As Dr. Frankenstein So Aptly Put It…
By Art Samansky
“It’s alive!” The over-the-top exclamation by Dr. Frankenstein about his monster serves as the ultimate reminder about microphones.
Case in point: United States Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senator Rand Paul, both Republicans from Kentucky, caught on a “hot” mic in early October 2013 discussing talking points about the federal government shutdown. It’s not like the two legislators weren’t aware of the proximity of the mic: Sen. McConnell, in fact, told Sen. Paul he was “wired up” for a television interview before Sen. Paul and he started talking.
And, for those keeping political score, it’s surely not a “Republican” error. President Barack Obama has had his microphone-misery-moments, among other Democrats. (Other U.S. presidents had their mic-slip-moments, too.) It’s also not an American “problem.” Similar microphone-agony has afflicted prime ministers and presidents of other countries. Even a brief internet-search shows the list of loose-lips near microphones includes prominent individuals around the world, from politics to broadcast professionals.
Sometimes the mic-blurts are funny and harmless, except probably to the embarrassed individuals. Other times, they are serious and can have ramifications.
More than likely, some wise adult taught you two important things as a youngster: “look both ways before crossing the street;” and, “if you haven’t got something nice to say about someone, don’t say anything.”
In that spirit, if you can see a microphone (or a camera or a smartphone) it can hear you. Always assume it is on. And, if you don’t want anyone to hear what you are saying, don’t say it anywhere in the proximity of a standard microphone or some gadget or device that may have a microphone, such as a smartphone.
Modern microphones can pick up sound from considerable distances. Cupping your hand in front of your mouth or leaning into the listener’s ear often isn’t going to change the mic pick-up outcome.
Microphone-awareness also must apply to mic-checks, video-taping rehearsals, waiting in the “green room” or anyplace else on a broadcast site, or “whispering” to a colleague before taking a seat at a panel discussion. Likewise, comments to aides and legislators before or after Congressional testimony, especially when the hearing is being covered by media: microphones often are on before the session begins and linger “live” for some time after the conclusion.
In a Twitter-YouTube world, remember Dr. Frankenstein.