What the What?

I learned of the on air flub of a certain anchor in North Dakota pretty early in the game. It’s what happens when you have several friends in the business, they share things.

A lot of it was, “Can you believe this happened?” “He said what?” or “Poor guy.”

It was well after I saw all of this that this anchor got fired.

After watching a few of his interviews as he made the talk show circuit Wednesday, I have so many questions.

Now, I will never say I was good when I started. Heck, some will even say I wasn’t good when I got out of the business. And that’s fine. But I will say there are some things about the television business that go without saying.

  1. A mic is always hot. Always. No matter if you’re sitting on the set or standing in the field, a mic is always hot. A close friend of mine, who is still in the business never swears. Ever. That way she’s never inclined to when she’s holding a mic. It’s a darn good habit. Because of her I say “crud” a lot more than other words.
  2. An IFB is a must. Having worked in a very small market, I know that generally speaking in addition to anchoring the news you are also producing it. In order to facilitate this, you need to be able to communicate with your director. And if you’re not producing it, and you have a producer sitting in the booth, that producer needs to communicate with you on the set (or in the field). This particular anchor claims after three weeks on the job he hadn’t been fit for an IFB yet. I came out of college owning two IFBs – one to use every day and one for a back up. If you are going to anchor a show, you need an IFB. In addition to being able to communicate with your producer or director, you need it to hear soundbites and full stories. I don’t understand how you can try to anchor a show without an IFB.
  3. Anyone who has ever anchored would be lying if they told you they weren’t nervous for their first show. Your hands may shake, your voice may crack, you may mispronounce things. It happens. The audience is generally forgiving. Especially in small markets. It’s where reporters and anchors go to make mistakes. But at the same time, reporters and anchors, good ones at least, try to be as prepared for this first (and hopefully subsequent) shows as possible. They read scripts dozens of times, they put pronouncers in the scripts, they ask their co-workers how to say something, they listen to tape. They know — generally — what to expect. Rehearsing happens during commercial breaks, in the newsroom, and during packages. This brings me back to number 2.
  4. If this particular anchor had an IFB they would likely be getting a countdown from the control room, whether the director or master control operator, that they were about to go on air. The rehearsing would stop, and he would be ready to go, whether he knew how to say the name or not. (I’m also curious why the London Marathon was the second story in this show.)
  5. “He can report, shoot, and edit,” says one morning show host trying to get him another job. Great – so can the rest of the broadcast journalists graduating. Doesn’t really set him apart in 2013.

His 15 minutes are about to expire and then he’s going to have to figure out what he’s really going to do. It’s too bad the station decided to fire him rather than suspend him. Reporters and anchors make mistakes in small markets so they don’t make them in big ones. Now, this was a pretty big mistake, but just for a moment imagine if he was simply suspended, would he be making the talk show rounds asking for an offer from ESPN? No.

What do you think should happen now?


5 responses to “What the What?

  1. In regards to #4 – their main tease going in was “a fun time for the disabled.” I don’t think any of them had a clue what to do. I wanted to like the guy when it happened, but I just can’t. It’s getting out of hand.

  2. i felt for the kid at first, i really did. i’ve looked stupid on air (audio problems, bad ifb connects, whatever…) even if i may never have sworn; but the more i see about this the madder i get. in this reality tv, insta-star world…you get nominal fame for screwing up and then you’re further rewarded by anyone or thing (tv station, show, owner) wanting to draft off of that small bit of fame because it’s easier than hiring talented people or paying what the job is worth. but i digress…another reason i don’t miss tv i guess.

  3. Not knowing how to pronounce names when it’s your job is not a valid excuse. If you knew they were tough names – practice them as often as you can – ESPECIALLY if its your first newscast.

    The kid also missed a real opportunity to capitalize on his 15 minutes. Watching him on Today and Letterman he hasn’t shown very much personality or smarts. The media tour was his chance to show every ND in America – “hey I was nervous, I messed up. It was a one time thing.” Instead, he’s now using a bigger forum to let every ND know “Hey, I’m not ready.”

    I feel bad for the kid. He probably shouldn’t have been fired. But he did get a second chance…. and to date has done nothing to make an impression.

  4. Totally agree… Why does the national media have to reward this? Thousands of new anchors go on the air every day without acclaim or incident. He’s no victim. It’s like Katherine Webb. One second, she’s a struggling model. Brent Musburger eye bangs her for several minutes on National TV and then she’s in SI, reporting from the Super Bowl for Inside Edition, and on an ABC reality show.. REALLY? When will these execs realize they’re making a mockery of their own profession? Looks like no one will learn lessons from Brian Stelter’s upcoming book.

  5. I say a good wrist slap suspension would have sent him a message, but termination was a little heavy-handed. Have him come back with an apology to the viewers for his rookie mistake, and then get on with the work at hand. I think the people watching would give him a break if he accepted responsibility for his (albeit major) faux-pas, and then go on with their lives.

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