Live television news can be a very funny business, but most of the laughs result from blunders. I've been at this game a long time, and a lot of things have gone wrong. If you're prepared for anything, you'll never be caught with that "deer in the headlights" look which is fatal to most careers in TV.
How one reacts to on-air flubs can make all the difference in how the audience feels. I learned a long time ago that most of the time, when you're not covering some tragedy, the best way to handle a mistake is to laugh about it.
Laughing serves two purposes for me. It disperses some of my own anxiety, and, more importantly, it puts the audience at ease. Laugh, and the audience laughs with you. Cry, and you look like an idiot.
Here is a very funny way a Los Angeles weatherman reacted after making an embarrassing flub this week. KTLA's Henry DiCarlo was reading on air some birthday wishes viewers sent in, including one for Hugh Janus.
Say that out loud.
As soon as DiCarlo said the name, anchor Chris Schauble started laughing, and almost immediately the weatherman realized he'd been punk'd. Instead of getting ticked off or blushing or stammering, DiCarlo started laughing, too. A lot.
It's a vast improvement over an earlier episode which made headlines in 2011 when DiCarlo angrily walked off live TV complaining about his producers and assignment desk. "You know what? It's so interesting. I'm in the communications business and it seems like there's so little communication," he told viewers. "When you send a weatherman out to do the weather but you're also sending him to do a story, you might want to give him a little extra time. But that's just me!"
DiCarlo handled the Hugh Janus situation very differently. In fact, I like the whole anchor team more now than I did before for responding to someone's practical joke with such good humor. (The biggest surprise may be that an anchor caught the mistake, that he was actually listening to someone else. Anchors are usually distracted and preparing for the next segment. Hmmmm…coincidence?)
Of course, we laugh now. This assumes there isn't someone named Hugh Janus out there whose family just wanted to wish him a happy birthday.
—By CNBC's Jane Wells; Follow her on Twitter: @janewells