Thursday, June 16, 2011

CMS-TV airs open-mike moment

A bizarre open-mike moment at the school board dais led late-night cable viewers to believe they'd gotten the scoop on the board's choice for interim superintendent.

Not quite. CMS-TV aired Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Police Chief Bud Cesena sitting in a school board seat speculating that the board would tap Chief Operating Officer Hugh Hattabaugh. Cesena, who didn't know the mikes were on and ceiling cameras were running, says the conversation with two other staffers took place half an hour before the 6 p.m. meeting. But it aired after the board spent almost three hours in closed session talking about hiring an interim.

To make the whole thing odder: CMS got rid of CMS-TV this year to save money, leaving only enough in the budget for freelance broadcasting of board meetings. Special meetings like Wednesday's generally aren't broadcast. And this meeting was conducted almost entirely behind closed doors, out of reach of the cameras and mikes. So most of what aired was footage of the meeting chamber with a handful of staff, reporters and visitors milling around.

"For some reason they turned the thing on, and for some reason they ran the loop," Cesena said today.

I haven't been able to get an explanation yet. Cesena says he's "pretty embarrassed" that a candid conversation ended up on TV. "It's a lesson for all of us," he said.

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