On Sunday, AJ Clemente’s first day as a TV anchorman was even more of a disaster than Aaron Altman’s in “Broadcast News.” Instead of sweating buckets, AJ dropped the F-bomb and the S-bomb right at the top of the newscast.
While he’s responsible for the profanity, I blame the station’s management for this disaster. I don’t expect a station in North Dakota to be the world’s best-run media outlet, but whoever is in charge threw AJ into a job he clearly was not ready to do.
Forget about the language. As you watch the video, you can see AJ is mega-nervous, but he also seems to have never done this before — I don’t mean on the air, I mean it looks like he’s never even rehearsed doing a newscast from the anchor desk. My impression is he’s a recent college graduate who sent a tape to some TV stations in small markets to get his first job on the air, and KFYR-TV gave him the opportunity, but not the training.
His co-anchor, Van Tieu, didn’t make it any easier when, rather than diving into the night’s top story, she asked AJ to tell viewers about his background. She might have been trying to calm him down and make him feel comfortable, but she made things worse. You do not banter with a rookie — you tell him which camera to look into, let him read the teleprompter, and keep everything as simple as possible, which means no ad-libbing under any circumstances. It’s also apparent there was no stage manager in the studio to point AJ to the correct camera (and no one behind the cameras to help him either, because they’re probably remote-operated by someone in the control room).
After the newscast ended, AJ tweeted, “That couldn’t have gone any worse.” A few hours later, he added (his punctuation), “Tough day, Thanks for the support, We all make mistakes. Im truly sorry for mine. I’ll try my hardest to come back better and learn from this.”
Lots of people make mistakes their first day on the job. On the night of my first show on a commercial radio station (the 7pm-Midnight shift at album-oriented-rock WRCN/Long Island, April 15, 1978), the first song I cued up to play was “More Than A Feeling.” Unfortunately, the last record played on that turntable had been a single, and I forgot to change the gears, so when it hit the air, the Boston song was at the wrong speed — 45rpm instead of 33 and 1/3.
By then, I’d done hundreds of shows on my college and high school stations (mostly error-free), so I quickly realized what I had done and fixed it, but it made the knot in my stomach tighten even more. Fortunately, program director Don Brink was too good a manager to even mention my mistake, instead calling me a couple of hours later to tell me I sounded fine and keep up the good work. I did, staying at that station in ever-growing roles for three years.
AJ Clemente won’t have that opportunity because today, he’s out of a job. If it had just been the nervousness and a couple of minor mistakes, he might have been kept on. But AJ forgot Cardinal Rule Number One of broadcasting: you never know when a mike is live, so don’t fuck up and say shit!