Asymmetrical Information - Megan McArdle

04.22.13

North Dakota Television Station Fires Brand-New Anchor Over Accidental On-Air Profanity

Whatever happened to second chances?

A young kid getting his first try as a TV anchor opened up his very first broadcast by whispering "fucking shit" into a live mic.  Presumably, he didn't know he was live.  But the television station, KFYR in North Dakota, has fired him anyway.  

For shame, KFYR.  Yes, obviously he got nervous and made a mistake.  And I know that he thereby exposed children to profanity which they otherwise would have had to wait until recess to hear.

But there's no evidence that this was deliberate.  Whatever happened to the groveling apology and the second chance . . . the kind of forgiving spirit that made America great?  Many of the people in North Dakota are there because some ancestors screwed up not once, but multiple times, flubbing life so bad back East (or in Europe) that they had to get in a covered wagon and head out to somewhere where they could start over.  

And I say that in admiration.  They were the people who had the caliber not to take failure lying down: to pick up and try again.  And they were aided by a society that helped them do just that, offering them land and the opportunity to bring something out of the earth.  North Dakotans are the descendants of the ones who took that chance and made it work.  Why are they now denying that same second chance to a kid who made one bad mistake?  

The right approach to this was one, a suspension without pay (to show that the station took this seriously); two, a groveling on-camera apology from the would-be anchor; and three, another chance, so that the kids who may have heard the profanity also hear that America believes in giving people the opportunity to redeem their errors.  The wrong approach was to end this kid's employment, and maybe his career, over a split-second mistake.  

Here's hoping some other broadcaster out there has the right approach to things and gives this guy another shot.