C.J.: Will Sven’s beard make cut?

  • Article by: C.J. , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 4, 2013 - 7:35 PM

WHISKERED Around KARE, the rumblings are Sven Sundgaard’s beard is religion-related.

KARE 11 news director Jane Helmke is considering the fate of Sven Sundgaard’s beard.

Some in the local broadcasting community find the meteorologist’s unkempt facial hair an unprofessional distraction. They are mystified by why he’s allowed to appear on air this way.

You don’t see facial hair on TV guys. Think about it.

Even fake news anchor Jon Stewart made a big production (as a subplot of a bit) out of shaving his beard as he returned to his desk at Comedy Central’s “Daily Show” this week. The late Ed Bradley, CBS’s “60 Minutes” correspondent, had a gorgeous beard. But overall, it seems that custom and tradition have dictated that anchors be clean shaven.

Some have been allowed to fuzz up that line briefly with the popularity of “Movember” fundraisers during which TV personalities and others grow mustaches in November to benefit prostate and testicular cancer research. WCCO and KARE 11 allowed on-air personalities to grow mustaches.

However, former Fox 9 news director Bill Dallman was hard core, said no and would not bend the rules.

Around KARE there is rumbling that Sundgaard’s beard is religion-related, connected to his conversion to Judaism. But wouldn’t Sven’s beard be longer if he had become a Hasidic Jew? That’s the only sect I know of where facial hair is an important element, not that I am any expert on Judaism.

“It’s a partial reason, though I’m not orthodox. … Partly just a different look (since March — it’s not new) ...” Sundgaard wrote me via Twitter.

“What do you think of [Sven’s beard],” Helmke wanted to know.

It was jarring at first, because he’s a TV person, but I’m used to it. Sven was born to break the rules and the mold. I had concluded KARE was making a concession to the hip, coolness quotient Sundgaard brings to the studio by letting him look like a male model. Then I started hearing rumblings from those looking askance, saying the beard is unbecoming and scruffy in a market this size.

Helmke declined to discuss the hipness of her employee’s beard, saying, “Well, you have to ask Sven about that. For me, I actually have been thinking about it because I’m not sure it plays as well in the morning, especially. I do think there are beards that are kind of hip and cool.”

So we should have a ruling soon as to whether Sven should or should not have a beard on TV. I’m guessing Sven can get his fans to create an uproar that spares the whiskers.

Why no coats?

Moving from Sven Sundgaard’s face to his gorgeously sculpted torso, I wondered what was going on with him not wearing a suit coat. KARE 11 Sunrise anchor Tim McNiff hasn’t worn one some days either.

As I researched this, I heard that the KARE studio is much warmer than it was when Paul Magers was there.

“The lights are hot out there,” Helmke said.

But the lights are hot at all the stations, and local TV guys usually wear suit coats.

“Good point,” she said. “They had them on this [Tuesday] morning. In the summer they wear them a little less.”

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