An Air Talent’s Biggest Nightmare

Camera 2 After  Sue Simmons dropped an “F” bomb during a live news promo … thinking it was taped … I’ve been thinking about how careful one has to be when one is on television, or on the radio, for that matter.

Now, I never thought I’d be on television.  Really.  I was perfectly happy on the radio, and didn’t aspire to being on TV, even though my mother always said I should.  I think she thought that’s where the money was, but then I found my way into public broadcasting, and, well, I think you know what’s going on there.

Anyway, I had one such gaffe, which was live … not recorded. It was a radio gaffe, but the same lessons apply.  WBIW

Working at WBIW back in the day, I was deep into recording my days worth of commercials following my show.  I worked morning drive, so this would have been late morning.  I was pretty tired.  The FM station was fairly new, and for some reason which I don’t recall, the air signal from the production studio had been routed to the FM transmitter.  And not re-routed before I went in to do my spots.

You can imagine what’s coming.  I was working on a JC Penny spot … which was a donut.  For those of you not in the business, it’s a sung jingle with a 40 second hole in the middle for local copy.  They always gave me at least 45 seconds of copy to squash into that 40 second hole, and I’d learned to talk fast. 

But wait, there’s more.  The spots were always for a weekly sale.  “Originally $9.99-$11.99 now $7.99-$9.99”.  That kind of thing.  And this was before the days of digital.  Everything was done to tape.

Well, I was having a bad day.  I couldn’t get it all in the donut, and I’d tried a dozen or more times.  I finally let go with a string of expletives that would have made a sailor blush … everything BUT an “F” bomb.

It all went out over the air.  The counter pounding, the swearing, everything.  Over the top of the music.

Amazingly, I didn’t get fired, or even reprimanded.  Pretty much everyone’s done it.

I’ve known newscasters that didn’t like to pronounce “Norfolk” correctly, because the natives say “Nah-fuk”.  And there’s the classic scene in “Anchorman” where Ron Jeremy’s producer changes his copy and he tells San Diego to “Go Fuck Yourself”.  It’s hysterical.

The lesson it taught me was never assume a microphone isn’t live.  Never.  From Reagan’s “the bombing begins in 5 minutes” to my tirade in the production studio … if there’s a microphone, and/or a camera, and a transmitter, it can make it to air.

So I laughed out loud when this landed in my mailbox today. 

CAUTION!!  Salty language alert.



Some were live, some were not.  All are pretty darn funny.




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Filed under Public Radio, Radio, stories, Stuff, Television, Thoughts

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