Me and My Teleprompter…

Funny story....

Funny story....

You may have seen an amusing story on The Today Show by Jamie Gangel about President Obama’s love for his teleprompter(in which the prompter actually gives a hysterical  interview). Presidents have used prompters for years, but evidentally this President takes his almost everywhere. Hey, I get that. It does help get rid of that dastardly trio of  unwanted verbal tics we all have…the  ummms, the you knows, and the ahhhs. Teleprompter is my friend..usually. I love my prompter…even though it has changed (of course)over the years. Haven’t we all?

When I first started in the business, prompter was a paper copy of the script, all the scripts were taped together and had to be run through a machine. As you can imagine, it was not uncommon for the paper to get hung up in the machine…oops, bad tape job, and …that was that until they got it straightened out.

Today, it’s all electronic….complete with all the problems that come along with that. While the producer can change things from the control room and update the scripts or add things as needed, ( and this can also can be tricky…when you see something different than you expect to see, your brain wonders for that split second, is that right?) electronic problem as we all know can be….as sticky as a bad tape job. Sometimes Mr. Prompter gets stuck on a script and just loops it over and over. Sometimes the person operating Mr. Prompter gets distracted and forgets to roll him. Or rolls his too fast. Or too slow. And sometimes it jus goes black, though none of this is a common occurance. And it is subject to typos. I try very ard, oops, I mean hard,  to catch all of those before we get to air, but sometimes things get put in at the last minute and the lack of or addition of a single letter can make a word or sentence unintelligible. Like “They can’t go far”..could be “They cart go for.” And you have to try to make sense of it, on the spot. Sometime I even succeed. But I have finished reads before and in the break said, “Ah for the want of a letter…” And just like a bad boyfriend, prompter is  better if it’s just gone, than to pop in and out, which leads to feelings of insecurity and anxiety…will it be there, is it gonna leave any second? When it’s down, at least you know you’re on your own.

It always surprises me when someone thinks we memorize all those words….ummmmm, no.(Sorry..had no prompter for that.) I know how President Obama feels about his prompter….a curious, needy, not very emotional but very real relationship. Mr. Prompter ain’t perfect, but my life is better with him, than without him. And so is the newscast you watch. Trust me on this. Oh, and the President’s prompter has its own name and blog …. TOTUS…it is pretty funny… he calls the President “the big guy”. As this anonymous blogger says, “There is no potus without Totus!”.

4 Responses

  1. Donna I saw that piece this morning while at work and a question came to mind. I know how news people use the prompter but sometimes I see you holding papers. Are they copy of the script, notes or just blank paper as a prop? And for the verbal tics, I just have to say that I had a teacher in high school who had a pet peeve about those “ums” and “likes”. If we said any of those in his class we had to write them. 1000 times for each utterance! That corrected my speaking quickly and has stayed with me to this day. Thanks Mr. Hughes.

  2. That was a good story to lighten up the first hour on what seemed to be all depressing news.

  3. I think the interesting part of the teleprompters used in news is that they are actually just a one way mirror with a monitor below it, and the camera lens is right behind it.

  4. Paul, they are not prop papers, but paper copies of the scripts that are also in the teleprompter….and that’s all you have if the prompter goes down…which it does. You should indeed thank Mr. Hughes….he did you a favor. We cured our kids of what I call “upspeak”…where a statement ends like a question. “So Becky and I went to the Mall? And we like, went shopping?” At the end of every question I would say, “You did?” It got so annoying they stopped doing it.

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