Preventing the on-air F-bomb

 Photo: istockphoto.com

Photo: istockphoto.com

Fox reporter Lindsay Nadrich isn't having the best week. Nadrich, a TV journalist in Spokane, Washington, recently did a segment about picking strawberries in the rain. What the viewers at home saw was the reporter speaking on camera, stumbling over a few words and then making light of the flub by dropping a few f-bombs. The picture quickly cuts to the studio anchor's horrified face. The anchor quickly recovers, but Nadrich's four-letter faux pas is still hanging in the air. The segment has been viewed more than 300,000 times on YouTube and is spreading like wildfire on Facebook and mainstream news sites around the world. (as you can probably guess, the video content is NSFW)

This is probably not how Nadrich envisioned the story going to air. But this isn't a story about the perils of live on-the-air reporting. In fact, Nadrich's widely-publicized f-bombs were part of a pre-recorded piece that somehow ended up in the story and not on the editing room floor, where they belonged.

Clearly, the station didn't intend for this flub to be broadcast. But somehow it happened.

This isn't the first time we've seen this kind of error slip through the cracks and it won't be the last. But it does reinforce the importance for reporters, editors and the technical experts behind the scenes to double-check their content before it goes out to the public.

Is it possible that as newsrooms continue to cut back and layoffs become more common, the overworked journalists, editors and technical teams still employed there are finding it more difficult to find the time it takes to double-check their work? It may be the case. But slip-ups like this one underscore the importance of making the time to review each story - whether it's in print, radio or TV format - prior to publishing it.

Having said that, it's unlikely that anyone would be sharing this video on Facebook if the reporter in question had said "Oh fiddlesticks!" or simply "Let's try that one again." And while it's hard to write this without sounding like a Monday morning quarterback, one of the best ways to prevent unwanted language from ending up in your story is to avoid saying those things in the first place. This is something to keep in mind whether you're a spokesperson being interviewed by the media or the reporter asking the questions.

Remember Kyra Phillips, the CNN reporter who forgot her microphone was on when she ducked out of a George W. Bush speech to gossip about relationships and express her less-than-favourable views about her sister-in-law?

Then there was the time that former Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien's communications director called then-President George Bush a moron within earshot of the media.

Or the time Jesse Jackson said some unflattering things about then-Senator Obama while waiting for an interview on Fox News to start (Again: NSFW).

You never know when mistakes might happen or the comments that you made when you *thought* the camera wasn't rolling will be included in the broadcast. 

During our media training sessions, many participants say they prefer doing taped interviews rather than live interviews. At first glance, the choice makes sense. During a taped interview, many people feel they have the luxury of the 'do-over'. If they stumble over their words or say the wrong thing, they're relying on the fact that they'll have a chance to start over and that the mistakes will be edited out. But as this video demonstrates, there is no guarantee that anything you say won't make it to air.