Bleeping Bleep, You’re Fired

An administrative note, first: Ohio Media Watch is on “deep hiatus”. Things Offline(tm) have conspired to reduce our available free time to almost zero.

We’ll try to continue getting the Big News up here as soon as possible…items like the last few ones, for example.

Any other items will be posted as soon as possible to our growing social media presence.

You don’t need to be signed up at Facebook or Twitter to read our items… just click here or read the feed at the right of this page.

If the current situation continues, we may just redirect this page to our Twitter page. Again, you don’t need to have a Twitter or Facebook account to just read the page…it’s a regular web page, no login required.

At least one regular OMW reader actually asked if your Primary Editorial Voice(tm) is still alive…yes. And despite musings from a certain sports talk radio host, we’re not having a nervous breakdown.

Now, on we go to our own “musings”.

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George Carlin’s “Seven Dirty Words” have been on over-air broadcasting’s no list for decades, though some have less “power” than others these days.

The two words uttered by a rookie North Dakota TV news anchor Sunday night are still very much verboten…and that impromptu “bleep bomb” got West Virginia University grad A.J. Clemente the title of “former” anchor/reporter for KFYR-TV in Bismarck, North Dakota…ending a one-show stint as weekend co-anchor for “NBC North Dakota News”.

The same co-anchor who introduced him to the audience in the early news sat on the set alone during the newscast’s late report, apologizing for her now-former co-anchor’s behavior hours earlier.

As long-time OMW reader Ed Esposito, VP/information media for Akron’s Rubber City Radio Group, points out…young Mr. Clemente is far from the first broadcaster to inadvertently drop salty language on the air.

Here’s the take from the Radio-Television Digital News Association’s secretary-treasurer, in an item on the RTDNA.org website…“Memo to AJ: Learn, don’t burn”:

I was working at Bluefield, West Virginia at the then-combo of WHIS-TV/AM/FM when an offhand remark through the cue channel using the newsbooth mic somehow wound up bleeding into the West Virginia University-Virginia Tech game. Most people weren’t prepared to hear another voice joining Jack Fleming and Woody O’Hara in the booth, much less one using one of George Carlin’s seven words.

That was Saturday. On Monday, I was toast. I still recall the discomfort General Manager John Shott had in firing me; he honestly regretted having to do so but it was a no-brainer. Just as it was a no-brainer for KFYR-TV General Manager Dick Heidt to do the same thing. Only difference: these days the FCC has the axe waiting overhead for stations running afoul of their profanity regulations, and the axe swings up to $375,000.

Since A.J. Went Viral, we’ve heard stories privately from readers… one tells us at his own very first radio gig, he dropped the “S-bomb” when he was nervous…then startled by a co-worker tapping his shoulder during a short commercial break where he left the microphone on.

Since Bismarck is a very, very small TV market, perhaps a very small audience heard A.J.’s Mistake when it happened.

But the following week, A.J. Clemente was back on “NBC North Dakota”…not as an employee doing news, but as a guest on the entire network’s “Today” show.

Add to that appearances on CBS’ “Late Show with David Letterman”, on MSNBC, and the syndicated “Kelly and Michael” morning talk fest, and his audience numbers easily dwarfed his Sunday night viewership numbers.

And in today’s online world, just ONE clip of Clemente’s slip on YouTube has over 1.3 million views at this writing…with numerous other clips with hundreds of thousands of views.

We aren’t linking or embedding the clip here – in part because of the language (we’ve been filtered by web filters doing that before), but also because just typing the name “A.J. Clemente” into YouTube’s search engine provides a wide range of options, including clips of Clemente on the above mentioned shows.

Will dropping the two most feared words on live TV in North Dakota turn into a career booster for A.J. Clemente?

As Ed Esposito points out in his RTNDA.org item:

You are in journalism and television because it is a calling. It’ll be harder finding your next opportunity, but somewhere there’s a television GM and news director (or a radio manager, or a web manager) willing to bet that which didn’t kill you will make you stronger. You won’t take such guidance as “always treat a mic as live” lightly anymore.

Ed notes that things that could have been “career killers” in the past have happened in this very market, including female anchors disrobing on camera (shout out to St. Louis!).

Oddly enough, former Raycom Media CBS affiliate WOIO/19 “19 Action News” anchor Sharon Reed has something in common with A.J. Clemente…she also appeared on the Letterman show after her “Body of Art” series gained nationwide notoriety…

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