Essentials Week spotlights unexpected items that make our daily lives just a little bit better.
The true civil service of the 24-hour news cycle isn’t journalism (lol). Rather, it’s the gift that keeps on giving: countless (and I mean countless) hours of news fail compilations.
News is hell right now. And the 24-hour news cycle in particular is responsible for much of the deterioration of public discourse. The least TV news can do to offset the harm it does is provide the world wide web with such a dearth of live-broadcast fuckups.
A time-honored tradition, the news fail compilation is also one of the oldest, most enduring, and arguably purest forms of YouTube content. It carries with it the spirit of Old Youtube, before monetization and vlogger culture turned the video hosting platform into a place of pre-meditated, false authenticity encapsulated by the phrase, “Hey guys!”
News bloopers keep the dream of Old YouTube alive, when viral videos were all just the weird non-sequiturs, unexpected hilarity, and serendipitous accidents of everyday life, a la Charlie Bit My Finger or Blood Kid. It’s a humbling reminder, watching the super controlled camera-readiness of a newscaster suddenly slip to reveal the bumbling buffoons we all are when we forget people are watching.
Awkward news clips, if not entirely bloopers, also helped shape internet culture for over a decade. To this day, the I Like Turtles Kid continues to inspire lazy Halloween costumes. Meanwhile Antoine Dodson left a much longer-lasting impact with his 15 seconds of internet fame by being one of the first viral sensations to popularize auto-tuned meme music.
But aside from being some of the best, most influential stuff on YouTube, news bloopers rival just about anything else you can watch on the internet. In terms of sheer volume and added quality-of-life value, it blows every streaming service out of the water.
I’m not talking about the cringe-inducing purposeful attempts at “comedy” you see from local stations, either, like the Utah Department of Transportation trying to convince teens that highway signs are “totes yeet yo.” Those kinds of news fails feel so purposefully bad that it’s not unlike all the pre-planned virality of vlogger content that now plagues New YouTube.
Rather, the news bloopers that feed the soul leave highly polished newscasters trained to embody unwavering gravitas completely shook and metaphorically naked before all of America. They capture that now all too rarely-seen side of human indignity we can all relate to.
News bloopers that feed the soul leave highly polished newscasters trained to embody unwavering gravitas completely shook.
Newscasters suffer so much live on-camera humiliation that several YouTube channels churn out Netflix series-length “episodes” on a bi-monthly if not sometimes daily basis — more often than not with clips you’ve never seen before. Unlike a Netflix series, though, it’s the binge that never ends, with a much higher ratio of hits-to-misses than the streaming mogul. Not to mention that certain months see huge spikes in newscaster pain, with Halloween being peak “having some fun in the studio” season that results in a range of on-air meltdowns.
We’ve all watched enough consecutive hours of The Great British Bake Off to be neggingly asked by Netflix if “you’re still watching.” But there’s no judgment or limitations on the amount of time you can waste watching news fail compilations. Sometimes on hour three or four, the joy of it becomes physically painful for me, tears streaming down my face as my laughter devolves into a half-gagging fit not unlike a self-inflicted tickle torture.
The only thing that forces me to stop watching news bloopers is A) the demands of a capitalist society that requires I work in order to eat and B) the constraints of my mortal body, which eventually passes out from sheer exhaustion in front of the computer screen presumably for the sake of self-preservation.
After watching enough hours of news bloopers (and, dear reader, I have) you start to see distinct sub-genres within this underrated category of online videos.
There’s the green screen fail: floating-headed weatherpeople who fail to comply with their only hard wardrobe rule (don’t wear green), or high-pitched screaming caused by a bug flying across the live feed camera serving as their green screen backdrop, or (my personal favorite) the unintended in-studio camera pan that leaves poor newscasters trapped in a special kind of hell between the real-world and an animated traffic map.
Camera and tech malfunctions are, generally speaking, the pièce de résistance of news fail. For some reason the BBC cannot get its shit together with transition screens, often leaving anchors to stare blankly back at the audience, waiting solemnly to begin a segment that went live several minutes prior. Or you can delight in watching distinguished, award-winning international journalists desperately chasing rogue camera gurneys that clearly would just, like, rather not deal with the news today.
Whether human error or a crew member exacting revenge on a shitty anchor, the gradual zoom in on a newscasters’ mouth is more interesting cinematography than Aaron Sorkin ever mustered in three seasons of the Newsroom. Meanwhile inadvertent sexual innuendo or misjudged co-host overfamiliarity packs within mere seconds more gripping drama than the entirety of Apple TV’s The Morning Show.
Also, unlike Apple TV’s The Morning Show, people actually watch this.
The meta fail, while philosophically intriguing, gets old fast. A slip of the tongue (I guess “fart” can sound awfully close to “start” when said in newsperson vernacular) or getting caught powdering your nose between commercial breaks inevitably leads to the cutesy acknowledgment that, “This is sure to end up on YouTube!”
The true art of the news fail is how it reveals the blundering humanity beneath it all.
Yes, Karen, it is. And you just ruined it for all of us.
Don’t even get me started on the drive-by texters, cluelessly walking through a coworkers’ live broadcasts — or its even better cousin, the “fuck I’m in the shot” crew member who dives out of frame to save their unpaid internship. Then of course you have all the classics, ranging from watching a weather anchor waist-deep in freezing snow questioning all his life choices, the failed segment-closing stunt that leaves behind an injured anchor, a show-stealing street interviewee who wants you to check out their Soundclound, or the “fuck it we’ll do it live” category of not realizing you’re on air.
When reporting on the world is an unending cycle of darkness, the news fail is here to remind us that life is worth living.
It’s an internet video genre that speaks directly to our times. Because like newscasters, the internet age has turned us all into camera-ready personalities always trying to present our ideal selves. But the true art of the news fail is how it reveals the blundering humanity beneath it all.
We want to believe the people who deliver our news are infallible. But all the greatest news fails show us that, actually, we’re all a fucking mess. And that’s pretty delightful.