The Cool Thing About Live Coverage Is … It’s Live!

Live television, as anyone will tell you, carries with it a certain amount of risk. In the carefully scripted, image-conscious world of cable news, live broadcasts from dangerous locales provide three things: a break from the buttoned-down studio where anchors normally ply their trade; the chance for viewers to actually witness history in the making; and the possibility of something going wrong.

Over the course of a day of wall-to-wall cable news coverage wrought by Hurricane Katrina, we caught what can only be called two lowlights, and both came as the result of the live shot.

Tempers were already short at 4:32 a.m. this morning, when TVNewser caught CNN meteorologist Chad Myers throwing a temper tantrum (video clip) at “Daybreak” anchor Carol Costello as he tried to describe the weather conditions in New Orleans and the condition of the Superdome. Myers, who no doubt had been up all night, was doing his best to explain the situation when Costello began interrupting him — at which point Myers took an oddly menacing step toward the camera and threw the papers in his hand down:

Myers: It has filled in a little bit, filled in with some air, but this lower portion, but …

Costello: Chad, Chad, Chad …

Myers: Let me talk Carol!

Costello: Translate that for us, I don’t know what that means, what does that mean —

Myers: Well, if you would let me talk!

Costello: Go ahead …

The two seemed to recover quickly, and began to play the whole thing as a joke, but we’re not so sure.

A little later in the day came an unscripted moment that Fox News’ Shep Smith may remember for a while. Smith tried to conduct a “man on the street interview” (video clip) with a guy in New Orleans walking his two dogs in the middle of the storm. As you’ll see, the interview didn’t quite go the way Shep had likely hoped. The exchange:

Smith: You’re live on Fox News Channel, what are you doing?

Man: Walking my dogs.

Smith: Why are you still here? I’m just curious.

Man: None of your fucking business.

Smith: Oh that was a good answer, wasn’t it? That was live on international television. Thanks so much for that. You know we apologize …

Fox anchor: Well, that’s the attitude …

Yep, Fox, that’s the attitude that people whose cities are being subsumed by the Gulf of Mexico sometimes take.

Paul McLeary

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Paul McLeary is senior editor of Defense Technology International magazine, and is a former CJR staffer.