Engage Brain Before Putting Mouth In Gear

It’s one of my father’s favorite saying. Though he did not invent it, the adage has stuck with me over the years. Engage brain before putting mouth in gear. Always think before you speak. In my current job, never has it been more important. When you spend two hours on live TV with a semi-scripted show, there is always tome to ad-lib and if you aren’t careful, saying the wrong thing can land you on the unemployment line. It’s like walking the high wire without a net.

The reason I’m telling you all this is because of what happened yesterday. Kennywood was sold to a Spanish amusement park firm. The sale is of significance because Kennywood is a local icon and anytime management changes, there is a fear of the unknown. Kennywood spokesperson Mary Lou Rosemeyer talked about the sale and, among her comments regarding possible changes. Mary Lou said, “The park’s going to continue to be what it is, what we all love. We don’t expect to see any changes. We don’t think it’s going to become a giant taco stand.”

Mary Lou Rosemeyer, Kennywood Spokesperson

Well, you can just imagine in this age of instant feedback the amount of negative e-mails she received and the number we got right here at Channel 4. Later in the day, Mary Lou apologized for her ill-conceived comments. You can find her apology and a story the sale of Kennywood on the front page of our website.

I’m not here to vouch for her character nor criticize her for her comment. It’s a shame one poorly chosen phrase would take the attention away from a very critical moment for one of western Pennsylvania’s most important institutions. What I do want to say is that this is a local example of what cam happened when we don’t watch what we say. On a larger scale, just ask Don Imus who lost his job over a less than well thought out comment.

The world has changed. No longer can you “joke” about things and expect no one to take notice. Just Monday night during a live broadcast of the Falcons game. Atlanta owner Arthur Blank nearly found himself in an “Imus” situation when he remarked about the possibility of Michael Vick returning to the NFL after serving his prison sentence for dogfighting. Blank said of Vick’s conditioning that if he is not careful and winds up “eating fried chicken and fries” in prison, he could gain weight. There was a immediate firestorm insinuating that Blank had said “fried chicken” because Vick was black.

Look, I’m black and I like fried chicken and if someone told me eating too much would make me fat, I would not consider it a racial comment so let’s get past that right now. Still, the point is such casual remarks in our multi-cultural society powered by instant communication can get one into deep trouble.

Rule of thumb for everyone: If you are not sure what you are about to say will offend someone or not, don’t say it. Remember: Engage brain before putting mouth in gear. Words I live by every single morning. Words we should all live by, no matter what we do.

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