“if only i could take back what i said.”


Every one of us has wished for the power to erase or take back something we’ve said to someone. We were thoughtless, hurtful, angry, ignorant or insensitive but whatever the reason we said something wrong or improper.

We can offer apologies until we’re blue in the face but usually only time eases the memory for all parties (and sometimes not even then).

But if like me you’ve ever been on a live microphone broadcasting to thousands of people, you know the pitfalls of saying something wrong on the air. The “wrong” gets magnified significantly. Not only can you not take it back, someone may have actually recorded your mistake.

Avoiding such wrong or improper comments on the air is part of how one gets labeled a responsible broadcaster. Making a mistake, even one time, may cause a broadcaster to receive the opposite label.

Sue Simmons’ f-bomb on a live newscast promo for WNBC-TV in New York on Monday night is but one prime example of a classic broadcasting flub. These promos are sometimes live and sometimes taped. Simmons confused the two Monday night and the bomb was dropped live.

I’m not sure what should/can be done about it other than to offer a sincere and contrite apology which Simmons did on the station’s 11 o’clock show. I can only imagine the dread she felt when she realized her mistake, had to read the apology and live with outcries from viewers and know-it-alls. If only….

When you are around microphones and cameras all day, sometimes you forget they are there, that they are on and that they are live. You make a mistake and you live with the consequences when you are a live broadcaster. She could be fired or suspended or the matter could be dropped. It depends how the lawyers feel on that particular day and what Simmons’ reputation has been. She’s pretty well liked and respected from what I’ve heard.

Contrast that with another broadcasting mistake uncovered this week and played over and over. Bill O’Reilly was taping (big difference) a promo for Inside Edition some years ago when he had a diva-like temper tantrum and dropped an angry f-bomb (or two) during his tirade. That incident was more telling about O’Reilly’s true personality and professionalism as a broadcaster – both poor in my opinion. I kept thinking as I watched his tirade how glad everyone must have been to get that guy off their show. Colbert’s spoof last night was awesome:

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Bill O’Reilly Inside Edition
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor Fox News

Here’s a dirty little broadcasting secret, off the air many (not all) radio and television broadcasters swear like sailors on occasion. It can be very salty. Maybe it’s because of the restrictions and pressures of not saying bad words on the air that causes them to be unleashed (usually in a humorously intended way) off air, but it happens.

The bad news is sometimes when broadcast performers unleash, they forget where they are and they don’t realize the on-air light is on.

Now its time for YOU to fess up. What’s been your worst broadcast flub, live or otherwise?

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3 Responses to ““if only i could take back what i said.””

  1. nice insight on these *#$@&!! broadcasters. …oops. was that keyboard ON?

    i have absolutely no right to feel smug. i’ve said many, MANY stupid things on the air, or mangled a thought beyond all comprehension. but i guess i can thank my parents for the fact that i’ve never had the trouble with off-color language. it’s more habit than “holiness”.

    in the rare instances when i’m asked to talk to a class about voiceovers, one of the first things i do is to stand in front of the microphone and tell them: “remember: the mic is ALWAYS ON!” then i pull the cable out of its socket and hold it in front of me, continuing, “even if you have the cable right in your hand – THE MIC IS ALWAYS ON!”

    i’ve just seen/heard too many friends let go verbally in the heat of frustration or carelessness…and seen a few “let go” shortly thereafter.

    luckily, i’ve never had to try repairing a plumbing fixture or faulty computer program while on the air. THEN you’d hear some REAL #@$%*!!-ing.

  2. RG:

    I’ve been fortunate nothing ever got over the air but I did have a long narration once where I missed a few edits in a rough cut and some “frustration” from the recording studio made it into the clients hands. Thanks goodness they had a sense of humor.

    Best always,
    – Peter

  3. Hi Peter,
    Had to link to this today on my blog:

    How about those Buffalo Bandits, eh?

    Take care!