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A.J. Clemente

In case you haven’t seen this, a rookie TV anchor named A.J. Clemente made one of the worst debuts in modern television history the other day. Here, take a look …

This was bad. I mean, really awful. Deadspin, of course, blew the thing up (as it certainly should have), and before long A.J. Clemente’s gaffe—initially only heard by KFYR viewers in North Dakota was soaring across the Internet. Twitter. Facebook. Blogs. Within 10 hours of uttering the now-infamous, “fucking shit” to the networks’ 23 viewers, he was everywhere.

Then, the station (understandably) suspended him.

Today, he was fired.

To say this disgusts me is no understatement. I’m guessing Clemente is 23 … maybe 24. He’s new to the business, and he made a bad mistake. However, nobody’s ears fell off; no one collapsed and died at the mention of strung-together curse words. In Boston, David Ortiz was celebrated for saying “fucking”—and rightly so. Meanwhile, Clemente—green, overwhelmed, clearly scared—was on the unemployment line.

To be honest, this hits close to home. When I began my career with The Tennessean in 1994 I was a fuck-up machine. You can read about the details here, but it doesn’t come close to telling the whole story. Within a span of, oh, two years, I probably misspelled 30 names. I asked a chef whether he’d ever cooked human flesh. I lost an expensive police scanner. I infuriated a major advertiser. I mangled one date after another. I led a story with, “All John Smith wanted was a blowjob.” I ignored the advice of co-workers and my bosses. I was the worst, worst, worst reporter in America—and it wasn’t a close competition.

And yet, I had editors who were willing to stick with me; who didn’t feel the need to turn me into a sacrificial lamb; who knew that—were I to be fired—I would never recover. Youth comes with problems. Inexperience can only be compensated by experience. Mistakes are the key device for learning how not to make them. You screw up, you recover, you don’t make the same screw-up again.

I assure you, A.J. Clemente will never utter the phrase “fucking shit” on air again.

Sadly, KFYR was too cowardly to give him a chance at redemption.