How News Journalism Careers End

It recently happened again. Call me a softee but I can’t help but feel sorry for these people, many who are young professionals, who slip up and fall victim to the viral scrutiny and humiliation that follows. While many of these people who I am talking about previously aspired to have their work viewed on a national level, after the disaster happens almost all wish they had never made such a seemingly good-natured goal beforehand.

Yesterday the unfortunate event happened at a news station in my old hometown of Spokane. During a 10 p.m. newscast for FOX KAYU (a station that uses the resources and talent of the more well-known KHQ), a news reporter named Lindsay Nadrich plainly used two different versions of the F Bomb during a story. Lindsay was working on a piece about strawberry picking and stumbled through her words while speaking, causing her to utter the profanities.

The major point that anyone working in the news industry will immediately point out about this incident was that Lindsay’s mistake should never have reached airwaves. She shot the story early in the day and for whatever reason, the outtake made it on the newscast. Most people in the profession, including Keith Olbermann who Tweeted support Lindsay’s way, placed full blame on the editor of the story. But of course it didn’t matter that someone else let the profanity get on air or that Nadrich didn’t make the gaffe during a live newscast at the anchor desk. What mattered was that a ten second clip existed of a typical reporter doing a typical story in a typical city where the wholesome premise of the local news took a very unwholesome slant…viral gold.

The Lindsay Nadrich incident spread like wildfire through the digital world today. Jokes, condemnation, and sarcasm were unmercifully leveled at the poor reporter. Comparisons to the infamous A.J. Clemente meltdown surfaced. Debates on whether she should keep her job raged.

Here is why I always take the reporter’s side in these situations: First, they are held to a much higher standard than most other professions when it comes to language. While 99% of us could probably get away with accidently slipping up and saying a bad word once or twice, with news professionals it is the kiss of death. Many get terminated a couple days after. Mainly though, I just hate the aftermath of such a mistake. These people get their reputations and dignity pulled through the mud while the whole nation watches. Their name becomes synonymous with failure. A Google name search that once yielded lots of hits showing off the reporter’s work now just shows 100 different versions of that one clip. It is a tough way to go down, especially for someone so young.

I get it that news journalists are trained, counseled, and directed to never even think about uttering an obscenity while a camera is rolling. I know there are thousands of reporters out there who probably have perfect records and shake their heads when someone from their industry messes up in this way. I know that many people probably think the higher standard I spoke about above is absolutely warranted for the journalism industry. Maybe so. I just grimace when I see the nasty fall that people take after making such a mistake.

After the fall, there is the attempt to recover. Clemente went on Letterman, got some good exposure poking fun at himself. But again, the history and the YouTube clips stay with you long after the time in the spotlight is over. The type of work that these people chose because they loved it and had a talent for is sometimes no longer a possibility. I feel for Lindsay Nadrich tonight, along with all the other hard working reporters who have met similar fates. Don’t Blink.