The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

13 May 2008

Newsroom Meltdowns Are Common, Not Partisan Fodder


High-Pressure News Environments Lead To Outbursts

How inconvenient for serial Bill O'Reilly bashers: just one day after a downright ancient tape surfaced of the FOX News Channel host coming unhinged over TelePrompTer errors, a similar meltdown occurred on live television in New York City.

This time, however, there was no way to attack the right, as the F-Bomb by WNBC-TV anchor Sue Simmons carried no known ideological baggage.

The latest incident provides a reality check for those who look to score partisan points on the idea that one anchor or host is abusive behind the scenes. Guess what: nearly everybody in the news business shares this trait and one's political belief system has nothing to do with it.

With high pressure and constant stress, it's a cutthroat field. One misstep can ruin a well- established career. Behind the scenes, back-stabbers and saboteurs run rampant. Timid individuals need not apply.

With this kind of work environment, F-bombs are as common as coffee refills. From Boise to Boston, this is what one finds inside newspapers, as well as local television and radio stations.

Take the O'Reilly instance, for example: during a (circa early 90s?) taping of Inside Edition, producers tried to get him to sign off with a line that didn't make any sense. When he protested, they made excuses.

Was he already deeply frustrated with errors that had occurred earlier in the day? Was there a history of similar incompetence by the show's producers? We don't know, that's not contained in the "gotcha" clip.

Also important to note: there's no evidence this incident (which has already been banned by YouTube's censors) ever reached the airwaves.

Next, in last night's
Simmons example, it's clear viewers were shown a take for a newscast promo that obviously never should have made it to air.

There, as well, we need context: had she simply reached the boiling point after a long day of technical flubs?

Not every instance of on-air profanity should be excused, however. Earlier this year, your Radio Equalizer went after a Boston radio host for intentionally dropping S-bombs on a guest. Though dumped from the airwaves, the profanity did reach Internet listeners and triggered negative publicity for the station.

In that instance, he had no right to treat a guest that way and should not have risked a huge fine for the station had the dump/ delay system failed to operate properly.

To those looking to bring down Bill O'Reilly, you'll have to do better than 15-year-old videotape. What's behind the odd timing of this sudden "leak"?

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  • A series of comments were accidentally deleted today and therefore don't appear here as intended.

    Apologies to the posters.

    By Blogger Brian Maloney, at 13 May, 2008 23:30  

  • Brian, let me restart these posts by saying when I was working in radio, especially at WGCH, I had a News Director, Jim Thompson, who swore like a sailor (OFF AIR of course) if there was a section of dead air. He didn't do it at me and I didn't do it at him. I was there only 2 months. This was 8 years ago and I have had no job in radio since.

    In fact, this very month I was having some problems with John Ianuzzi. I was writing down a phone number for him to call for an interview. My handwriting makes a doctor's look good! Few minutes later he laughs at me and all this. Then my temper gets me when I asked him "You want to make something of it?" It was SO LOUD, the entire building (this was at 1490 Dayton Ave., a 1-story building; since moved to near Greenwich Ave.) heard it. Next day I was called into the office--and was fired. There was another time when I had a tussle with Ianuzzi--so that was a warning and I didn't heed it.

    So Brian, you were right in saying that even in small town radio, the situations in the newsrooms are unstable. Eight years ago I was timid. Now I am angry and yes at myself for making the decision to work at WGCH after having a good work acquaintance with WSTC/WNLK in Norwalk where there was virtually no cursing in the newsroom. I wanted full-time after 5 years of part-time including at the NPR station, where I did have some drama with the news director.

    B/C of politics (me a hard-core conservative, she a black feminist liberal), I am not on any speaking or email terms with her.

    I am in another line of work (not liking it) and wanting back in radio. But here in CT-Stan, you can't find anything. And worse I have a mother who doesn't want me way far away from Greenwich/Stamford.

    Well mom, I like Eagles, and you know we have to fly. Of course I don't have a lot of money in my account and the cost of living is going up--thanks in part to so-called Americans who voted in this disaster called the Democratic Congress and still allowing Bush and the Republicans to spend us into oblivion. And since nutso Bob Barr is running in the Libertarian party, my vote goes to The Constitution Party. Then again, I may as well not vote at all and hang my American flag upside down!

    OK, political rant off.

    I promise if I run into any situation like what happened at WGCH, I will be angry on the inside only. Besides, I now have meds to relieve my anxiety due to living with Autism and the idiosyncrasies associated with it.

    And to the usual suspects on this board let me ask you--how would you feel if you or someone you knew was diagnosed with Autism, or some form of it? Would you be like most of my family and live with it...or be like my father and kick me to the curb?

    By Blogger The Real Bob Anthony, at 14 May, 2008 06:29  

  • Colbert Parodies

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 14 May, 2008 15:35  

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