Things break down in TV. A lot. It’s just the reality of the business when you rely on so many pieces of technology to create a live broadcast.
Cameras die, buttons get stuck, computers freeze, teleprompters glitch. When it happens, though, there are certain ways to handle it like an adult. Throwing a temper tantrum is not one of them.
I’ve seen anchors, reporters and, meteorologists do it. I’ve certainly been guilty of it myself. A microphone may get cut off too early, or the graphics on a weather forecast don’t change soon enough, and all of a sudden, on-air talent gets in a huff. As soon as the commercial rolls, they throw their hands in the air, scoff, and give a look of “what the hell, guys?” or “Really?” Maybe the frustration comes out in a sarcastic comment after the show, “TV isn’t that hard to make…”
As if the production crew was deliberately trying to sabotage the show.
Trust me, they’re not.
In order to make it in TV, you’ve got to roll with everything. The best of the best can find ways to make something good out of a bad situation. When I was in TV news, the best person at this was former meteorologist Scott Lewis. No matter what went wrong with technology, Scott was unflappable. I’ve seen his wireless microphone malfunction during severe storm coverage, and Scott would track down a hard wire mic to keep going, never once complaining. A fire alarm once went off during a segment, and Scott played it off with a remark about a “rain alarm,” and continued with his forecast.
Once, a camera had not been set in the right position in the weather center set. So with seconds to go before he went live, Scott dove in front of the nearby newsroom camera, kneeling at an awkward angle in order to fit in the frame. When the show went live moments later, Scott had a big grin on his face, and carried on with his usual forecast in an unusual location, as if nothing had happened. He never took anyone to task or chewed anyone out about a simple mistake or a broken piece of equipment. That would not have benefited anyone. Instead, he carried on with his job, always making the best of things.
Scott was a true leader. Young employees straight out of college may not listen to every word you say, but they’re always watching. We watched Scott act as a true professional each and every night, and everyone who worked with him took notice. I watched how he would prepare for a newscast, how he interacted with co-workers and viewers, how he would compliment the work of an employee and not dwell on mistakes. He led by example, and his work ethic and professionalism inspired everyone to be better. He showed us that even when things look bad, you can make something great out of it.
Don’t look at equipment malfunctions as a catastrophe. Look at it as a chance to make something new. As Homer Simpson put it, it’s a crisi-tunity.
For a current example, look no further than WCIV meteorologist Dave Williams. When his weather computer went down, he didn’t rant and rave, he and his co-anchors took it as an opportunity to do something fun.
The anchors googled some high temperatures, jotted them down on note paper, then held them up to form William’s new “background” on the green screen. The team had a great time with it, and I’m sure their viewers did, too.
Any two-year-old can throw a hissy fit. It takes a consummate professional to find a silver lining. And when you inspire others to think the same way, your TV work is all the better for it.