Thursday, August 24, 2006
THE BLAME GAME
One of the most enduring, irritating issues in a news room, any newsroom is The Blame Game.
Hearing someone acknowledge their mistakes is such a refreshing rarity that I wouldn't be surprised if that simple act alone could lead to a promotion. No need to sleep with the boss. Just admit to your mistakes and you're on your way to that corner office or assignment in Paris.
But like I said, this rarely happens. So instead you get situations like these at CNN:
-One dim anchor (apparently not a dog fan) pronounced the word "chihuahua" as "CHI-HOOA-HOOA" and blamed the writer, not her own stupidity for the error. She sternly lectured him for not including a pronounciation guide for such an "unusual" word.
-A script was dubbed over from the previous hour and the sign off with the previous anchor's name was not changed. Yes, the "Ron Burgundy" story is true. Some anchors will read anything that is on the TelePrompter, and this woman signed off under the previous MALE anchor's name. Never one to display a sense of humor, she began shrieking at everyone within earshot afterwards.
-A vain anchor blamed the director for not giving him enough "face time" once when we chose to show powerful footage of the natural disaster that was taking place instead of his handsome mug.
More often than not, The Blame Game continues on down the food chain until it gets to the only person left: the entry-level VJ.
The worst example of this was during the Ennis Cosby debacle. CNN made a huge error in judgement by airing graphic footage of Bill Cosby's son, who had been gunned down on an LA freeway. Once it hit the air, everyone knew it was a mistake. The executive producer screamed at the director. The director screamed at the producer. The producer screamed at the associate producer. The associate producer, having no recourse, actually ran to "playback" where the lowly VJs load and cue up piles of tapes they have been given (by people higher up on the food chain) so they can be rolled out during the show (but only after people higher up on the food chain ask for them.)
And yet, this AP thrust open the door and glared at the VJ, demanding to know why she allowed that tape to get on air.
The kicker was that she'd never even seen the footage before.
About the only time that I felt The Blame Game was justified was during the dark ages of Teleprompting. CNN had this truly ancient Teleprompter that was a conveyer belt that had been duct taped together. You were given paper scripts, which you then had to cut to fit the conveyer belt. When a story would "float" you had to re-arrange your scripts in seconds or risk screwing up the anchor, who might toss to the wrong story. Sometimes you'd get all your scripts just right, only to have them scatter all over the floor when one particular VJ would create a massive gust of wind as she rushed past, delivering last minute scripts to the control room. Your scripts on the Teleprompter would go flying, and she'd offer a half-assed apology.
But when asked to explain yourself, this VJ's name only needed to be invoked, and people understood immediately.