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MM JADED — Don’t touch reporters and don’t send them out there alone

Sara Rivest of WAVE3 News was the victim of harassment by a passerby as she delivered her live shot at Bourbon and Beyond. She did the right thing in using social media to identify the harasser. All of the publicity spotlighted 42-year-old Eric Goodman as the assailant, who is now learning a harsh lesson about respecting personal space.

Read the Twitter comments in the above thread for explosive reactions ranging from people who think all men are predators to people who think Sara overreacted.

Most of us in media have pranked each other by walking into live shots or created some distraction off camera to elicit laughter from the person speaking on air, but the Sara Rivest scenario involves a stranger in a public place. There are too many unknowns to just laugh it off as a harmless prank.

Almost all of us who broadcast live shots have been targets of people shouting profanities, throwing things at us, grabbing or kissing, and other means of impeding our work.

People in public spaces sometimes can’t resist the chance to ambush broadcasters for the sake of comedy. Lawyers refer to enticing spectacles as “attractive nuisances.”

Here’s a photo of me in Europe swooping into a group of musicians, but not touching anyone, for a funny photo op. I did leave a tip but even this action was a trifle too close for strangers. Bad idea on my part. That musician doesn’t know that I’m harmless so he probably had a slight burst of fear.

I regret getting a little too close to this guy. It should be noted that street musicians are soliciting the attention of passersby. TV reporters are simply standing in a public spot for reporting spot news.

In the Sarah Rivest scenario, she was accompanied by a videographer who did not see the intruder make his move. The videographer was likely flustered by another man who walked between the camera and the reporter just before the intruder turned back in to kiss the reporter. Note that the walk-through guy was not charged by police because he did not touch anyone.

It’s a public setting. People can choose to disrupt someone else’s work scene for a quick bit of levity so long as there is no touching.

A modern threat to media people working outside is money-tightening media companies relying heavily on MMJs — multimedia journalists. That means that they work alone, setting up their own camera and then standing in front of it to deliver their story. There is usually no colleague on site to dissuade idiots from jumping into live shots.

Today’s MMJ corp features more women than men, and the risky practice of sending anyone to work alone during late night newscasts is completely insane. Many outdoor reporters on late shows and very early morning shows have a workmate to assist and protect, but that’s not always the case.

The Sara Rivest story is relatively innocuous by comparison to tragic media assaults. Nonetheless, Rivest’s intruder is clearly violating her body and personal space so the charge is appropriate. Hopefully the apology and ensuing embarrassment for Eric Goodman will be enough to consider the matter closed at the November court date.

Goodman’s “prank” will cost him legal fees at the very least. Rivest has said she accepted his apology but also agrees with having him charged.

I’ve been doing WHAS-TV live shots for about 35 years. I’ve been grabbed, kissed, had beer poured on me, been cursed at, and had people lurk behind me. Producers, who scan the on air monitor while a talent is on location, have shouted into my earpiece to LOOK OUT when a stranger enters the area behind me while I’m broadcasting. I stop my delivery, switch my brain from show content to defensive posturing, and maybe challenge the jerk on the air.

Invading a live shot may seem like harmless fun but a street reporter never knows if someone wants to get 3 seconds of fame or inflict physical harm.

The world is a lot different today than it was even a decade ago, much less the mid-80s when I started. Too many instances of unforeseen violence and wilding has America on edge in public spaces. Disrupting someone in public used to be considered pranking but now must be considered a threat first.

Of course, ever since I started packing chainsaws to my remotes, no one seems to bother me.

Terry Meiners and his chainsaws. No one harasses him on TV live shots any longer.

The best thing that ever happened to me on a live shot is when my TV director son Max popped into my earpiece. I was standing in a driving rain waiting to go on the air in about two minutes.

Suddenly the current WHAS11 director’s voice disappears from my earpiece and my son Max chimes in.

Max: Hey dad, remember all those times on the way to school you’d point to people working in the cold and rain and say ‘Get an education so you don’t have to work in the weather’?

Me: Yep.

Max: Who’s the smart guy now?

Max Meiners directing WHAS-TV with observer Bob Pilkington
dad. husband. observer. media personality. pathological flyer.