Saturday, 18 June 2011

POST: Should Reporters Play the Name Game?

On Patrick's Place I found the following post:

"A friend and former colleague of mine recently asked his Facebook friends if they thought it was right for a reporter or anchor to use a different name on air when the new name is designed to make them sound like they’re part of an ethnic group they’re not really part of or to appeal to viewers in that ethnic group.

For example, anchor Jim Smith moves to a market with a large Hispanic population, and decides to change his name to Jim Sanchez.

My friend, incidentally, uses his real name. I checked.

But what about renaming yourself on-air to sound more ethnic than you are, or at least more ethnic than your name makes it sound like you are?

Is there anything wrong with that?

I’ll give my thoughts soon, but I wanted to get yours first."

My response:

"I'd have to say it is wrong to change one's name to appeal to a demographic. This only encourages the prejudice that colours Americans and other groups, instead of being yourself. I find this more common (as far as I know) in the outsourcing that has become so prevalent. When I worked at my last job, I had to call American Express to find out how to authorise gift cards so I could pass this info to employees. I got Cynthia in India, who helped me with this... Cynthia? Cynthia Patel? What are the odds?

The same thing happens with interns from China. The visa paperwork gives a true Chinese name, but they send their e-mails and correspondence with odd American (or English) names that I'm not sure where they find them. We had Stella, Shirley, Frank and Tristan (you see what I mean about three of the four names - it is as though they found names popular in the 1930s). But you know these are not their given names. I told them to be proud of their native heritage and be sure to pronounce their names carefully (let's face it, the name Xie (a real Chinese name but not one of theirs) does not roll off the American tongue easily. Even I had to have it re-pronounced several times.

I really hate that people from other cultures feel they need to change their names to "fit in" to the American one."

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