Life In a Fishbowl



>> If you read my posting on Radio vs.TV Announcing you may remember that one of the reasons I liked radio was that when I needed to dash out for a loaf of bread, I could do so without anyone recognizing me.

The brass at the TV station, however, didn't want me to reflect negatively on the station's image by being seen in my favorite old t-shirt and jeans.

>> But with today's' social media and everyone with a cell phone camera in their pockets or purses a bad image or an inappropriate comment can end a career.

And it often has.

Young people going into TV news may not realize that they are going to live in a kind of fishbowl and the competition would like nothing better than to embarrass them and their station by posting some unflattering images or comments on the Internet.

The most famous recent example was of Helen Thomas, the trailblazing White House correspondent, who sunk her very long and prestigious career over a comment she thought she had made in private--but that ended up on the Internet.*

And then CNN had to fire Octavia Naser, a senior editor for Middle-East affairs, after she posted  a 19 word Twitter message expressing sadness at the death of a Hezbolla leader.

" In the hands of  a political partisan looking to discredit a news organization, these slip-ups can become powerful and fatal ammunition."
The New York Times, 8/31/2011

Ron Fournier, National Journal Editor-in-Chief, puts it this way: "Everything you say can and will be used against you."

>> In case you think this kind of thing is limited to the cut-throat news business, you might remember that even Presidents Reagan and Bush were embarrassed when some comments they thought were made in private ended up being widely disseminated. Reagan joked he was going to bomb Russia and Bush called someone an a-hole.  (Sorry, we can't find any examples from Democratic Presidents.)

When I worked in TV we had to treat all microphones in the studio as "live," even when we were in the middle of a commercial and the on-air light was off.

There are also many stories from radio -- most of which can't be repeated here -- about mics that "weren't on" but, were!

>> All this should be enough to convince you that in this business you need to be a bit paranoid about being seen and heard, even when you expect privacy.

Back when I was in TV and had travelled to a foreign country I was baking in the sun in supposed anonymity when someone came up to me and said, "Excuse me, but aren't you....?" 

* Helen Thomas died July 2013 at the age of 92.

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