CRAWFORD | This week's lesson: The mic is always hot (and the ca - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | This week's lesson: The mic is always hot (and the camera always on)

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ESPN announcer Britt McHenry found herself in hot water after a nasty exchange with a towing company employee. ESPN announcer Britt McHenry found herself in hot water after a nasty exchange with a towing company employee.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Testing, one, two, three. Is this thing on? 

The answer to that question is yes. It is always yes. Even when it is no. It is yes. In life today, we must remember, the mic is always hot. There's always a camera phone running somewhere.

In the wake of some news this past week (and immediately preceding), this leads me to several things I've learned, or had reinforced.

Point No. 1. We are, all of us, live, pretty much all the time. That's the assumption we have to have. And still we all do stupid things, say stupid things, have moments that we hope the world will forget, and thankfully, most often it does.

I'd estimate that over the past decade, I've gotten ticked off enough to go all Britt McHenry on about a half dozen people a month -- and it took a lot less than my car being towed. A snarky comment on Twitter after a bad day. An email that hit me the wrong way. A Facebook attack. An insurance company decision. A phone call to the cable company.

As I've gotten older, I've gotten a little better at walking away. But not always. I've written emails I wish I hadn't. Said things in Twitter conversations I wish I hadn't. We all have breaking points. And, it seems to me, everybody is a bit more on edge today than we were ten years ago. I'm not sure why.

Point No. 2. We can't afford to have breaking points. Not anymore. A couple of recent videos in the news: A bar fight and subsequent dormitory incident between University of Kentucky and Eastern Kentucky University football players in Richmond, Ky., and ESPN reporter Britt McHenry's ugly exchange with a towing company employee.

I've been reluctant to weigh in on either one. First off, football players and bar fights go together like peanut butter and jelly. Believe me. One of the first stories I covered when I arrived in Louisville involved five University of Louisville players being arrested for a fight at a night club on Baxter Avenue. One was arrested for felonious assault on a police officer.

All but one of those five remained with the program. A couple became captains later in their careers. One worked with troubled youths in the city for a while.

The point is — it doesn't mean you're a bad person. It just means you did something stupid. And, perhaps had too much alcohol.

But back in those days, there wasn't much video. Today, there's video of everything. There was video of three UK players and an EKU player in a bar in Richmond. There was video later in the dorm. There wasn't any audio. We don't know what was said. So we know only a piece of the story.

It was an ugly piece. We all know that kind of behavior is unacceptable. On either side. One person was put in the hospital. Another was cold-cocked on what looked like a sucker punch. Chances are, none of those young people considered that everything they were doing was on tape.

Britt McHenry certainly didn't. The ESPN news presenter laid into a tow company employee after her car was towed. And the video was distributed (link includes some inappropriate language). Now, the video was edited. We don't know what the employee said to her. Chances are, it wasn't very nice. Chances are, it wasn't part of any kind of customer service manual you'd give out if you ran a company.

Doesn't matter. You don't say the kind of things McHenry said to that employee under any circumstance. It was a nasty, personal exchange. Condescending and hurtful. You don't go there even if provoked. No matter how bad a day it has been.

That video looks so bad that ESPN suspended her for a week. She got off easy.

(Note to those of you who want someday to be in the media, or attain some small level of notoriety, six words you should never utter under any circumstances: “Don't you know who I am?” First, if you feel the urge to say that, the answer is probably, no, they don't know who you are. And beyond that, they probably wouldn't care who you are if they did know. But third, and perhaps most important, you risk looking like a pompous jerk if recorded saying those words — which brings us back to our topic.)

Point No. 3. You're always representing somebody. A few weeks back I was completing an 11-hour drive back from Tallahassee, Fla. I was on I-65 somewhere almost to Bowling Green. I checked my mirrors as I was about to get into the right lane, then slid over. And I cut someone off. If there had been a “How's My Driving?” number on the back of the vehicle, somebody would've gotten an earful on me, I'm sure. As it is, the truck is emblazoned with “WDRB News” all over it. And that made me feel twice as bad.

Not only did I look like an idiot, and reckless on top of it, I'd made the station look bad. We all work somewhere. Or we all represent something beyond ourselves. I think a lot of people forget that when they get onto social media and put others on blast.

You get onto a news conference podium wearing your UK uniform and mutter something derogatory about an opponent under your breath that is picked up by the microphone sitting right in front of you (and it is always on, see headline of this story), and you've got yourself a public relations mess.

The old open mic faux pas is great fun, until it happens to you. 

None of us is at our best all the time. We all have moments we aren't proud of. But it's worth considering, before we lapse into one of those moments nowadays, just where the camera is located, and remember, the nearest camera may be on the wrist of the guy next to you. And just assume it is on. All the time.

FURTHER READING: Daniel C. Dennett and Deb Roy, via the website “Medium” have a fascinating look at all this in evolutionary terms. Read their story here.

An excerpt to consider: “The tremendous change in our world triggered by this media inundation can be summed up in a word: transparency. We can now see further, faster, and more cheaply and easily than ever before -- and we can be seen. And you and I can see that everyone can see what we see, in a recursive hall of mirrors of mutual knowledge that both enables and hobbles. The age-old game of hide-and-seek that has shaped all life on the planet has suddenly shifted its playing field, its equipment and its rules. The players who cannot adjust will not last long.”

QUOTABLE: "You already have zero privacy. Get over it." Sun Microsystems Inc. CEO Scott G. McNealy. In 1999.

Copyright 2015 WDRB News. All Rights Reserved. Each Sunday, WDRB's Eric Crawford will glean a lesson from the week's sports headlines. 
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