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On Air Reporter – Pants Optional

As we continue along in this new world of online meetings and virtual practically everything, we are all learning how to co-exist in an online or a broadcast environment.  There have been a number of reports, blogs and podcasts giving advice on etiquette in online meetings.  All of them have some tips in common, such as making sure the camera is in a good place and that the background and lighting are appropriate and not appearing on Zoom meetings while in the restroom. (Really?)

Unfortunately, what should be self-evident, that is, wearing proper attire (or any attire) while participating in online meetings is also a popular topic for discussion.  And the suggestions and opinions on this issue vary for some reason.

You may have heard of the Broward County Judge who found it necessary to issue his own guidelines to attorneys who were appearing before him in online court hearings.  After a number of awkward and, in his Honor’s estimation, disrespectful appearances by counsel in online hearings in his court, Judge Dennis Bailey fired off a letter to his local bar association.  Buzzfeed and other outlets reported that the judge reminded attorneys that online court hearings are court hearings, and that attorneys should dress appropriately. What apparently prompted the admonition was a male attorney who appeared in an online court hearing to represent his client while shirtless and another who was in bed with the covers pulled up.  Buzzfeed quoted the judge’s letter as saying

“We’ve seen many lawyers in casual shirts and blouses, with no concern for ill-grooming, [and] in bedrooms with the master bed in the background.  And putting on a beach cover-up won’t cover up you’re poolside in a bathing suit.”

Business and marketing coach Rachel Cross recommends that participants adopt a “never nude” policy and wear shirts and pants while on video conferences – pants in case the participant needs to stand up.  On the other hand, a recent article in Financial Times noted that online videochat etiquette is still a work in progress.  One of their suggestions was that, “One of the joys of Zoom life is the freedom to wear whatever you like below the waist. If you can get away with it above the waist too, fine.”

Full disclosure, I have participated in Zoom meetings with a nice shirt and gym shorts, but as an attorney who has appeared in online hearings myself, I would certainly wear a suit, complete with pants, just in case I forgot the venue and stood up to object.

Which brings us to ABC News reporter Will Reeve.

On Tuesday, Reeve appeared on “Good Morning America” from his home.  Reeve acts as his own camera operator.  Unfortunately, Reeve must not have invested in a monitor.  Although he was dressed “ready for camera” from the waist up, it was apparent that Reeve was not wearing pants.

Now Reeve is likely not the first television personality to be dressed for work from the waist up when on the air, but most anchors and reporters have desks in front of them or discreet camera operators to cover up the omission.  But there was no covering up the shorts that Reeve was wearing.  Although he poked fun at himself, he also went to Twitter to explain himself, saying that he got ready for a morning workout prematurely.

Finally, earlier today, Reeves was on Good Morning America again, fully clothed this time, to talk about the perils of being live on camera online as millions of us are doing on a daily basis.

The moral…please wear some pants…and wash your hands.

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