"Video-Bombing" Live Shots a News Director's Worst Nightmare


We have a story out in our upcoming issue on “video-bombing” at the station level–people sneaking into a reporter’s live shot, and often ending up, along with the reporter, as a YouTube sensation. (For the record, I dislike the term “video-bombing”, as it makes me think of the tragedy at the Boston Marathon last month, but that’s what it’s known as.)

Interrupting live shots has been going on for as long as there have been live shots. Here’s a story in the NY Times from 2005, from my old B&C colleague Mark Lasswell, on the “Newsbusters” outfit that frequently disrupted live shots with elaborate stunts. It was more recently that the interlopers could share their shenanigans on YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook and other social media platforms.

Some news directors will avoid boozy scenes altogether, such as bars and any kind of sports celebration, for live reporting.

Others are going with delays to insulate themselves from spontaneous profanity–and FCC fines.

WAVE Louisville went with a 15 second delay throughout Derby Day last weekend–the first Derby the station has televised on delay. “We never had to use it–we never had to bail,” says Carolyn Williams, WAVE news director. “But knowing it was there was wonderful.”

WAVE learned the hard way last year when an individual–OK, it was Cyndi Lauper–dropped an f-bomb at the Pegasus Parade that runs as part of the Derby celebration. Lauper, who was grand marshal, went on WAVE later and apologized.

“It made us all put our heads together and say, we can’t make that mistake again,” says Williams.

One news director veteran told me how it’s usually a rival station that is circulating the embarrassing station clip, and how a younger generation of local news managers, focused on driving social engagement numbers, doesn’t necessarily see their video-bombed reporter going viral as a bad thing. “They think it’s cool–this is getting picked up, it’s getting views, it’s getting recognition, it’s getting awareness,” says the newsroom vet.

The story is out Monday, or in the digital mag Sunday evening.