ON THE AIR!
A reporter was wrapping up a live shot about a gas leak that injured 2 people, and she apparently didn't know how to toss it back. She said "That's it from here, thank you, buh-bye."
And from the "some people are in the wrong business" file, our 5 o'clock producer was getting flustered over a series of breaking news stories. It was 2 hours till airtime, and he said "Boy, if this keeps up, I'll have to start dropping stories!"
From the discrepancy sheet: "18:04—After entering third package, microphone was not shut off, and the mother of all explicatives was uttered by news anchor. Mic was shut off quickly, talent was warned, apologized on air after package. TD went to get gun." The staff was concerned about an FCC fine, but somehow, after Howard Stern, Mancow, and The Greaseman, is there such a thing as getting fined for profanity?
I was asked almost a year ago to give up my weekend sports anchor job for saying "christ sake" on the air. I have heard a lot worse but hey those are the breaks and as it turns out I have a better job now anyway—thank g-d!!!!!!!!!!!
I read your June newsletter about things said on the air. It brought back a priceless moment in broadcast journalism. The anchor in this top 50 market shall remain namesless (what irony), but in the late 1980's this anchor was a news veteran who occasionally didn't read scripts too carefully before a show. The producer wrote: "Good evening, I am (say your name)" and then the female co-anchor was supposed to pick up from their and say "And I am . . . ." Well, this anchor read it just like it was written. "Good evening, I am say your name." The control room was out of control with laughter.
OK, here's an "anchorspeak" from Philadelphia. Boyz II Men—the grammy award-winning group—hails from Philly and stories about them are often found in our People News segment. Except one night, one of anchors read a story not about "boys to men" but about "boyz eye-eye men." Ooops.
This one didn't get on the air, but a reporter at another station was told that a local 60s activist would be tried on suspicion of murder "in absentia." Said reporter called the PR person for the DA's office and asked where "absentia" was. He told her it's out in the suburbs...
A reporter for one of the network news feeds, doing a story about the Paula Jones lawsuit against President Clinton, clearly was not thinking when he wrote a line about "what the President's lawyers consider fallacious allegations." Or would it be fellatious?
I am a producer at a CBS affiliate in West Texas. One day, one of our new reporters was covering a story where a current space-shuttle astronaut was making a public appearance at a local shopping mall. Our reporter and photog went to interview him. She did the standard "What's it like in space?" and "How do you go to the bathroom?" But then, she asked this: "So, on this mission, did you guys circle the earth, or go to another planet, or what?" The astronaut looks at her like: "Is she serious?" She was. When he realized this, he said "Well, on this particular mission, we circled the Earth, as do all shuttle missions!" This is a story I will never forget. And when you start feeling that your young reporters may not have a clue, remember, he/she could be the one from another planet.
I have one humorous "almost got on the air" anecdote. While EPing in Miami, I assigned a writer to bang out a story on the annual Army-Navy football classic. He wrote that the Air Force Academy was the winner of the game. Incredibly, the writer was an Army veteran, and didn't know that the game was played between the Naval Academy and West Point.
I work in Twin Falls Idaho for the CBS affiliate. One night, the weatherman was in rare form. We dissolve out of commercial to him at the weather wall, and he gestures to a map of the Southwest and says "Ovaries!" he meant to say "Over these areas. Needless to say, we fell apart in Studio Control, and the weatherman could hardly keep his composure for the rest of his time. We still say it was good as long as the weatherman does not say "ovaries"!
Augusta was proud to have astronaut Susan Still represent her hometown on the April shuttle mission. It was sadly cut short by some technical problems. We tuned our dish to NASA-TV and decided to have our lead anchor voice-over the shuttle's landing at Kennedy. He was in the newsroom (we had no production staff that early in the day to do something from the set). I was told by engineers that the talent would not be able to voice-over the pictures. He would just have to introduce them and they would pod up nats-full of the landing. So when we broke into regular programming, I told the talent that he would have to "toss" it off to NASA. He did, but continued with "I'd talk to you about the shuttle . . . and the landing . . . but I can't because we have a rinky-dink system." I couldn't communicate with him (I was in Master control). He ended up mumbling a few more complaints before the MC operator got his head out of you-know-where and dropped his mic. I can tell you that I felt mad at the time, but not as much as my ND who was standing right behind me the whole time. If you make it to our station, just say "rinky-dink" and you'll have a half-dozen adults in stiches.
