EDITOR'S NOTE: This was the first "classic" NewsBusters video, demonstrating how the networks could get caught staging the "news" in disaster areas. Take another look.
In a deliciously ironic twist of fate, shortly before airing a segment aimed at embarrassing the Bush administration by suggesting that it had staged a video conversation between the president and soldiers in Iraq, the Today show was caught staging . . . a video stunt.
In the Bush/Iraq segment, Today screened footage indicating that prior to engaging in a video conversation with President Bush, soldiers on the ground in Iraq were given tips by a Department of Defense official.
But the only advice that the official was shown as giving was a suggestion to one soldier to "take a little breath" before speaking to the president so he would actually be speaking to him. It was also stated that some of the soldiers practiced their comments so as to appear as articulate as possible. But there was no indication, or even allegation, that the soldiers were coached as to the substance of their comments or in any way instructed what to say.
Today's timing couldn't have been worse. A preceding segment focused on the incessant rains and ensuing flooding in the northeast. For days now, beautiful, blonde - and one senses highly ambitious - young reporter Michelle Kosinski has been on the scene for Today in New Jersey, working the story. In an apparent effort to draw attention to herself, in yesterday's segment she turned up in hip waders, standing thigh-deep in the flood waters.
Taking her act one step further, this morning she appeared on a suburban street . . . paddling a canoe. There was one small problem. Just as the segment came on the air, two men waded in front of Kosinki . . . and the water barely covered their shoe tops! That's right, Kosinski's canoe was in no more than four to six inches of water!
An embarrassed Kosinski claimed the water was deeper down the street but that her producers didn't want to let her go there for fear she'd drift away. But Katie and Matt, perhaps peeved by her attempted scene-stealing, couldn't resist ribbing her.
Matt: "Are these holy men, perhaps walking on top of the water?"
"Gee, is your oar hitting ground, Michelle?" inquired Katie, as she and Matt dissolved into laughter.
Moral of the story: people in canoes in a few inches of water shouldn't throw video-stunt stones.