Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Arkansas Radio Reporter Fired for Florida Hat

This will seem like homerism, since I live in Florida and, in fact, own a Florida Gators hat. But this is ridiculous.

Hence the ridicule to follow.

An Arkansas radio station that bills itself "Hog Sports Radio" fired one of its reporters for wearing a Florida Gators cap to a news conference with Arkansas Razorbacks football coach Bobby Petrino.

Renee Gork is a University of Florida alumna. She says she grapped the Gators hat without thinking because it was raining outside. It wasn't a stunt, a protest, or an attempt to provoke Petrino.

No matter how rushed she was or how wet your hair might have gotten, this was extraordinarily poor judgment on Gork's part. First of all, any Florida-themed apparel gets buried at the bottom of the closet the second I move into my Arkansas abode. Second, wearing any university-logoed cap to a college football news conference, friend or foe, is entirely unprofessional.

However, her punishment should have ended with the embarrassment she must have felt when Petrino finished a reply to a question from Gork by saying, "and that will be the last question I answer with that hat on."

But fired? C'mon. This seems backwards even for Arkansas.

"This radio station is Hog Sports Radio," KAKS general manager Dan Storrs told The Associated Press. "We are very biased. We support the Razorbacks 100 percent."

And you take your support for a college football team far too seriously.

I get it. You make your living kissing up to the U of A. It doesn't help that cause if one of your employees wears an enemy's hat to cover a Razorbacks event. But there's loyalty and there's idiocy. This goes beyond even that. Storrs had turned what should have been a reprimand and a local chuckle into a national embarassment.

For him. As if people don't already think of Arkansans as intolerant rubes, this just reinforces it. Unbelievable.

Tampa TV Reporters Fired For YouTube Video

WFTS-TV fired three people and disciplined four others for creating a mock newscast and posting it online. The spoof, anchored by Kerry Kavanaugh (left), reported that a Ch. 28 employee was one of Tiger Woods' mistresses. It was apparently meant as a gag gift for the woman's birthday. Click here to read details from the St. Petersburg Times.

Fake newscasts and blooper reels are as old as TV news. Before YouTube, they were the products of harmless fun that only a few people would see. You edited them on tape, gathered the intended audience into an edit booth and showed off the results in person. Tapes were inconvenient to copy, at least compared to copying-and-pasting a bit of text, so you were relatively assured that your inside joke would stay inside the group with whom you shared it.

Now, editing happens on computers, and you get a video file that is all too easy to upload to the Universe. Once there, you lose any control over who sees it and shares it. If it goes "viral," it can cause a fatal illness to your job, if not your entire career.

That's why I feel bad for those who lost their jobs. They thought they were doing something funny for a friend. It's the brain surgeon who thought he or she had to share the video on Facebook and YouTube whose career ought to be kaput.

Firing seems excesssive punishment. The station's GM told the Times that the video could risk the station's credibility, which I understand to a point. But I saw the clip before it was removed from YouTube and if the only people still watching TV news are ones who couldn't immediately tell that this was a fake story, I'm not sure that the business has much credibility left, anyway.

Meanwhile, I remain grateful that the bulk of my broadcast career happened in the ante-YouTube era. My on-air mishaps haunt me enough in memories. I'd hate to think how I'd feel if they were conveniently available for anyone to view.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Sarasota Jungle Gardens

The words "Sarasota" and "jungle" don't often appear in the same sentence. Sarasota Jungle Gardens is a tourist attraction where I once shot a freelance story. In fact, here's the video:

I went back yesterday with a couple members of the local photo group to which I belong. No alligators bellowed. I see gators in the wild occasionally anyway so I focused on the parrots and flamingos.

There are more shots of parrots in from this shoot on my photo blog.