition to be famous.'

Let this serve as a sad reminder for those who strive ‘to be famous’ in this industry that there are inherent dangers involved.

So be careful out there.

© Jim Parisi

(Jim Parisi dabbles in television news management where he specializes in interactive news, is a former anchor/reporter, and is the editor of

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