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The Big Picture
Rebecca "Becky" Coates Nee, a veteran TV news anchor/reporter, is a professional life/career coach. Check out her website at to take the coachability test, subscribe to her free "Beyond the Box" newsletter and to find out if you're an adrenaline junkie.

The Mommy Diary
Rebecca Coates Nee on what's relevant in the real world.
April 29, 2002

While radio and television news directors were in Las Vegas reassuring each
other they've still got it, I was dutifully documenting my viewing habits in
one of those little diaries advertisers use to decide whether they'll call
again in the morning.

It all began when the phone rang during one of my weeknight dinner dances,
which involves pureeing carrots while dodging Tupperware being thrown by my 1
year old.

"Hi, my name is Ted and I'm calling from (major TV research firm) and we're
doing a survey of media viewing and reading habits. Do you have a few

I dropped the carrots. "You bet."

"Great. Are you or anyone in your family currently employed by a radio, TV,
newspaper, cable or other media outlet?"

"Not currently."

"Great," Ted continued. "Now, may I speak with the youngest person over 18 in
the household."

"That would be me."

"Great," said Ted. "And what is your age?"

"41." Not quite as young as they like 'em, but then the key demographics
began pouring in to Ted:

Married, mother, self employed, graduate degree - and the best part:

"Do you do most of the shopping for your household?" asked Ted.

"Are you kidding? My husband goes to the store as often as the Bush

"So that's a yes." Ted was smiling now, I could feel it.

"OK - I'm going to ask you about your radio listening habits first.
Yesterday, did you listen to the radio from 5 to 5:30 am, 6 to 6:30 am ."

"Ted - stop. I didn't listen to the radio yesterday."

"Well, let me remind you that includes your alarm clock, being put on hold on
the telephone, riding in an elevator, background music ."

"My daughter is my alarm clock, we don't have many tall buildings here and I
work out of my home. But wait - I did run to the store yesterday for some
milk and I guess I had the radio on."

Ted pinpointed my listening time to 4:45 pm - 4:50 and then asked which
station I had dialed in. "Um, let me think. 96.9 was on when I started the
car, then a commercial came on so I switched to some Tampa station." (Not
exactly what the advertisers want to hear.)

"Do you know the number, call letters, catchy phrase or slogan of the Tampa


"Do you remember what they were playing?"

"I think it was a song from the 70s."

"So - an oldies station."

"I prefer not to think of it that way, Ted."

"OK - let's talk about newspapers."

Ted discovered I only subscribe to the local paper. "But I get Newsweek and I
read the Post and the Times online." Ted didn't care.

"When was the last time you read the local paper?"

"Well, I tried to yesterday by closing myself into my bedroom with my
daughter. But the cats got locked in too, causing one of them to use our
bathroom as a big litter box. Then, my daughter smashed her hand in the
debris before I could clean it up. So I only got to page 2. Does that count?"

A few days later, the rest of the survey arrived by mail. After all the years
I spent in TV news scouting for "Mommy Stories," I was now one of the most
powerful mommies of them all: a mommy with a diary.

But my private viewing habits won't be very salacious to the ratings buyers.
On most days, I averaged between 20 and 40 minutes of local and national news
- all of it in the morning, before my live-in alarm clock kicked off. Aside
from an occasional Oprah, the West Wing and Frasier, that was pretty much it.

Like many moms, I am trying to abide by the American Academy of Pediatrics
guidelines by shielding my daughter from the evils that lurk behind the TV
screen. Aside from that, I don't have the time or interest for much of what
goes on the air these days. I guess I really do believe if it's that
important, I'll read about it the next day. That's a pretty drastic shift for
a former TV news junkie.

One local morning news show tried to get my vote with a segment on household
beauty aids. But I was more interested in the competition's live coverage of
a fire in a historic building than the benefits of slathering egg whites on
my face - especially since just taking a shower passes for luxury time these

What's relevant to a mommy with a diary? Weather - especially here in the
tropics. World peace. The unidentified black mass floating in the Gulf of
Mexico. Crime that MAY affect me or my family (which excludes incest, car
chases or drug deals gone bad). Education, the economy and legislation that
impacts the future of our society.

I also realized during my week with a diary that I couldn't care less about
the clothing tastes, facial features or hairstyles worn by those bringing me
the news.

So my mommy diary will show that I'm not much of a news viewer anymore. But
like Ted Koppel, I like to know you're still there when I need you.