Yesterday I wrote about Tavis Smiley and the fallout from something he said when he didn’t realize his microphone was on. The same thing happened to me recently.
I was doing a pre-taped interview with a guest in a different city via Skype. Skype allows you to do an interview with someone over the internet using a camera inside the interviewee’s computer. The video quality is not as good as that given by a professional studio camera, but usable nonetheless. This guest had graciously rearranged her schedule to do the interview.
She was an excellent interview–she knew her material, was smart and articulate. But we were having technical difficulties at our end. Her audio was perfect but the video images of her kept freezing up. The interview lasted 6 or 7 minutes. When the interview was over, I thanked her and said she’d done a great job, which was true. Then I paused for a second or two, assumed she could no longer hear me and said to the studio crew, “Are we going to use that?” That was the last thing she heard and she thought I had not been pleased with her performance. In fact, my concern was whether we could use the interview because of our problems with the video.
Understandably thinking my comment was about her, she sent our producer an e-mail saying my comment was unprofessional, particularly since she had gone out of her way to help us. I was mortified. We quickly explained to her the true nature of my concern. She immediately got it. But it was embarrassing and humbling to have violated a rule of Broadcasting 101. And in the intervening minutes before we received her gracious e-mail accepting my apology, this “veteran” broadcaster felt like a real greenhorn. Lesson learned: if you’re wearing a mic, assume it’s hot.