Posted in TV News

Leave the props at home, how handcuffs didn’t work for WFMY-TV

In the world of TV news, producers are always trying to come up with creative ways to keep the audience interested. Someone at WFMY-TV in Greensboro, NC thought talking about the polls, and having the news anchor hold a pair of handcuffs would be a great idea.

Screenshot: WFMY-TV 

Well today WFMY-TV continues to feel the backlash of that creative moment that didn’t sit well with Hillary Clinton supporters.

As FTV Live  reported Morgan Hightower was reading a story on the political race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump when she grabbed a pair of handcuffs. As she starts talking about Clinton, the viewer suddenly saw a tight shot of those cuffs.

The news anchor Morgan Hightower explained it like this on Facebook.


Station management also had a response: 

“Last week, our newscast aired a brief story on the deadlock closeness of the Presidential polls in North Carolina using handcuffs as a prop. We commonly use props and visual comparisons in storytelling. In response to a Huffington Post article about our report, it appears social media has separated the words of our story from our pictures and the storytelling intent.

Our story was not about – and made no reference to – any investigation, criminality or possible prosecution of either Presidential candidate. It was a story about the neck and neck closeness of the candidates in current polling – the prop meant to denote the discomfort of these bitter rivals locked side by side in the polls. We should have better explained, more so, used a better prop. We regret the confusion. “




Our job is to report the news, not to be actors and actresses with props. In the race to be creative, don’t get lost in doing something that can backfire.

If you’re a producer, anchor or reporter run your idea by several people before you go live. Get feedback from different people.

If I was in that planning meeting I would have said “It’s not going to work. Haven’t you heard Trump supporters chant ‘lock her up?'”

The WFMY segment was an epic fail but the rest of us can learn from it.

Leave the props at home.



Journalism is my life. I've been a reporter for 36 years. My office is the world. During my career I have been honored with 50 journalism awards and nominations. I'm also an Emmy-nominated TV commentator. I'm currently the VP of Programs for SPJ Fort Worth Chapter. I'm also the former VP of Online for the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.

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