I hesitated to write this blog when the idea popped into my mind. Quite frankly, I don’t enjoy getting into heated debates with people. I somewhat loathe the kinds of arguments that make you “enemies” because of differing opinions. That usually happens when two people have extremely different viewpoints and are never willing to see the world from someone else’s perspective. My father used to tell me that it was best to stay away from discussing politics and religion to keep the peace at a dinner table. Luckily, for you and me, this is not a blog about either topic. What I do want to write about is something that we’ve all done. We’ve all made mistakes. And depending on the degree of that mistake, we are either easily forgiven, or thoroughly crucified.
People make mistakes every day. At home. In relationships. While they’re driving. While they’re cooking. At work. And when they speak. And these mistakes can run the gamut, from severe to silly. There’s been a lot of talk lately about people in the news making mistakes. From a network anchor who incorrectly recounted a story, to a local news anchor in Cleveland who used a racially offensive term on the air. And people seem to have strong opinions about both storylines. Both made mistakes. And for what it’s worth, I don’t think either one purposely made the mistakes. We can debate the semantics and throw out words like ignorance, stupidity, dishonesty, and “misremembering”... and sure, all of those descriptions may be fair. To some extent. But believe me, having spent years in broadcast television and making some bad mistakes of my own, those are mistakes that they wish they could take back. Not solely because they were embarrassed or caught doing something incorrect. But because they are professionals who got it wrong. Their integrity was called into question. Let’s face it, we all care about our reputations. And I’m sure we’ve all done or said something at one point in our lives that makes us thankful that our mistake wasn’t broadcast for everyone to see (and live forever on YouTube or some other space on the internet). Image that. Think of the worst thing you’ve ever said or done. Do you remember it? Maybe it’s a decision from long ago that you buried somewhere in the back of your mind. Or maybe it was just an out-of-character moment of stupidity. Now imagine having that one moment watched and criticized over and over again by people you’ve never met - people who don’t know the core of you, or what a good person you actually are. Mistakes can haunt the people who have to claim them as their own. But there are two kinds of mistakes in my mind; mistakes of choice, and mistakes of human error.
I remember the first time I made a major mistake when I was hosting a television show in Cleveland. I was lucky because I didn’t really get “caught” and I was never criticized for the flub. I had just returned to Cleveland from Los Angeles after interviewing Jennifer Aniston, Vince Vaughn, and the rest of the cast from the film The Break-Up. Along with my luggage, I had all of my interviews on tape in tow. My interviews with the cast were unedited, which meant I had raw footage of my conversations with the actors. One of the actors I interviewed for the film was Jon Favreau. I remember the first time I saw Favreau on film. It was for the movie Swingers that he starred in with Vince Vaughn. It became a cult classic for my generation. And both actors were known to be funny guys and good friends. So I fully expected my interview with Favreau to be filled with laughs.
This is where the story becomes more than “PG” for it’s content. (Except for anyone who is a bit naive. You won’t understand the slang. And you’ll see that I clearly didn’t understand it either once you read the rest of this story).
I walked into the interview room where Jon Favreau was sitting. I greeted him with a friendly smile and firm handshake. And then I proceeded with my usual introduction, “Hi, I’m Andrea from Cleveland.” He quickly responded, “Is it true what they say about the Cleveland Steamers?” To which I responded, “Ummm, I don’t know. Now I’m embarrassed. I should know what that is. People back home in Cleveland will be so mad that I didn’t know about the Cleveland Steamers since you wanted to talk about them.”
For those of you who are naive, that sounds like a safe and simple exchange, right? And for those of you with a well-informed fetish mind, you know that’s not the case. Favreau quickly picked up on my naivete and changed the subject. We had a nice conversation and my day ended with excitement because I got to interview Jennifer Aniston for the first time.
So, fast forward to my return home to Cleveland with my completed interviews from The Break-Up. I schedule an editing session with my 70-plus-year-old editor (it’s worth noting his age because he too had never heard of the Cleveland Steamers). When it came time to edit that portion of the conversation, we chose to leave it in. Why? Our reasoning was that this famous actor was talking about Cleveland. (Please know that if I could place an emoticon in this blog right now, it would be the face with raised eyebrows, wide eyes, and flushed cheeks). I made a decision to air a conversation (that I thought might be about an old Cleveland sports team) without ever checking the facts! My only fact check was my 70-year-old editor! And he was about as sweet as they come!
I’ll never forget the moment I knew something was wrong while that interview played during a live broadcast. I introduced the edited interview on the set. And then the tape rolled. The moment Jon Favreau said “Cleveland Steamer,” my co-host looked at me from across the studio with wide eyes and yelled, “DO YOU KNOW WHAT THAT IS????” Based on his tone and expression, I knew that I just made a big mistake. If you don’t know what that phrase means, I don’t recommend googling it. I’ll save you the embarrassment. Let’s just say it’s a strange and disgusting bedroom fetish with bodily fluids. And I aired it!!!
I was never reprimanded. I never received any nasty mail. And no one called the station to criticize me or demand that my job be taken away. I assumed that was for one of three reasons:
1. Our viewers also had no idea what that phrase meant.
2. The people who did know were cool enough not to call.
3. No one was watching that day.
I was lucky. And I learned a valuable lesson - when in doubt, at the very least, google to fact check.
Technically, you could argue that I made a mistake of choice because I chose to put that portion of the interview on the air. But it was more a mistake of human error through my own stupidity. My mistake wasn’t made in malice. It was just simply a mistake.
People make mistakes. People are human. Good people make mistakes. They shouldn’t be stoned for an error in judgement. Be careful how much you criticize others. One day you may be on the receiving end of criticism. Never wish for someone to fail (unless it’s the opposing team to the Ohio State Buckeyes, Cleveland Indians, Cavs, or Browns). But in all seriousness, when you wish something bad upon someone else, trust me, it will come full circle and hit you too.
Mistakes. Some are by choice. Some are human error. Maybe we all need to think about the bigger mistake - forgetting to forgive the mistakes.