It takes a thick skin to be a journalist. Trust us on that.
But sometimes, nastiness from viewers and readers cannot be ignored, and that’s the point St. Louis morning news anchorman Rene Knott reached on Tuesday.
During KSDK-5’s “Today in St. Louis,” Knott shared with viewers an email he had received from a man in St. Charles, Mo., that left him “a bit shocked.”
“I won’t mention his name,” Knott said.
Here’s what the viewer wrote: “To me you are not a good representative of the USA because of the hair on your face. You look like a thug. Shave the hair off your face prior to broadcasting the Olympics. If not, I won’t tune in while you are on the air.”
“I paused right there,” Knott said. “Thug? Me? Really? A 53-year-old college-educated professional, 31 years into my career, married for 30 years, both of my children are college graduates. A thug? Really?
“But instead of making this about me this is about stereotypes and code words. It is believed by many that thug is the new n-word. Well, Mr. ‘Brave Behind the Keyboard,’ I am neither. What I am is an American.
“We live in a land of diverse cultures. And believe it or not, in 2018, it’s OK if I don’t look like you, worship like you, dress like you, or even shave like you. It’s called freedom.
“I’m free to be me and I’m strong enough to continue being just the way I am. After all, a lot of people sacrificed and paid a high price for me to be able to stand here and deliver the news. “I think I’m a pretty good representative of the USA. You should ask yourself what do you really represent, my friend?”
The station posted his on-air statement on its Facebook page, where it attracted hundreds of reactions and shares.
Knott started at the station in 2004 as sports director, then moved to the morning show in 2016, according to the station’s website.
He played football for his alma mater, Southern Oregon State College, and worked in Medford, Ore.; Mobile, Ala; and Washington, D.C., before moving to St. Louis.
Knott’s co-anchor, Alexandra Corey, said the email “hit close to home for all of us.”
Knott said he didn’t share it publicly to call attention to himself.
“It was about exposing something that’s out there when I talk about these stereotypes and code words,” he said.
“Just as damaging as social media can be, it was very nice to hear the feedback of people being supportive and saying, ‘Hey, you do you and that’s all you need to be, yourself.’”
He said he responded to the man who sent the email — but only to point out he had misspelled his name by adding an extra “e” on Rene.
The man apologized for that.