I worked with a meteorologist, an elderly fellow, who once looked directly into the camera and informed us that the earthquake in Japan measure "eight-point-one on the rectal scale."
Once upon a time, an anchor ended the 11 PM newscast by telling viewers, "Don't forget to set your clocks back," since daylight savings time was ending the following morning. Problem was, he said the word "clocks" without pronouncing the "L."
5 PM show. Medium size market. On a three-shot going into the health reporter's section of the show. First story in the health report is on aids and prostitutes. Male anchor in the toss, on the three shot, straight faced and with the utmost sincerity says "Well, another good reason not to use prostitutes tonight!" How do you follow that line? Female anchor and health reporter are speechless, stunned. Director cuts to tight shot of health reporter, but not before female anchor gives male anchor a look that could kill.
I produce our Saturday morning show. Every week we send out our roving reporter to do live shots from area events. Our reporter is great. During the week she covers mostly serious stories, a lot of crime and courtroom type stories. But on Saturdays, she lets loose and has a lot of fun. One Saturday "The World's Toughest Rodeo" was in town, and I sent her to do a live shot. She wore a red shirt that morning, and as the bull rider she was interviewing pointed out, bulls don't like red! While petting the bull, it growled, and our reporter said live on the air "I hope I didn't piss it off!" I could hardly believe my ears! I had to ask the director if I heard correctly. I did, and hoped it slipped past most of our viewers. Then the bull growled again, and our reporter said it again: "Did I piss it off?" Surprisingly, no one called. I haven't sent her to a rodeo since, however.
This may or may not fit the category, but I couldn't believe someone put this on the air. I was breaking down a package (from another market) on the link between cigarette smoke and impotency, for the health segment of my newscast. The package had a soundbite from an MOS interview containing the phrase "get it up." I was pretty stunned when I heard this, and I went running into the newsroom saying, "You guys won't believe what 'station x' ran!" This may not be anything to be concerned with in other markets, but I work in Boise, Idaho, where the audience is very conservative. I didn't use the bite. I thought that would be in poor taste.
I'm now a weekend anchor/producer in a small market. When I started at the station as a reporter, I'll never forget my first-ever "live-in-the-newsroom" report. The story was on a huge wind-driven grass fire that touched off earlier in the day. As I tossed back to the 5 PM anchor, I mentioned the rain we were getting that afternoon will be a big help to the many firefighters who were still out there. The anchor, meaning to say, "thank goodness for that rain," actually said, "OK, Jay, thank goodness for those fires. . . .", and went right on to the next story with a straight face. She didn't even realize what she had said until after the show!
I do a 5 PM newscast, so between 4 and 5 I'm a bit busy doing what a producer does in the final hour. But one day I hear an anchor and several other people start laughing. Of course, I had to stop and see what was going on. Turns out a competing station with a 4 PM newscast had a guest on talking about "finger sucking." Maybe she should have chosen thumb sucking, but by the end of her report and interview she had switched the first letters of both words and said singer _ucking. Yes, live on the air. She buried her face in her hands, the anchors kept it together pretty well. From what the columnists in town say, that woman won't be back on the air.
The fill-in noon anchor mispronounced the word "Oriole." The story was about how the Major League umpires were threatening to boycott the New York and Baltimore games. Instead of saying "Orioles," the anchor said "Oreos." He didn't just say it once, but twice. During the break, the crew and control room all mentioned how they like their Oreos. Also, I let him know what he said, and he just chuckled. I told him at least Baltimore has The Ravens. He said.. "Oh yeah, the Raisins." It was lunchtime, maybe he was hungry. I told him he couldn't ever work in Baltimore.
When I was in high school, I had a weekly sports-talk show with another guy. One day he opened the show and began the first story, and I wasn't paying attention to him because I was getting ready for my first story. But then I noticed the engineers in the booth falling down laughing and losing control of themselves. I signaled "What's going on?" and one of them wrote some words on a piece of paper and showed it to me through the window. It said, "Good aftersports, noon fans!" When I realized that this was how my partner had started the program, I couldn't keep it together and I lost it on air, which then caused my partner to break up. The faculty advisor mercifully shut down the program before we did any more damage.
