What started as a viral prank has become so serious that at least one local television station has been forced to alter the way it delivers the news.
As TheWrap previously reported, a growing number of TV reporters, most of them women, are being ambushed with sexually explicit taunts as they cover stories on public streets. The situation has gotten so bad in San Diego, California, that one station is changing the dynamics of how reporters do live shots.
“When we get to a place, if we have to go live, we now have to kind of scan the area and see who’s around,” ABC 10News San Diego reporter Emily Valdez told TheWrap. “If it looks like we’re going to get hecklers, we will tape it now to do what’s called a ‘look live,’” she said, referring to an industry term for a pre-taped segment that appears to be live and in turn prevents obscenities from getting on the air. “That’s something we didn’t have to do before.”
What 10News crews are trying to avoid is a disturbing phenomenon that has become an all-too-frequent nuisance for TV news crews in the last year — hecklers who interrupt live reports by yelling “F— her right in the pu–y” and similarly profane outbursts into microphones as journalists stand in front of the camera.
“It’s so rude and disruptive,” said Valdez, who has been a news reporter for 16 years, including the past seven months in San Diego.”They’re trying to joke around and they just want to be on TV, they just want to be on YouTube, but what they’re saying is just so vulgar that it’s changed the dynamics, not to mention it violates FCC rules.”
When asked about the demographics of the culprits, Valdez said, “It’s usually white guys, late high school or college-type young people doing it.”
The obscene interruptions are a problem in Los Angeles as well.
NBC4 Southern California reporter Beverly White told TheWrap she hears the “FHRITP” taunt all the time, including in places you’d never expect.
“When Harrison Ford crashed his aircraft, we were at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center and a carload of drunk frat boys, I presume, rolled up on all the reporters who were in a line with the hospital as a backdrop,” she said. “They parked and they waited until the lights came on and we’re all there preparing to do our introductions and at that instant, as soon as I opened my mouth, I had to speak up to drown out the guys who were waiting for the chance to scream it at the top of their lungs.”
That wasn’t the only time.
“A more recent episode in the last couple of weeks was at a high-speed chase that ended in Azusa… teenage boys, probably tweens to 16-year-olds, with their skateboards, were standing by practicing their lines in the presence of grown men who might have been their brothers, uncles or dads,” White explained. “The adults said nothing, but the children were ready to go.”
As she prepared to do a live report, a member of her video crew decided to intervene.
“Luckily, I had a second photographer. He walked over and gently reminded them, ‘She’s working, cut her some slack. Somebody nearly died here — it’s a serious story. Do you kids mind?’ Then they were cool and they backed off.”
While her photographer was able to diffuse the situation on that occasion, White said she’s still troubled by what happened. “It was ridiculous — choreographed profanity by children in the presence of other adults.”
Valdez admitted that on-the-street taunts are nothing new, but the increasing use of explicit language is a game-changer. “We’ve always had people come by screaming,” she said, “but this is different because it involves the profanity and what they’re saying is so bad.”
Unfortunately, she hears “FHRITP” so often that it no longer throws her off her game.
“I might just stumble for a second, but I try to keep on going,” she said. “Now I’m so used to it that it doesn’t really affect me any more.”