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My Worst On-Air Mistakes

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2014-01-31-radiofortheHP.JPGIt's standard in broadcasting. You start in a small market and work your way up to big cities.

I'm the reason.

People like me, anyway. We weren't born smooth. We need a lower-stakes environment where we can polish our rough edges. A new job is stressful enough. You don't want your first mistakes to be career killers.

I was so nervous during one of my first newscasts I reported that Minnesota Twins center fielder Kirby Puckett had hit "three homers and two home runs."

What does that mean?

I'd rush into the studio from covering the latest and try to ad-lib my way through a newscast I didn't have time to write. That's how my listeners learned someone had won an award for the photograph of a cow jumping off of a dock.

It wasn't a cow. It was a dog. A cow jumping off a dock? Now that would've been newsworthy.

I thrived on the pace of radio, but it was brutal. I'd finish a newscast on our AM station at about 8:15. Then I'd have to be in three places at once -- getting ready for the talk show, on the air doing news for the FM station, and in the bathroom after all the coffee I'd guzzled to make it through a morning that had started at 5.

The FM news was informal. The announcer and I went back and forth toward the end of those few minutes, joking around as we segued back into music. One day I announced the winner of the Butkus Award, given to the top collegiate linebacker. When I said "Butkus Award" the announcer stopped me. "The what?" he asked. "The Butt-Kiss Award," I said, not realizing my mistake. "The what?" he asked again. So I said it again: "Butt-Kiss." And then, "Butt-Kiss. Butt-Kiss..." And finally, "Oh, no!"

The mistake that still haunts me happened during an obituary for a man whose name would make you giggle if you heard it. I can't tell you what that was. I've already embarrassed his family enough. Just... trust me.

The DJ working the control board was in a playful mood, and decided to have a little fun. A pane of glass separated his studio from mine, and he placed an album cover in the corner of that window -- so when I looked up I'd be staring right at it. I didn't know what was there, but I knew nothing good would happen if I looked. "Don't look! Don't look!" I kept telling myself.

After a minute or so, when I thought I'd get through the obituary of Mr. Silly Name after all, I looked.

This wasn't just any album. It was No Jacket Required. I was staring at the nearly bald head of Phil Collins.

I lost it. I started giggling and couldn't stop. The DJ dove under the control board to keep me from looking at him and giggling even harder.

I was... mortified.

I didn't get fired, but I probably should've been.

Regardless, you won't catch me mocking people who lose their composure on the air.

I'll be off to the side somewhere, trying not to make it worse.