All about the pants? Really?

This is Jana Shortal. She’s a Minnesota TV news reporter.


She recently reported on a news story that’s really shaking up the state. Decades ago, before my time, Jacob Wetterling, a young boy, was abducted at gun point, and ever since, his family has been searching for him. This was huge news locally; long-time residents are surprisingly familiar with the case, which caused emotional ripples all across the region when it happened. And then, just recently, the kidnapper confessed, and in wrenching detail, described how he molested and murdered a crying little boy. It has brought up a lot of horrified responses, which are entirely understandable.

Shortal reported on the story.

Then a gossip columnist for the Star Tribune, CJ, reported on the reporting, and complained about Shortal’s clothes. Her jeans were inappropriate.


Shortal has responded very effectively — you can tell who is the better writer — but still…you’ve got a murdered child, and CJ made it into a fashion statement, as a story that was all about the pants? Remember, it isn’t about how you feel or what you say, what matters is whether the clothing you wear is sufficiently conservative when you say it.

And the thing is, there was absolutely nothing offensive or disrespectful about how Shortal was dressed. That’s what she wears to work. It’s not radical, it’s not trying to shock viewers, it was a pair of jeans.


  1. wzrd1 says

    CJ is so concerned about how the family feels that she found it necessary to grab attention and find distress in a television reporter’s pants.
    How does CJ think that the child’s family feels about that attention grab?

    Let’s hope to read of many letters to the editor in complaint over this gossip columnist.

  2. robertmatthews says

    I’m surprised she didn’t complain about the reporter’s hairstyle or makeup while she was at it.

    Yet another illustration, as if we needed another one, that every single thing women do or don’t do regarding their looks is an occasion for criticism. Yet another reminder that merely existing in the public sphere is a game women cannot win.

  3. congenital cynic says

    That’s just crazy. Why would it matter what she was wearing? The Shortal woman has to find more important things to occupy her time.

  4. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    CJ is apparently admitting that she don’t care about no tragedy story as much as the reporter’s presentation. CJ was “jarred” by seeing the reporter wearing normal clothes and not all fancified out of respect for how serious the story was.
    Gakks I hope CJ can’t file a demerit for the reporter, for not dressing up for the report.

    wasn’t the story tragic enough to motivate the reporter to hightail it over regardless of clothing. As long as the reporter was clothed, at least modestly, you know.

  5. Pierce R. Butler says

    What’s worse, Shortal was wearing no (visible) socks!

    New rule: women reporters on-camera must wear full burkhas – and, when reporting on a death, black burkhas. With flag patches.

  6. says

    What is the appropriate attire for interviewing a child-murderer? Do you wear the same thing that you wear for interviewing the president, or would that be disrespectful to the president? What would Miss Manners say?

  7. evodevo says

    Hey! She isn’t wearing a blond bimbo Fox Noise short sheath-type dress, like good woman reporters are supposta …. I wanna complain!!!

  8. congenital cynic says

    Sorry, my bad. I thought the idiot criticizing her clothes was Shortal. Have to read more carefully.

  9. says

    It’s not like she was wearing a “Black Lives Matter” tshirt, or anything inflammatory and mind-blowingly offensive like that.

    Next up: women who go out without their bustles and stays!

  10. Matt Harrison says

    I think criticizing a TV personality’s wardrobe is appropriate for a gossip columnist.

  11. Tethys says

    City Pages also has an article about CJ and her really obnoxious comments about Jana Shortal. Star Trib deletes, apologizes for CJ’s awful column

    More than one observer have noted the irony that C.J. writes for the very same newspaper that welcomed Shortal’s own explanation of her offbeat style. In an op-ed piece titled, “I’m a TV newswoman, and no thanks on the lady uniform,” Shortal wrote:

    Last fall KARE 11 gave me a permission slip. It’s a new show called Breaking The News. Our mission? Tell stories differently. Do things differently.
    During the six months we rehearsed the show off-camera, I found myself coming into work wearing my own clothes, the kind of clothes I wore in my “real” life.
    And I starting wearing my hair curly — that’s how it naturally rolls.
    As the date of the show’s launch approached, I started thinking: Maybe I can break more than the news. Maybe I can break the mold of what a woman on television is supposed to look like.
    And so, on the eve of our very first show … I still wasn’t sure. Could I really button my shirts up all the way? Could I really rock a pocket square? Could I really, really be myself?

    Answer, from the vast majority of Minnesotans: Yes, sure. Do you, Jana.

    Dissenting opinion, from one bitter gossip columnist: No. Be someone else.

  12. says

    C.J. also apologized:

    A column I wrote and that was briefly published Wednesday has created a lot of anger and confusion among some readers. I want you to know that I’m sorry it hurt Jana Shortal and I have told her so. At the time, in my own sadness about the horribly tragic Jacob Wetterling news, I was trying to urge maximum respect for the family and that led me to comment on someone’s attire. In hindsight, that was a mistake and I understand the perspective of those upset by it.

    Looks like she personally apologized to Shortal, and admitted she made a mistake. Good outcome (from this small part of the situation, anyway).

  13. says

    This is every bit as riduculous as the case of students being sent away from school for trivial uniform breaches (e.g., suède shoes as opposed to leather) by headteachers who mistake obedience for a virtue.

    Clothes are just something people wear so they are not naked. (What is actually so undesirable about nudity, is a whole ‘nother question.) And “clothing-ism” is just as bad as any other kind of -ism. For sure, people can change their clothes a lot more easily than the colour of their skin or regrowing missing body parts. But (1) why should they have to in the first place, and (2) If they invented “instant white skin spray” or something similar, would that make it OK for places of businesses to start discriminating against black people, if they could choose to make themselves white? All discrimination is born out of the same mindset, and someone who exhibits “clothing-ism” probably has other -isms too. And this is not a zero-sum game. One person suffering what you consider a slight indignity does not diminish any indignity you may have suffered. It would be the ultimate irony if we were to discriminate against those whom we felt had been discriminated against to a lesser degree than us. And meanwhile if we learn not to question certain “minor” forms of discrimination, it can blind us to the “major” ones. On the other hand, successfully defeating a “minor” -ism could provide the social impetus necessary to tackle a “major” -ism.

    Anyway. Jana is not being disrespectful by wearing jeans on a solemn occasion. CJ is the one who is shamelessly abusing a tragedy to push a trivial agenda. And, of course, it all makes great bait to bring in advertising revenue ….. and that is who is really exploiting a tragedy for their own gain.

  14. says

    I’m sorry but that looks an awful lot like a not-pology to me. She’s not sorry for what she did, she’s sorry that it hurt someone. She blames it on the circumstance, the sadness and tragedy of the event, but not on her own fucked up moral compass that made her think Jana’s attire should have in any way been a point of discussion to begin with. She can see it from the other perspective, but never says she will examine her own perspective.

    IOW, she still thinks it’s ok to criticize what women wear but maybe she was wrong to bring it up in this particular case.

    She still doesn’t get it.