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I post this as I am confident that the statute of limitations has long passed since the incident. I've already told my current boss the story and he's forgiven me, so I should avoid any trouble at work. It was late 1998 or early 1999, and I was the news director as well as 6pm news anchor and producer and one-man band reporter. As you've probably gathered, it was a small station. We all screwed up on a consistent basis. Equipment failed as well.
The combination of human and mechanical errors had come together one night in the early stages of the newscast. My co-anchor and I would alternate reading stories and sending it to a soundbite or a package and no video would come up. Since I was the producer too, we didn't have anyone in the control room to tell us what was happening. That was the role of the director at this particular station. And for whatever reason that night he wasn't communicating with us.
After five or six failures, a soundbite finally started playing. That's when I blurted out in frustration "What the f*** is going on in there?" Seconds later, the floor director's face turned pale. He mouthed to me that my mic was open and my words went out over the air loud and clear. I was so embarrassed and then immediately worried about my future in broadcasting. Not only had I dropped the F bomb on live TV, but I did it while the Alabama state school superintendent was on the air and supposed to be talking. Instead viewers saw his lips moving with the F word loud and clear coming from my mouth.
As I mentioned the station was quite small and the management had a very indifferent attitude about things. Little did we know at the time, plans were already underway to cease the news operations in a few months. At any other station in the country I would have at least gotten into some kind of trouble. My GM chuckled about it the next day as he recalled my foul mouthed message. I think maybe one or two viewers called in, also punctuating the lack of viewers we had.
But I learned a valuable lesson as a result. Even when you think the mic isn't open, it probably is. I was lucky it happened at a station where the rules were more lax than other markets. I didn't even get a slap on the wrist for the bomb dropped that night.