Watch What You Say

The article, which I found published in a TV news oriented newsletter, was originally published in The Independent from Britain.

Asked by the studio anchor during Central TV’s evening bulletin what the weather was like at the outside broadcast location Trentham Gardens, near Stoke-on-Trent, she gave her army of fans her candid appraisal of the situation. “It’s pissing down,” she reported.

That’s never happened to me, but I’ve come awfully close.

Back in my very early days in radio, my station had a fishing report. We’d call the woman who owned the bait and tackle shop (the sponsor of the report) who would report on current conditions.

One time, as she finished, I asked a question and opened her mike. Thinking she was done, she was already midstream in a cursing tirade worthy of Ozzy Osbourne.

My problem is, when I’m presenting the weather, everything is ad libbed. It’s not stream of consciousness. There’s a method to my madness. After all, I’m telling a story with pre-chosen maps.

Still, the individual words and sentences are formed on the spot.

Am I saying things before I ‘think’ about what I’m saying? Yes. And for me, always trying to get out one more (hopefully) clever line, that could be dangerous.

The closest I’ve come was using the word “damn&#185.” It was a very cold night and I somehow said, “damn cold.”

I turned white as a sheet on the air, paused, and briefly apologized. There was not one call of complaint.

My on-air demeanor had changed so quickly, it was obvious to anyone watching that I had made a major faux pas, knew it and regretted it. There was no poker face here.

There have been other times when I’ve caught myself before saying a word. Those I work with, people who know me well, could feel where the sentence was going. I managed to self censor in time.

It’s a difficult path to take, because 21st century interpersonal speech is often open and salty. My conversational speech is full of TV inappropriate words. My TV speech is not. How my mind understands and reacts at a level I’m not consciously controlling is beyond me.

I’m glad it does.

&#185 – I know – we’ve all heard damn on TV a million times. Everyone has their own standard. To me, within the context of a newscast, it’s a totally inappropriate word. For Letterman, Leno, Stewart, maybe even Keith Olbermann – fine. Not for me.

6 thoughts on “Watch What You Say”

  1. I don’t know how you do it. Keeping a clean mouth on TV, pretty tough business. I just see a big storm on TV and I’m saying “holy you know what” throughout the house. Regarding the damn cold comment, nobody complained because they were probably saying yeah it is damn cold, or maybe something worst.

  2. I’ve been there, done that, read the book.

    Back in my younger days, when I was forecasting in the heart of the Bible Belt, Jackson, Mississippi….I was cohosting a morning show with one other anchor. On Christmas morning, we wore sweaters, drank egg nog, read holiday wishes. It was real nice and sweet.

    At the end of the show, my coanchor turned to me, shook my hand, and said, “Matt, thanks for a great 1997”. I responded, on the air, “Rex, it’s been a helluva year.” On Christmas. In the Deep South.

    Two phone calls from viewers. One was shocked and appalled. The other thought I was the most regular guy in the world, and was laughing himself silly. Then he and his family went back to opening presents!

  3. If you didn’t make those mistakes once in awhile you just wouldn’t be human, and most of us wouldn’t be watching you. Who cares if you’re not perfect all the time. Life’s too short to worry about it!

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