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Broadcasting 101: Assume any microphone is on


Yahoo! News’ Washington bureau chief David Chalian was fired yesterday after a hot-mic blunder during an online broadcast from the RNC in Tampa. Referring to the simultaneous occurence of the GOP convention and the hurricane floods in New Orleans, Chilian made an off-the-cuff remark, picked up by an open mic, saying that Mitt Romney and his wife Ann were β€œnot concerned at all” and β€œhappy to have a party with black people drowning.” Audio of the incident quickly made its way online, posted by media watchdog NewsBusters. Yahoo! released the statement: β€œDavid Chalian’s statement was inappropriate and does not represent the views of Yahoo!. He has been terminated effective immediately. We have already reached out to the Romney campaign, and we apologize to Mitt Romney, his staff, their supporters and anyone who was offended.” Chalian issued the following apology: β€œI am profoundly sorry for making an inappropriate and thoughtless joke. I was commenting on the challenge of staging a convention during a hurricane and about campaign optics. I have apologized to the Romney campaign, and I want to take this opportunity to publicly apologize to Gov. and Mrs. Romney. I also regret causing any distraction from the exceptional coverage of the Republican convention by Yahoo! News and ABC News.”

A Newsday report indicates that Chalian, who is white, suggested to his upcoming guest to “feel free to say” the offensive words about the Romneys.
Putting words in a guest’s mouth is absolutely despicable, unprofessional, dishonest media behavior. That may explain the swift reactions by Yahoo! and ABC News, for whom Chalian was chief political director before focusing on the web company’s political coverage.
A common thought process is that a host can direct a guest with a “last words in” prior to air will elicit “first words out” from a guest, also known as “parroting.” Β In an innocent application of this broadcast technique, a host can assist someone who is apprehensive about being on the air out of nervousness. Β In that scenario, the host and guest may practice what they’ll say.
In no way should a host or interviewer ever create a storyline for a guest to “parrot” once they get on the air.
To illustrate a difference in reporting, here are accounts of the Chalian story where no mention is made of the host attempting to steer his guest. Β POLITICO Β Huffington Post
This Los Angeles Times writer can’t stop gushing about what a great guy Chalian is, citing other media members who see no problem with parrot-prepping a guest.
dad. husband. observer. media personality. pathological flyer.

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