We are all on camera. We may be sheltering indoors in the age of COVID-19, but we are showing our stuff on Zoom. It is a curated and revealing picture of who we really are.
We are meeting, partying, praying, even mourning online. Our appearances on screens big and small speak for, and to, us.
The necessity of communicating in quarantine is opening our inner lives in intimate and personal ways, warts and all.
My mother tells me that her friends, all ladies of a certain advanced age, get gussied up in glittering attire to sip and dish at a weekly Zoom cocktail hour.
As a veteran of the news business, I know visualization is vital. Now, I work entirely from home. I struggle to get the right “look” when I appear on the screen as a political analyst, panelist and moderator.
Do I appear in the living room, home office or kitchen? Lamplight or sunlight? What colors should I wear? Should the jewelry be understated or statement? A vase of blossoms in the background?
I am a zealous student of “the look” offered on television and other public events in quarantine.
Bookcases showcasing tomes with consequential titles, I have learned, are de rigueur.
In her appearances, a shelf behind Yamiche Alcindor, the dogged PBS correspondent, displays “Between the World and Me,” by Ta-Nehisi Coates, the African American intellectual celebrity. “PBS NewsHour” anchor Judy Woodruff shows off a strategically placed, massive tome on Ulysses S. Grant.
I have many books, but alas, no bookcases. My books are strewn all over my apartment, on windowsills, cabinets and tables.
How about a typewriter?
Some journalists are showcasing them in their Zoom shots, an ironic statement on what we have lost in the digital age. One National Public Radio reporter sports a sleek, white typewriter for her live TV shots.
I dusted off the Remington Tabulator 11 (circa 1920) I picked up years ago at my neighborhood resale shop. The clunky steel machine is propped up on the coffee table, ready for my next TV appearance. So there!
Anchors, reporters and their talking heads have been assiduous adopters of the look. They may be coming to you from home, but the settings are uber professional and highly polished. Yoga pants and ketchup bottles do not make the cut.
But a journalist has gotta have fun. For us, doggies are all the rage. The New York Times dubbed the trend “pet cameos.”
My favorite comes courtesy of Cheryl Scott, the weather anchor and my colleague at ABC-7 Chicago. Cheryl brings us sunshine and rain from her living room every day at 5 and 10.
Her adorable beagle, Lola, lounges nearby on a royal blue stuffed chair and steals the show. I tune in to take in the 11-year old floppy-eared pup, who sits sweetly as Scott delivers her report.
Please stand by for this interruption. During Zoom meetings, other dogs are barking, phones ringing, children bawling.
I hosted a Zoom meeting from my kitchen. So why did my husband need to, at that precise moment, stomp in to steam some broccoli, pots-a-clanging? Weeks later, that question is still under discussion.
On a recent virtual edition of the Chicago Sun-Times political “On the Table” series, ace political reporter Tina Sfondeles appeared in our empty newsroom. Everyone else was hard-working at home. The cubicles were empty, the stacks of files and paper, unattended.
The news goes on.
The web is turning our world inside out.
Send letters to email@example.com
Laura S. Washington is a political analyst for ABC-7 and a columnist for the Sun-Times. Follow her on Twitter @MediaDervish