Casey Nolen dealt with Olympic eye drama, others cope with dog bites, contractions
One of the most impressive streaks in the history of broadcasting came to end on Tuesday night. Bob Costas, struggling with an eye infection, had to take the night off ending an unprecedented streak of 157 Olympic broadcasts. It was the first time since 1998, when CBS had the Olympics, that Costas was not part of prime time coverage. For NBC, you would have to go back to 1988 to find an Olympic broadcast in prime time that did not have Costas starring in the leading role.
"We in broadcasting are lucky to have the jobs we do, and at one time or another, we've all gone on the air feeling less than our best," Costas said.
NewsChannel 5's Casey Nolen can do more than relate to Costas and his worst-timing-possible infection. You could say Nolen had a nearly identical experience, right down to the plum Olympic assignment, and a mysterious eye ailment that left him feeling helpless.
Just hours into his most high profile assignment at that point, in the summer of 2012, Nolen found himself covering the Summer Olympics in London when a rare condition made his left eye look as though he was sucker punched in a saloon.
"I ended up at Moorefield's Eye Hospital," Nolen recalls. "Apparently one of, if not the best eye facility in the world.
"I spent an entire day there. They ran tons of test looking for every exotic disease they could think of and in the end said it was probably just a clogged duct.
"It definitely kept me from doing more live shots and on camera work. And the crazy thing, I thought it was coming back before my current assignment covering the winter games here in Sochi! I went to the doc and we loaded up on antibiotics and it seems to be healed. But I haven't worn my contacts in a month. On every live shot I just take my glasses off and can hardly see the lens during the shot.
"Sometimes I do go with the glasses anyway if I have to read something."
As Bob Costas made clear, we in broadcasting are lucky to have the jobs we do, and while it pales in comparison to more serious injuries overcome by men and women in more noble professions, like police officers, firefighters, and EMT's, there is an odd "the show must go on" mentality that pushes broadcasters to step in front of a camera before thousands of viewers in defiance of common sense.
And while many on-air personalities strive for a flawless on-air appearance and delivery, experts say a relatable, and completely noticeable setback, can actually boost a newscaster's approval ratings.
"Bob Costas was upfront about it on the first night of his telecast, when he appeared wearing glasses and something obviously was wrong with his eye," observed Amber Hinsley, Ph.D. in Saint Louis University's Communication Department. "It's kind of become a running joke and Costas has been self-deprecating about it, which helps audiences identify with him. Who hasn't been in a situation where something horribly inconvenient has happened?"
One morning last July, near the end of her first pregnancy, NewsChannel 5 Meterologist Bree Smith was running the weather department solo when she began experiencing false contractions during the 4 a.m. hour of Today in St. Louis.
"I didn't tell a soul," Smith says. "Powered through the rest of Today in St. Louis, until 8 a.m., when Chester Lampkin came in to relieve me. I then drove promptly to labor and delivery. Thankfully they were just false contractions and they eventually stopped."
KSDK's Sara Dayley has her own "war story" from 2012 Olympic coverage.
"I had to wear long sleeves at the height of the summer heat to hide bruises from shooting guns with Steve Patterson for an Olympic related story."
For NewsChannel 5's Grant Bissell, even a dog attack didn't stop him from hounding around for the truth.
"I was once bitten on the leg by an angry dog. I used that to guilt the dog's owner into doing an interview with me. I then went to an urgent care and got patched up then did live shots at 5 and 6:00 that night. I was fine. My new suit pants, however, didn't fare so well."
At a previous job in Macon, Georgia, Show Me St. Louis' Coreen Savitski was not only forced off the anchor desk, she was ordered to leave the newscast completely for an on-the-job mishap.
"I took a sip of water during the beginning of the newscast and the lid came off my cup soaking my shirt," Savitski remembers. "My boss at the time made me leave the studio and my co-anchor was left to do the news alone."
"Everyone in the studio was laughing, but the News Director was so mad at me he made me walk out of the studio. I blew dry my shirt and was ready to go back in for the B block, but he said he didn't want me in the show that night! I did go on to anchor the late newscast and didn't spill. I now use cups with straws always!"
And speaking of mishaps in previous jobs, NewsChannel 5's Anne Allred has one worthy of The Mary Tyler Moore Show.
"I was moving from the set to a standing studio position when I was anchoring mornings in Boston. My high heel got stuck in the microphone wires on the ground and I fell over and it made this huge boom! Luckily I wasn't on camera but my co anchor was and stopped talking to see if I was okay. I did not want the extra attention- so from the floor I kept whispering 'don't look at me- keep reading!!!' It was pretty funny. Lots of tweets afterwards asking if I was okay and saying how loud the boom was!"
As with Bob Costas and his eye infection, experts say they are all quintessential human moments that may feel awkward, yet they have a way of connecting viewers and audiences like nothing else.
"We have all had pink eye," notes Tom Proietti, a veteran broadcaster and longtime professor at St. John Fisher College. "It is there and it goes away quite quickly. Only human."