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YouTube Stars Fall to Earth

Our current editorial, Viral Infections, laments the double edged sword for TV stations that is YouTube; the video sharing giant provides a great way for stations to market themselves, and their newscasts, but too frequently is a vehicle for clips of anchor meltdowns, laughing fits and malapropisms to go viral.

We heard from someone directly affected by this trend, former WVLT Knoxville reporter Gordon Boyd, who was the unwitting star of a news clip from last year that went viral–again–in recent weeks. In the clip, Boyd becomes irate as a producer speaks in his earpiece, and slams his clipboard in frustration-all on live TV.

Boyd writes:
The ‘meltdown’ so to speak, occurred after a producer opened my IFB to scream at another reporter whose pretaped package wasn’t ready–right as I was intro’ing my pretaped package.

She continued to scream throughout my intro. I threw down the clipboard in frustration after I THOUGHT the director had taken my package. Turns out MY package wasn’t ready either–the producer knew it– but didn’t bother to tell the the field crew nor studio control.

Posting copyrighted material without permission of the copyright-holder is a violation of copyright law. You might ask WVLT management why it hasn’t taken action against YouTube and other websites to have such unflattering material removed.

By the way, this cost me my job. My current salary is insufficient to pay my mortgage. There ARE negative repercussions, and I have paid them.

Boyd is now working at WRCB Chattanooga. It’s worth noting that social media cuts both ways; a Gordon Boyd Fan page sprung up on Facebook after the March 2010 incident, though its 69 Friends suggests the well-intentioned concept didn’t really take flight.

WVLT Knoxville Executive VP/General Manager Chris Baker described the mishap as “a very unfortunate incident that everyone regrets,” and echoed Boyd’s frustration regarding the viral nature of the video. “I hate that they won’t let Gordon move on and put this in the past,” Baker said. “He has indeed paid a high price, ultimately resigning from WVLT in order to try to put the incident behind him.”

Baker said WVLT has made repeated requests that YouTube and other outlets remove the clip from their sites, though it remains readily accessible. He also said the station has denied numerous requests from outside sources for copies of the video, but says he’s seen it on Ellen and late night network programming.

To be sure, trying to pull back a clip that’s gone viral is akin to trying to put the proverbial toothpaste back in the tube, after it’s been smeared all over the bathroom.

Are stations better off sitting back and letting these clips run their course? Anyone have a solution?

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.