As the party that is 2013 draws to a close, we observe that the TV news business has been filled with outstanding coverage of the year's challenging and important stories, including the Syrian civil war, the death of Nelson Mandela, the U.S. government shutdown and the glitches afflicting the rollout of Obamacare.
But let's not talk about glories. Let's talk about embarrassments.
TV journalism has been chockablock this year with many moments of silly errors, unchecked egotism and all-purpose idiocy. And the best thing is that there's a video record of it.
It's tough to choose from all this plenitude, but we here at Show Tracker thought the following merited special mention:
1. Matt Lauer as Pamela Anderson
After his reputation got beat up in the Ann Curry debacle, the "Today" host didn't need this. But hey, he did it to himself. No one made him don a blond wig and a red one-piece for Halloween.
2. "60 Minutes" Benghazi apology
Whoops. CBS' news magazine had a superb track record for accuracy -- until this year. Lara Logan's piece about the terrorist attack on the U.S. compound in Libya included an interview with Dylan Davies, a security expert whose supposedly eyewitness account was almost immediately discredited. "We realized we had been misled," Logan told viewers in an apology. That apology wasn't good enough -- CBS ended up handing Logan and her producer a suspension.
3. Fake town crier announces royal baby
When the former Kate Middleton gave birth to Prince William's heir in July, the world's media were so desperate for any bit of news that they trained their cameras on a resplendent red-coated elderly man in London who was ringing a bell and shouting at the top of his lungs. CNN helpfully explained that the "town crier" was a traditional role in Britain before the age of Twitter. Left unexplained was that the man -- one Tony Appleton -- had no official role or connection to Buckingham Palace and merely does his crier act for corporate events and the like. In other words, he was promoting himself -- and fooling the entire media world to boot. Hear ye, hear ye, that was well-played!
4. Megyn Kelly ignites Santa Claus race war
Can't we all just get along and get lots of cool stocking stuffers? Apparently not. Fox News host Megyn Kelly touched off widespread debate by informing viewers that Santa Claus is white. "He just is," the newswoman said. Kelly later explained that the segment was supposed to be "tongue in cheek." If so, the whole situation showed why news networks should leave the funny stuff to Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.
5. TV station broadcasts fake crew names in air crash
Embarrassing as the above items might be, however, nothing can quite match the whopper committed by KTVU-TV, the Fox affiliate in San Francisco. In July, the station reported the names of crew members on Asiana 214, which had crashed. Unfortunately, the names were bogus -- starting with "Captain Sum Ting Wong." Whether you found the gaffe offensive or funny, it ended up having serious consequences. KTVU fired three producers deemed responsible for the incident, and Asiana threatened to sue the station (although it later dropped the suit).
What were your favorite TV news gaffes and bloopers from the past year? Sound off in the comments.
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