Long story short .. during our 6 p.m. newscast on TV3, I read a story about a steroid bust in Green. The prompter rolled with copy that told me the raid was conducted at the home of Drew Alexander. As the words came out of my mouth, it was as though a slow motion "noooooooooooooooo!!!!!!! that's not right!!!!!!!!!!!!" was raging inside my brain.
Too late! Before I could say "wait a minute that's not right .. " my co-anchor Barbara Gauthier was already on to the next story. I got the producer on the phone to find out if by some miracle of a coincidence this bad guy had the same name as Summit County Sheriff DREW ALEXANDER.
She checked and realized that the copy she wrote using a Sheriff's Office Press Release was wrong .. and she'd inserted Alexander's name where the suspect's name should have been.
We did an immediate correction coming out of the commercial ... and I have apologized to the folks one-by-one who are calling in. (One guy who decided to make it personal in his email got a piece of my mind though.)
If I know Drew, he'll tease me forever about this one ... but he'll forgive me. Still .. Drew, I apologize. That shouldn't have happened.
Actually, it's not the first time the name game has frozen us TV folks solid. Years ago, I interviewed a woman named "Romona Robinson" and the director refused to put up the graphic under her soundbite because he assumed that it was an error. Another time, we had a "Mark Williamson" in a story on the old 23 and everyone hesitated. We've had graphics folks who would also "correct" the spelling of Jhonny Peralta because they were sure I had misspelled it when it was correct. I even had to say on the air that I wasn't related to the subject of a story on a drunk driver because his last name was Mansfield.
I'm human .. and I admit I should have been caught the mistake as it flew out of my mouth .. but as a journalist, the right thing to do is to apologize for the error and hope viewers realize that human beings -- not infallible robots -- put the news together.