KABC's Captioner Makes an Oopsie

malibu ejaculating, wha

Reporting is tough. Transcribing is tough. Transcribing live on tee vee is totally tough especially if there's a damn fire raging.

Recently a captioner working for KABC made a mistake that Snopes confirmed to be true.

Live broadcasts can present captioners with additional problems: Multiple speakers may talk at the same time, external noise may render some speech inaudible or otherwise difficult to understand, and some words and phrases used by speakers may be unfamiliar to the captioner. And, since live audio is typically captured phonetically via stenotype or stenomask machines, with the output instantly translated into text by computer, unusually-spelled items such as foreign words, place names, and proper names can sometimes end up being rendered quite oddly in the captioning. (The French term laissez faire, for example, might end up in English captioning as "lassie fare.")

As we sat glued to television news coverage of the recent Malibu fire on the morning of Saturday, 24 November, 2007 to see if our area was in danger (fortunately, winds blew the conflagration away from us and towards the ocean), one or more of these factors produced some rather amusing (and risqué) captioning. As a reporter from Los Angeles' KABC-TV was explaining how important it is for residents to evacuate fire areas when asked to do so because such prompt compliance allows firefighters to deal with just the fire and not also with "people in the middle of the road evacuating," the captioning (as shown in the still frame displayed above) reflected a distinctly different climax to that statement.

Before this (lame duck) editor worked for LAist, I was one of a team of closed-caption editors for E! Networks. People often asked "why would you need a team of people to caption 'Wild On' and all the 'woooo's?"

Maybe now you know why. Because these sorts of mistakes, especially on taped programs where you have a chance to catch errors can be extremely embarrassing. When errors occur on live broadcasts they should be taken with a grain of salt... on your popcorn as you laugh with the captions on waiting for more. :)

photo via Snopes