What's In a (Wrong) Name?

One of the job description that should go along with broadcast and cable news is "gaffer,"

No, I am not talking about the guy who handles the electricity. Anyone who has to report/assemble/produce news unendingly in competition with others doing the same thing winds up being another kind of "gaffer" now and again.

In the rush to fill air and space, even the most veteran news readers and reporters occasionally blow a reference and have to clean egg off their faces, usually in public.

That made me wonder if the Obama campaign had vetted its new ticket for such potential gaffe’s in the world of always-on, always talking news, particularly given the recent history with getting Obama’s name right.

Mixing up Obama and Osama references has become something of a cottage industry. Remember the unfortunate MSNBC staffer who threw up a picture of Osama Bin Laden for a story about Obama on Chris Matthews’ Hardball?.

MSNBC had plenty of company. In January, CNN put up a graphic that said "Where’s Obama?" for a story about the search for Osama.

Fox has mixed them up, too.

As recently as Aug. 5, United Press International reported on "The trial of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detainee Salim Hamdan, Obama bin Laden’s driver…"

And it is not confined to journalists. The likely Republican VP nominee, Mitt Romney, more than once has referred to Obama when he meant Osama. I’ll take his word that that was not a subliminal message. Particularly after Ted Kennedy, another Massachusetts political force from the other side of the aisle and definitely on the side of Obama, also mixed up the names in a speech several years ago.

OK, with that setup, I was here Sunday (sympathy ploy) being bombarded with e-mails from the Obama and McCain camps, including one from the McCain folks quoting from dozens of press reports citing the Obama/Biden ticket.

I was about to write that I had gotten an e-mail "laden" with criticisms of the Obama-Biden ticket, which I realized would make them "Obama/Biden-Laden e-mails."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.