By: Jacqueline Ingles
Interns often pick my brain about ‘messing up’ on camera and ‘stumbling’ over words on-air and how mortified they would be. I will be the first to say that far worse things are going to happen to you in front of and behind the camera. These instances shouldn’t be seen as failures, but learning experience and rites of passage.
Here are a few things that have happened to me that I can chuckle at now, but wanted to hide in a hole when they happened.
1) THE FLYING TAMPON
Back while reporting in Georgia we had a massive flood hit Hamilton County in north Florida. I headed out to meet with the director of FEMA for an interview.
Since my purse is more like a mini camera bag, I jammed by lav mic into it and headed out. When I met him and took out my microphone, some how, a tampon, wrapped in its bright orange covering, got tangled in the cord. When I grabbed the microphone out of my bag, the tampon flew threw the air and hit the FEMA director right in the thigh!
What made matters worse is that he didn’t address it and nor did I. It was like the big orange elephant in the room. Eventually, the interview ended, he turned away and I snatched that personal product right back up.
Now, what I should have done was likely made a joke and said something like, ‘Isn’t that ironic, a tampon hits you on a flooding story!’ Would have really been a better ice breaker than being completely uncomfortable.
2) WIND GUSTS ARE A DRESSES WORST ENEMY
This embarrassing moment actually happened this past Easter weekend thanks to unpredictable Texas weather. I headed out to an area lake to talk to boaters about drought conditions and how water levels are low. Clad in my pink dress, I took to the shore. While shooting b-roll, a wind gust rolled through and decided to take my dress bottom up over my head. Well, everyone lakeside was able to see my bunny print underwear. Nothing ruins your street credibility more than that. But, lesson learned: Don’t wear flowing dresses out on windy days. I was able to quickly laugh this one off, but I am still haunted that there are viewers out there that can legitimately say, ‘I saw her in her undies,’
3) FROZEN STIFF
During a liveshot following the gay pride parade last year, the anchor tossed to me and off I went on my live introduction. Then, out of no where, I completely lost my train of thought and blanked on live television for roughly the seven longest seconds of my life. What came out next was a series of ‘ughs’ and sighs and me breathing. It was so bad, my photographer was shaking his head like SAY SOMETHING. I did, eventually, but I cannot even remember what it was. At the time, I was completely new to live shots in the field. What was going through my mind was, ‘Jackie, you are an idiot and you completely embarrassed yourself.’ Well, usually I am my own worst critic but it really was that bad.
What I have learned is to have a go to line. If I blank, which sometimes in the rush of things can happen, I always remember, you have a script in your Droid phone, it is OK to look down and if all else fails toss it back in the anchors hands.
I should have just said, ‘The parade was a good time, let’s take a look.’ But, when the camera is rolling on you, sometimes thoughts don’t fire normally in your brain. It has been 17 months since that ‘episode’ happened and it hasn’t happened since. Yes, I stumble at times, but the recovery is quicker and each live shot is an opportunity to sharpen skills. The fact is, unless you go out of bounds on live television (get naked or say a swear word), your news director understands you are learning. Young reporters should learn early on, they are human beings too and humans are allowed to make mistakes.
4) GOOSE IS TO GEESE, DEER IS NOT TO DEERS?
Packages usually get a buzz banner at the top for readers to see and hopefully keep their attention. One of my first stories was about deer hunters and how they were bringing tons of money into the local economy. I went ahead, wrote my script and had my producer look it over. When it aired, I was patting myself on the back for reporting on something that I had never done. Then, came story review day at the station. What my news directors brought to my attention is that the banner that ran through the entire package read, “Deers Bring Hunters, Money.” I am an absolute stickler about grammar and the English language. I could not believe I made such a simple mistake. Deer, the word, can be both singular and plural. In my run to get things done, my genius self added an “S” on. Once I noticed this, it didn’t matter what the package was about, you could not take your eyes off the error. I am not sure what could have been worse, calling a flock of moose meese?
I actually made the experience into a joke and always tell my producers, let’s make sure deers don’t run through this script. Now, we are hunting for those elusive mistakes!
A lot of people may question why I would admit to embarrassing moments and if I worry about employers reading this. I am not worried one bit. These mistakes and mortifying moments absolutely made me a better reporter. What would be more heinous to do would have been to not learn from these experiences. I know that more errors and mistakes are ahead in life. It is how you handle these mistakes and failures that will determine your success in the business.
Jacqueline Ingles is a multi-platform reporter for KXAN-TV in Austin, Texas. She writes, shoots, edits, fronts her story and then provides a more in-depth story version on her station’s web site daily. She founded the blog “In Ingles Please” in early 2010. A native of Chicago, Jacqueline received a master’s in broadcast journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. She also graduated Summa Cum Laude from Loyola University-Chicago