The Big 10 with Jeff D'Alessio, July 20, 2014
You've seen their faces on the nightly news, heard their voices calling big events. Today, some of the most accomplished broadcasters with area connections share their most forgettable blunders and bloopers while live and on the air.
Alumna, University of Illinois and WCIA-TV
Traffic reporter, CLTV, Chicago
"I covered a story for WCIA on a group of farmers who came together to help plow their buddy's field for him after he lost his arm in an auger accident. It was such a touching story — and I completely ruined it when I said in the live intro, 'His arm was ripped off by an ogre.' Auger, ogre, ugh! There were pictures of Shrek all over my desk the next day. Still haven't lived it down. I hope that family has forgiven me for my complete lack of farming knowledge."
Fighting Illini Insider
"My first year after graduating from the U of I in 1991, I got one of my first opportunities on the anchor desk at WICD in Champaign. I was filling in around the Fourth of July. To say it was a complete disaster would be a compliment.
"After frantically writing my show on a typewriter and editing it on archaic machines, I ran to the set, pouring with sweat and without my jacket on. I also forgot to put on my microphone, and all of my tapes were out of order. Even better, viewers could hear me putting on my jacket and mic while rustling through my jumbled scripts, guessing which highlight would pop up next on the screen. Longest five minutes of my life. I thank God no one was watching."
UI Class of '70,
2 national Emmys
"The very first television I ever did — my first day at WBIR in Knoxville, Tenn. — I was scheduled to talk live on the air to two Native American women from the reservation in Cherokee, N.C., about life there. I prepared a long list of questions, probably two to three dozen.
"Tell me about life on the reservation. Answer: Fine. The women there have a basket weaving business? Answer: Yes. Are there challenges associated with that? Answer: No.
"In the span of two minutes, I had asked every question I had — and had 13 minutes left to go. It was terrifying — and the thought of it decades later still is."
"My co-anchor at WCIA, Jerry Slabe, was such a cut-up. He used to joke during the commercial breaks and try to get me to crack up. Once, coming out of a commercial, he challenged me to read a story 'with authority.' When I did, he started laughing, and then I started laughing. I tried to cover it up but that didn't work. I was stuck, embarrassed, and it happened during a story about the Polish dock workers' strike in the 1980s, when people were waiting in line for food. Not a good story to laugh during."
Big Ten Network
"It was my first game on WNUR, the student station at Northwestern — a baseball game against Minnesota in Minneapolis the spring of my freshman year. I got handed the play-by-play reins, and the first thing out of my mouth was, 'The top of the order here in the fourth for the White Sox ...'
"I caught myself, backtracked, said 'Wildcats' and proceeded to dwell on it for the rest of the broadcast — aided and abetted by my partner that day, who mocked me throughout the rest of the game. Making it even more painful was the fact that my friends were among the 10 listeners back in Evanston, as was my dad. It was my first chance at doing what had been my lifelong dream, and I was utterly convinced after that I had no future whatsoever in broadcasting."
9 p.m. news anchor
"I was working in my first TV market, in Springfield, Mass., covering blizzard conditions during a Nor'easter. During a live report, after being in the bitter cold all day, it was time to sign out and because my teeth were chattering, I said: 'Reporting live, I'm Maggie Pofoe' instead of my name, Maggie Poteau."
"November 22, 1987. I was delivering the sportscast on WGN News when a video pirate interrupted our signal with a picture of a Max Headroom caricature in front of what looked like a sheet of corrugated metal. It lasted for about 30 seconds. When our own cameras came back on, I said, 'If you're wondering what just happened, so am I.' A few minutes later, the same thing happened at Chicago's PBS station, WTTW. The FCC and FBI investigated but were never able to come up with the culprits."
Morning show host
WHPO Radio, Hoopeston
"I was only 18. During our live radio auction, I had a caller ask if I had any certificates for a popular pizza restaurant in the area. When I said 'no, I already sold them all,' he proceeded to say: '(Expletive), that's too bad, that (expletive) is good' — with a few other choice words in there as well. I played commercials, tried to act like it didn't happen, but the next few callers were still laughing and asking for pizza. People still talk about it all these years later. And I did find out who it was."
Illinois Radio Network
"In the early 1990s, I was working in Indiana and about to do a 90-second newscast, when I was beset with hiccups — for those 90 seconds only."
"The 1994 NBA Eastern Conference semifinals. Madison Square Garden. I was working on the Bulls radio broadcasts with Lou Canellis on the old WMAQ. Lou was hosting the halftime show and asked me to go courtside to do a live interview with Bill Murray. He was kind enough to grant the interview, but Lou didn't throw it down to me right away, which agitated Murray.
"Lou finally tosses it to me and the first thing I bring up is that Murray has a Knicks jersey on. 'What's up with that?' I ask, given his (Chicagoland roots). He just glares at me, ticked off by the wait and now adding gasoline to his fire. He doesn't answer me — just dead air — and then he rolls up his Knicks jersey from the belly up. Underneath is a Bulls jersey. He looks me up and down and rips me for what I'm wearing.
"I believe Patrick Ewing left the court with an ankle injury, which happened right in front of Murray. When I ask him about it, he glares at me again and says, 'What kind of question is that? I'm not a doctor. Are you trying to be funny?' To which I replied, 'No, that's supposed to be your job.'"