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March 5, 2018 4:47 pm  #1

The Story Behind One Of The Greatest Gaffes In Toronto TV News History

I was talking to a friend the other day who used to work at City TV and he told me about a mistake that went out on air that just may be one of the greatest gaffes in local TV news. In fact, I’m told it’s become legendary for those who were there at the time it happened.  
This is absolutely true and it all started the night an old lady disappeared. Her name was Ida Spencer, a grey-haired woman who looked a lot like everyone’s stereotyped idea of a “grandma.” She’d apparently wandered away and hadn’t been seen in over a day, prompting her family to panic and ask police for help.
So the cops issued her picture and hoped the local media would use it to help find her. The format of CityPulse (as it was still called at the time) was to put a cutline under all their stories, a practice that is now common but was considered innovative back then. The producer, in this case, the late great Clint Nickerson, would get together with the graphics operator and dictate what he wanted shown on screen. (This was long before everything was done on computer.)
And so it came to pass that Clint suggested the simple line “Ida Spencer Missing” to appear on screen. Unfortunately the operator, who was new and extremely green, heard something else, but was too nervous in his new position to question anything.
Which is why, at 11 o’clock that night, the picture of this sweet and lost little old lady appeared on screen with these words underneath her: “Eye Dispenser Missing.”
When Clint saw this go out on air, he blew his top. “Didn’t you wonder what an ‘eye dispenser’ was?” he demanded later. And the op replied, “well that’s what I heard you say!”
I’m not sure if they ever found that lady, but they’re still waiting for someone, somewhere, to invent an eye dispenser. So far, it’s one idea that’s still missing.


March 5, 2018 6:13 pm  #2

Re: The Story Behind One Of The Greatest Gaffes In Toronto TV News History

I remember it like it was yesterday, even though it was an early Saturday evening in June 1986, which would make me nearly 100 years old! And it wasn't 'Eye Dispenser Missing', it was 'Eye Dispenser Still Missing'! 

I even have proof:

I'm sure that nice young man learned from his mistake, and went on to do great things. Or maybe he just stayed in television!

Last edited by Ida Spencer (March 13, 2018 8:03 am)


March 5, 2018 6:25 pm  #3

Re: The Story Behind One Of The Greatest Gaffes In Toronto TV News History


Madness takes its toll.  Please have exact change.

March 8, 2018 12:08 pm  #4

Re: The Story Behind One Of The Greatest Gaffes In Toronto TV News History

I recall another time when Bob Hunter, the environmental specialist, was doing a story on the quality of water in Lake Ontario.  With the related interviews in the can, Bob and the cameraman headed down to the lakefront to shoot the on camera stand ups.  One of the stand ups included an on camera "bumper".  The reporter would say, " I'm Bob Hunter, coming up.....  When all the stand ups were finished, Bob needed to relieve himself and with no    facilities nearby decided to pull it out and do it there.  The cameraman sensing an opportunity to add to the "outtakes"  reel started to roll.  The shot was from behind and to the right. All you saw was Bob and a yellow arc of urine descending to the water.  A some point, Bob glanced back an noticed he was being recorded and without missing a beat said " I'm Bob Hunter coming up, would you drink this water?

Back at the station, a bunch of us piled into the editing suite to watch what would be the latest addition to the reel.  One of those people was news director, Steve Hurlbut.  The tape was played and the whole room erupted with laughter, during which time the editor turned to Steve and said, "can we use it?"  Steve laughingly said "Ya sure" not thinking that the editor would take him seriously.

(You can see where this is going).  The anchor said "we'll be right back, after this" the theme music started and there was Robert.  " I'm Bob Hunter coming up, would you drink this water"?

Last edited by Citypulse News 15 (March 8, 2018 12:09 pm)