File this one under What on Earth Were They Thinking: Last night, as John Kerry wrapped up his speech to thunderous applause at the DNC, someone at CNN got the bright idea to broadcast the radio communications of convention director Don Mischer. Straight out of Dateline NBC’s annoying-as-all-get-out playbook, which broadcasts the voice of the line producer directing the crew as they exit each broadcast, CNN let Don Mischer’s voice crackle over the network, screaming frantically that not enough balloons were falling from the ceiling. In case you were watching NBC or PBS or CBS or were asleep, here’s a taste of what we got to hear on CNN:
“Go balloons, go balloons! Go balloons! I don’t see anything happening. Go balloons! Go balloons! Go balloons! Standby confetti. Keep coming, balloons. More balloons. Bring it- balloons, balloons, balloons! We want balloons, tons of them. Bring them down. Let them all come. No confetti. No confetti yet….”
At first I thought this must be a mistake: Kerry had just given the speech of his life, and rather than letting the audience soak up the moment, CNN was blaring this producer’s stage commands. No one at CNN bothered to explain what we were all hearing. Susanne and I looked at each other and tried to figure out if the audiocast was accidental, as if Mischer’s wireless radio was interfering with CNN’s audio.
On and on it went, and I wondered out loud if CNN would be smart enough to pull the plug in case the producer lost it and uttered a broadcast unutterable. And indeed he did. Since this is a family-friendly blog, I won’t repeat it here, but Matt Drudge is happy to oblige on his website, both in transcript form and an MP3 file. (By my count, Mischer said the word “balloons” 30 times over the course of just a few minutes.) What was even more amazing was that CNN continued to play the producer’s audio track after he’d sworn on live TV!
Of course, the only reason this is news is because Don Mischer used the F-word on national TV. But even if he hadn’t, I’d have to say CNN’s decision to simulcast the internal audio feed was foolish. First, CNN should know that producers often swear like sailors, particularly when things aren’t going their way, and any fool would have noticed from the get-go that Don Mischer wasn’t pleased with how things were going. Second, it really spolied the moment for those of us who just wanted to enjoy watching Kerry enjoying his moment on the national stage. Kerry’s rarely an inspiring speaker, and he did a pretty good job at sounding relaxed and tough at the same time — so let’s revel in the moment, right? Instead, CNN wants to give its viewers a lesson in production stagecraft.
Note to CNN: You picked the wrong moment.
The big question now is whether CNN will pull the same stunt at the end of Bush’s speech at the RNC next month. Let’s reinstate the broadcasting Fairness Doctrine to make sure they do — that way Bush’s moment in the limelight can be interrupted as Kerry’s was in an equitable fashion… -andy