November 3, 2014

The Weather Channel’s Mike Seidel has taken a lot of ribbing about what he was doing live on network TV this weekend.  But he didn’t do what online news sites and YouTubers suggest he did.

Seidel was reporting from Sugar Mountain, North Carolina Saturday where an early season storm dropped 10 inches of snow. NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt introduced Seidel while the meteorologist’s back was turned to the camera. Seidel was hunched over fiddling with something. To an awful lot of people who saw Holt dump out of the live shot, it appeared Seidel was zipping up his pants, having answered nature’s call.

The NY Daily news headline taunted, “NBC meteorologist Mike Seidel appears to relieve himself during broadcast.”

But that is not what happened at all, said Shirley Powell, the Weather Channel’s spokesperson. Seidel, she said, was using his cell phone as an IFB (that is short for interruptible feedback) which is how reporters in the field get their cues from the control room. The phone lost its signal just as the anchor was introducing the live shot. Powell told that Seidel yanked off his gloves, turned from the howling wind and was dialing the IFB when Holt tossed to him. Since Seidel didn’t have a phone signal, he didn’t know he was on the air. While he frantically dialed the phone, Seidel tucked his heavy gloves between his knees to keep them from blowing away. When he finished dialing, he yanked his gloves back on and turned to the camera but Holt was already calling off the shot and moving on. Seidel was left hanging in the winter wind.

“I’m glad for you to tell what really happened,” Powell told me.

The crew was using a LiveU mobile live system, which is a backpack sized phone based transmitter andSeidel would not have had a live truck engineer who might have alerted the control room of the communication problem. We still don’t know why the producer in the control booth took the shot live on the air with Seidel turned away.

On his Weather Channel bio page, Seidel is asked, “What is your most embarrassing moment on the air?”  He answers “Do you want a list?”  Whatever was on that list before now just took a back seat. And sadly for Seidel, the video will live forever online.

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Al Tompkins is one of America's most requested broadcast journalism and multimedia teachers and coaches. After nearly 30 years working as a reporter, photojournalist, producer,…
Al Tompkins

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