During a frightful heat wave in our city, one of our reporters was sent out to a beach to see if she could find people beating the heat. When it came time for her live shot, the anchor said "So, Rita, what are you doing to beat the heat?" Rita (not her real name) responded thusly: "Well, Bryan, I'm wearing a very light dress, and I'm not wearing panty hose." Even for our newsroom, that was a lot of information.
"Senior citizens are shacked up this weekend at Concordia College." Note: This aired in reference to an elder hostel weekend retreat. Anchor didn't know what "shacked up" implied.
One night a huge sperm whale washed up on the beach where I live. It was huge and pulled the heartstrings of many viewers. Anyway, the story ended happily, and the anchors decided to talk about it in the cross talk before weather. The main anchor looked at the other anchor and the weatherman and said: "So how 'bout that sperm that washed up on the beach?"
This happened during the OJ Simpson trial. We took a lot of Manuel Gallegus generic live shots from Los Angeles, several a week in fact. Then, it finally happened. Our main anchor who's been at the station about 20 years turned to the "window" and tossed to Manuel Noriega who's standing by live to fill us in. I just about fell off my chair. Needless to say, good thing it wasn't a custom live—Manuel probably would have dropped!!!!!
REPORTER: "a father is charged with murder tonight after leaving his 5-month-old baby locked in the car during the sweltering heat wave... "
ANCHOR: "That's a really sad story. I sure hope the little girl pulls through."
This summer an anchor here said that a child left in a locked car died of "hypothermia." Not likely, as that would mean the child froze to death. The difference between "hypER-" (meaning "over, above, or beyond") and "hypo-" (meaning "below or beneath") can be pretty significant, but dictionaries help only if you use them. Here's a really radical approach: Stay away from medical jargon entirely, unless you look it up and define it for yourself and your viewers. On a (slightly) lighter note, here's one I didn't witness myself, but heard from a credible source about a startup news operation: A reporter referred to a home-made firebomb in a bottle as a "mazel tov cocktail." Always a hit at those festive occasions.
A reporter was about to do a live shot on a prostitution crackdown and asked, with all seriousness, "Is it OK to use the phrase 'blow job' on the air?"
For a story about paraplegics being able to waterski, I wrote something about fun for wheelchair-bound people. Pretty pathetic, but made worse when the anchor read "wheel-bound chair-people".
A recent bad tease (we generate more than our share with 24 hours of news)—the writer shall remain nameless: "Britons are getting wind of a new type of bean. That breaking story —just ahead."
From several anonymous and (In Some Cases) embarrassed producers
"Police believe Joe Blow was killed some time before his friends found his body." In my defense, I was trying to make it sound like he was killed QUITE some time before he was found.
We all know that typos happen . . . and as a producer, it is our job to make sure we fix them. But sometimes, you miss a few, and you have to hope that the anchor catches it. Here's one that left the newsroom laughing so hard we were in tears: "You could be helping decide whether or not the Miss America Pageant will include the swimsuit competition . . . we'll tell you abou tit . . . stay with us."
Thankfully, before we went to air, the anchor caught the error! But even she admitted that had she not caught it, she probably would have read the script as it was written!
For your "I Can't Believe I Wrote That" department . . . I wrote this just this morning . . . and didn't even realize it until my anchor pointed it out: "Hugh Grant got off on probation. Brown got a stifferSTIFFER sentence because she was already on probation for prostitution."
My friend told me about one that was in her newscast years ago in Wyoming. They were teasing a story about sperm donors, but the script, video and chyron banner all got mixed up with another tease about an astronaut movie. So you heard the tease about the sperm donors, but you saw video of seven astronauts walking in slow motion in their space suits and the banner read: "The Right Stuff."
One contributor says these were written just for laughs, and never made air: About a nude car show: "When they say "fully loaded, four on the floor" at this car show, they may not be talkin about the car."
About Selena's new album: "Selena's new album just hit the charts ... and it's number-one with a bullet."
The following are closing words from anchors in the final moments of our late evening newscast one night. The key word here is evening newscast.
ANCHOR ONE: "That's our report for tonight, we'll see you again tomorrow."
ANCHOR TWO: "Good morning."
One night, the 6 PM kicker story was about the world's only thermometer museum. After the story wrapped up, one anchor said, "Boy, it must be rough there around Daylight Savings Time." A momentary pause. "I think you're thinking of clocks," replied our other anchor.
