Reality TV Mom Isn't Down for the Count, Despite Cancellation of Her Television Show, Baylor Journalism Researcher Predicts

August 16, 2011

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Reality TV mom Kate Gosselin's show has been canceled, but the single mother of eight is masterful at re-inventing herself and will weather the setback -- in large part because of her savvy with social media, predicts a Baylor University expert on image repair.
"This isn't the end of Kate," said Dr. Mia Moody, assistant professor of journalism and media arts at Baylor, amid reports Monday and Tuesday that TLC cable network had canceled the show. Moody has written an article comparing how Gosselin and her ex-husband sought to repair their public personas after their messy divorce in 2009.
Moody's article will appear in Public Relations Review journal in September, coinciding with the series finale on Sept. 12, but it is available for online viewing at:
After the cancellation was announced, Moody said she wasn't surprised to find Kate's upbeat Tweet and positive responses from many supporters on Twitter. Because of social media, "people feel they know her personally, and many single mothers can relate," Moody said.
The show, originally called Jon & Kate Plus 8, launched the couple and their eight children -- twins and sextuplets -- to stardom in 2007. Ratings spiked during the Gosselins' on-screen spats and allegations that both had affairs. But viewers dropped off after the couple separated and Jon Gosselin left the show in 2009. Still, the show recently hit the 150-episode mark, an "exceptional milestone," TLC noted.
Kate Plus 8 showed Gosselin as a struggling single mom, a sharp contrast to her initial image as a domineering wife and mother, Moody said. Media outlets, too, depicted her as distraught and Jon Gosselin as untrustworthy and irresponsible. But those depictions flip-flopped over time in the traditional media, Moody said.
Enter social media, which allowed the couple a fresh, extra dimension -- one that was fast and efficient -- as they engaged in an image repair tug-of-war with varying results, Moody said.
"Kate morphed herself into a woman whose husband had cheated on her and who was left to raise her children by herself," Moody said. And she grabbed attention of a different sort by competing in Dancing With the Stars.
"She wasn't a great dancer, but she was able to get a gig on the show because of how she reinvented herself," Moody said.
(Jon Gosselin also got a little image repair mileage out of his ex-wife's dance maneuvers, Moody noted, as he broke a five-month silence on Twitter to post "Congrats to Kate for joining new season of DWTS. I am thrilled for her. She has my support and vote.")
Contact: Terry Goodrich, Assistant Director of Media Communications, (254) 710-3321