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"F-bomb" anchor A.J. Clemente visits NBC's Today and Letterman, revealing serious problems with small town TV news

North Dakota news anchor A.J. Clemente, right, was fired after uttering a profanity as his first words on air.

North Dakota news anchor A.J. Clemente, right, was fired after uttering a profanity as his first words on air.



Appearing on NBC’s Today show this morning, fired North Dakota TV anchor A.J. Clemente spoke up about the most embarrassing on air mistake since New York anchor Sue Simmons let the f-word fly just before a commercial – revealing, in the process, why he probably shouldn’t have been allowed to anchor in the first place.

Today is just the first stop for Clemente, whose inadvertent use of a couple choice four-letter words in his first TV anchor appearance made him a viral video star and also earned him a spot on CBS talk show star David Letterman’s couch tonight (Wednesday).

After appearing on the sydnicated show Live with Kelly and Michael this morning, hosts Michael Strahan and Kelly Ripa offered Clemente the change to cover the red-carpet opening on Pierce Brosnan's new movie Love is All You Need tonight; he'll return to their show Thursday to show how it all went.

What his mistake really reveals, however, is just how low the quality of local TV news is in Bismarck, the 151th TV market in the country -- leaving larger questions about how badly the modern media environment has hurt small TV news operations.

Clemente’s mistake has been broadcast to the world courtesy of cable news and morning TV shows addicted to viral video hits; he had the bad luck to exclaim “f---ing s—t” under his breath just before his very first appearance as an anchor on NBC affiliate KFYR-TV on Sunday.

In 24 hours, he became the best-known ex-TV anchor in the country fired by the station as its news director posted an apology to the station’s website.

But in the odd world of buzz-addicted news, Clemente has drawn more attention off the job; Letterman devoted his Top Ten List on Monday to Clemente’s mishap.

The clips of Clemente’s mistake also reveal a weekend news broadcast which looks little better than a college telecom assignment, with thin-sounding audio and co-anchors with scarely more poise than newbie Clemente. The new anchor’s name was even misspelled in the on air graphic displayed beneath his image while he was making his big mistake, leaving a period off the “J.”

Today show co-anchor Savannah Guthrie helpfully noted this morning that Clemente didn’t have an earpiece allowing him to hear what was being broadcast on the air. He also didn’t know the broadcast had started, presumably, because no one in the studio gave him a verbal cue the program was starting, either.

That seems like an odd omission for a newscast featuring guy who was starting his first show; surely, his more experienced co-workers could have helped him? And where is the scorn for the manager who allowed him to be stuck in this position?

Clemente himself still seemed to struggle with nervousness while on the Today show set, coming across as an earnest but inarticulate guy – a tough sell, when your primary job is to read things comfortably in front of a camera. Given his issues, he really wasn’t ready for any kind of anchor chair; still, a vote on Today’s website revealed more than 80 percent of respondents thought he shouldn’t have lost his job.

Celebrity is a currency with increasing value in today's media world, so it may not matter much why Clemente has grown so famous. If he doesn't have another job by the time his media tour is done, he'll really prove he doesn't deserve to be in the business.

Still, there's an important reason why I didn’t laugh when I really paid attention to the clip of Clemente’s mistake.

Because, beneath the amusing error, is evidence of just how ill-served some communities are by local TV news operations struggling to maintain the simplest elements of a news broadcast outside the country’s largest markets.

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[Last modified: Wednesday, April 24, 2013 3:07pm]


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