It happened during a promo for the 6 PM show during the final segment of the 5 PM news. The anchor was supposed to tease a medical story about the discovery of a deadly organism when it came out something like "Researchers are shocked by the discovery of a deadly orgasm. . . ." She finished the promo, tossed it back to the 5 PM anchor and started giggling off-camera. In fact, most everyone in the studio (including about a dozen VIP guests of the owner) was losing it under their breath—except the composed 5 PM anchor who had to read a 20-second lead to the kicker pkg. Don't ask how she did it in a studio full of people biting their hands, but she pulled it off. However, once that tape rolled, she and everybody else let loose with laughter.
At one station where I worked, bumps for upcoming stories were written on a standard form by the newscast producer, under the headings "video" and "font." This informed the production crew what writing (font) was needed for banners, and the video description assured them the correct footage was supplied. One day, the noon producer was in a hurry and transposed the sections. Teasing a package on a special aerobics class, she wrote "Pregnant Women Exercise" under the video description, and "Pregos Exercise" under the FONT description. And it aired that way! So, while showing obviously expectant women in leotards moving their bodies to music, we plastered "PREGOS EXERCISE" over the bottom third of the screen.
Our station recently purchased equipment that allows for fast display of school/business closings at bottom of screen without tying up our main Chyron. During a recent snowstorm, we had interns help enter the business closings and entries were coming in fast and furious. Apparently, one of the interns had something else on her mind because this is what showed up on TV: "Southside Blowing Center" "No Blowing Tonight." Obviously it was supposed to read "bowling" but she really messed it up, twice in the same entry.
There was the one from an unnamed station at which I used to work, the one in which the news open managed to misspell the name of one of the anchors . . . and it ran for eight weeks before it was noticed!
I was out in the field for a live shot last month and called in my chyrons for a woman named "Rita Bumgarner." When I looked at the air check a few days later, the woman was identified as "Rita Cumgarner." Pretty sick mistake . . . makes you wonder what the person who wrote it down/entered it in that way was thinking about.
Overheard on the competition: After a story on self breast exams, the anchor is heard teasing the upcoming story by saying "Next we'll have a touching story on a woman's fight with breast cancer."
Recently I was pulled into producing our station's noon show. In the pre-show I teased a new crackdown on people who write bad checks. Editing couldn't find any video of people writing checks. They tell me this five minutes before air. As a quick way to solve the tape problem, I said "Just change element two to Crimestoppers." Unfortunately, I forgot to change the copy. On air the anchors are saying something like "Police have a new way of dealing with people who bounce checks." The video showed a man run up and fire several shots at a person in a car. Pretty tough policy eh?
Another Anonymous Contributor
In the preshow tease between the 5 & 5:30 newscasts, we were teasing an upcoming story on the exhumation of Jesse James. Someone (a manager!) wrote it in a hurry and it was supposed to say something like, "He's been dead a long time, but experts want new answers f rom Jesse James." Instead, it said, "He's been dead a long time, but experts want new answers from Jesse JACKSON." Luckily, most of the callers thought it was funny.
Donna Lavoie, WDTN OnLine Producer
Here's a tease that recently aired during one our newscasts: The producer wanted to tease the latest in the American Airlines Pilot Negotiations. But what she said was, " Coming up next, Will an aircraft carrier keep flying while its pilots talk strike." Can you picture that?
KCRA has automatic Chyron generation from the producer's computer. Trouble is, the computer doesn't tell the producer how many characters the Chyron will accept— and how many won't print onscreen. So when the Naked Gun "Smell of Fear" movie came out, the producer was trying to be clever and tease the upcoming movie review. With a clip of the film running, the Chyron line was supposed to say "The Smell of Comedy." Well, the Chyron only accepts 17 characters. Can you figure out what the tease line actually said?
In Utah—a mostly-white and very conservative state—a station teased stories with "cut-lines" (a few words about each story that ran across the bottom of the video). A story was being "teased" about a clean up effort at a hispanic cultural center in town (likely the only one in town). And the hurried producer quickly wrote the cutline "Spic and Span"—referring to the clean-up effort—not realizing the other implication.
TERRIBLE INTROs, TOO
I know you're looking for bad teases, but how about this awful intro into a late newscast for your own personal enjoyment:
"Good evening. I'm Jane Doe. John Smith has the night off. He's been arrested again for child pornography. Tonight, a local man faces additional charges after a second federal raid at his _____ County home. Police have charged. . . . "
Listening to my own station in another room I would have sworn that our very conservative anchor man, "John Smith," was on his way to the pokey. All of us got quite a chuckle outta this one (with the exception of "John Smith," of course.)
