When they go wrong, they go really wrong. Just ask everyone at Fox News Channel.
A suicide was broadcasted live during “Studio B with Shepard Smith.” Fox says that it was a result of “severe human error.”
A lot of people messed up.
Al Tomkins at Poynter said:
“There is simply no excuse for this. It is sensationalism to carry it in the first place. Whatever local reasons there might be to carry it do not apply to a national audience. And yet this happens time and again and has for more than a decade and a half. Each time, TV stations apologize while enjoying a temporary ratings bump.”
All stations and networks should have a live broadcast emergency plan in writing.
It should go something like this:
In the event that a public figure, citizen, or suspect is in a position to harm him/herself or others, programming will switch to the on-air host(s) full, or (your station) will go to a commercial break.
Furthermore, (staff’s name) understand that I am is subject to immediate dismissal if I don’t take immediate action to terminate the live broadcast as soon as the situation warrants consideration.
Have every employee from Shep to the janitor sign it.
After hearing about it, I asked one of my colleagues to send me a link to the clip. By the time he emailed it to me, YouTube had already removed it from its network saying the video was too graphic.
I wanted to see the video for a couple of reasons: Being a former news broadcaster, I’ve heard stories of stations that have made similar mistakes, and I wanted to see exactly what happened myself.
Secondly, I thought immediately of my ethics class, and thought that this case would make for a great discussion. There’s no way to get inside the head of producers and news managers, but someone in that newsroom must have thought that the situation was going to end badly.
A couple of searches later, I found it.
If you’d like to learn how to download YouTube videos, watch this quick recipe.