Bugs & the TV News Biz

Face it.  When things go well, there’s nothing like live TV.  It can come across as a well-oiled machine that is indeed firing on all cylinders.  It’s when bugs crop up that things can get screwed up.  And when real bugs, (insect not mechanical) show up that things can get comical at most and distracting at the least.  What brought all of this to mind was watching one of the political candidates during an interview on one of the cable news outlets.  I noticed a large fly dive bombing the candidate’s head.  The first pass just caught my eye.  I then began focusing more on when the next passes would occur.  I saw the fly at least twice more.

This reminded me of insect encounters over the years by co-workers and me.  Flying insects are usually more noticeable in the studio because of the bright lights.  The heat generated by the bright lights also tends to attract bugs, (especially the old style lights not the newer fluorescent cooler ones).    We used to have a problem with wasps  at WREG.  The lights got them warmed up and I guess the sweet smell of the anchors all dolled up with perfurmed lotions, make-up and hairspray and cologne (and that’s just the men) would prompt the bugs to buzz the set.  Steve Hayslip, now doing mornings at WTVF in Nashville was working weekend nights at WREG when a wasp landed on the desk.  I’m not sure but I think Steve was in the middle of reading a story and never really took his eyes off the camera  as he continued reading off the prompter, calmly rolled up his scripts and suddenly whacked the wasp which had landed on the desk.  The noise was startling but Steve explain what was going on and the newscast went on.

I remember seeing a very large wasp which buzzed the set a few times before flying into one of the super-hot high intensity halogen lights hanging overhead.  First we heard the snap, crackle and pop of the insect as it made contact with the bulb.  Then the smell of burning bug wafted down through the studio.  It smelled liked burning hair and the stench stayed there all morning long.

During Hurricane Elvis when WREG lost power for several days, we were forced to open the doors to get some fresh air in since our AC was out.  That had the unfortunate side-effect of letting in mosquitoes which hovered under the desk to feed on the tender legs and ankles of the anchors.  I say legs because I wore shorts and my toad-belly white legs were covered with bites before I found some mosquito repellent to protect myself.

One final insect story involved a former reporter for WREG.  John Donnelly, who left for the great southwest a few years ago was in the middle of a live shot, expounding on whatever topic the live shot de jour involved.  Then he just stopped talking.  No one was really sure what was happening.  He started talking again explaining that he had just inhaled a bug.  He finished his live shot rather breathlessly and I think it’s safe to say more people remembered the incident than the subject of his news report.  Yes, there’s nothing like live TV, even with all the bugs.

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3 Comments on “Bugs & the TV News Biz”

  1. Doug J. Says:

    I can’t remember whether this happened on air or even while he was working, but I seem to recall Mid-South Outdoors host/producer (& all-around good egg) Jeff Woods having a moth lodge itself in his ear canal.

  2. joelarkins Says:

    While Mr. Woods finds the “moth in the ear” incident less than humorous, his recounting of the story left me in stitches. It has something to do with the sound made as the moth tried to fly while inside his ear canal. Maybe you had to be there and of course I was (at least to hear the story).


  3. I was working that particular newscast that Mr. Hayslip took down the wasp. And, yes, it WAS live on the air.

    April Cummings was co-anchor and in the middle of a reader when the bug-du-jour came in for a landing on Steve’s side of the desk. Steve took the bug out with his scripts and said something like “Gotcha!” (with the aforementioned short explanation) and April kept on reading after a very minor recovery with no problem. In what I thought was a very good move, Steve kept the scripts on the desk until the break to avoid grossing out the viewers. We joked about it during the weather segment.

    Several weekend anchors I have worked with have had problems with the odd bug in the studio. Jamey Tucker, Karen Carlson and Omari Fleming have all had encounters with bugs while on the air. Most of which turned out to be harmless enough. Annoying, but harmless. Never have heard about Mr. Woods moth encounter. I’ll have to ask him about it next time I see him.


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