By Hal Boedeker
The same phrases crop up with clockwork regularity on local newscasts.
They're repeated so often that they've congealed into shtick. Here's the
lingo and how savvy viewers could interpret the well-worn expressions:
News is news. We don't need phony labels.
"Tonight's big story!"
It may not be so big but they needed something to lead the newscast.
Every report is a product of team coverage but they love the self-important term.
"Complete Team Coverage!"
Prepare for overkill.
"Here are more details!"
This information should have been in the just-completed report, but the anchors need something to read.
"Stay with Channel X for continuing coverage!"
Do you think we're idiots? The stations never pass up a chance to plug themselves.
Maybe it is, maybe it isn't. But the stations doubt we'll be checking the other stations to keep them honest.
"Only on X!"
We'll never know whether it is if we're only on X.
"We'll continue to follow this developing story . . . and take you back to the scene for any late-breaking developments!"
They're going overboard with this coverage for no apparent reason.
"We have an update on news we first brought you at 5!"
They never stop telling us what they've done for us.
"We have new information!"
That sets it apart from the stale stuff they keep going over and over.
"We'll have the story all new at 6!"
By then we've probably seen it somewhere else.
"Reporting from the scene is XXXX!"
The crime or accident may have happened hours ago, so the reporter is standing out there in the dark for no good reason.
"So and so is reporting from the Satellite Center!"
The reporter is standing across the room.
"We go to our reporter with our mobile newsroom!"
The reporter is in the field.
"A Channel X crew is on the way to the scene!"
The station doesn't have all of the facts, but the staffers have been listening to the police scanner and they want to be first to announce this on the air.
"We'll tell you more in the 6 o'clock newscast!"
All the facts could have been summed up in one report, but they'll find new ways to string us along.
"Coming up next!"
Don't count on it. It may be next after a series of car commercials, or it may come at the end of the newscast. They'll keep us guessing.
"We'll have the dramatic pictures coming up!"
The stations are fixated on images.
"All new at 11!"
A self-respecting news organization would give us the news immediately. Stations think a hokey tease to a story (probably somewhere else in the United States) will make us tune in.
"Anchor to reporter: Keep us updated!"
Sometimes the chitchat is so lame.
"Anchor to reporter: Thank you for that report!"
Why don't they shut up? It is the reporter's job, after all.
"Listen to this dramatic 911 tape!"
They always call them dramatic, even when they aren't. Most of the time, they're just an invasion of privacy when people are under stress.
"Police are looking into this murder mystery!"
They want to appeal to fans of Jessica Fletcher and Agatha Christie.
"This shocking video!"
Usually it's not.
"It was a bizarre accident!"
Unless it was a freak accident. The stations repeatedly use "bizarre," "frightening," and "strange," to seize attention.
Hal Boedeker is the Orlando
Sentinel's television critic. This column ran on April 17, 1997,
and is republished with permission. To reach Boedeker, write:
During the May 1997 sweeps, WKRG, the CBS station in Mobile, sent a female reporter to the beach for "tips on how to stay in shape on the beach." In an incredible stroke of journalistic brilliance, the bikini-clad reporter demonstrated how doing curls with a sand bucket could make your trip to the beach both fun and worthwhile. Wow. By the way, if you haven't seen a bikini-clad reporter on the beach—exercising with a sand bucket—you haven't lived.
||HOW TO FREAK
By Peggy Phillip, News Director, KJRH-Tulsa
Not long ago, I left the ND office to find that we were one producer short for the day. An un-filled position, a vacation and an ill producer equaled disaster! Except I, news director, tried to fill the shoes of the vacant one. What a learning experience! I'm sure that plenty of the KJRH staffers delighted in my wails at 5:45 PM. "I don't know how to dump the show!" and then "I don't know how to load the 'prompter!" And finally, at 6 :23 PM. "what do you mean, how much time is left?!"
Long-time anchor Jerry Webber commented that the only thing he heard in his IFB during the whole show was heavy breathing (mine, driven by fear). Thank goodness for an alert and caring production department, we only clipped Extra by :02. I learned to appreciate, even more, the jobs that producers do everyday. I challenge other news directors to try it. Or at least, to try strapping themselves to the front of a speeding train. The head rush is just the same.