Serene Branson: The disturbing viral video which exposed us all

February 14th, 2011 by Dave Leave a reply »

In many ways, it was perfect SEO-fodder: a funny gaffe, pretty American journalist… all wrapped with the topic of the moment, the Grammy Awards.

As CBS reporter Serene Branson prepared to introduce a segment about the awards, something strange happened. Her speech slurred, she lost her place, she seemed distracted. It is – on the face of it – quite hilarious. But as newspapers across the world rushed to get the clips on their sites, many of them should have taken a step back and asked why it happened.

It is emerging now that Serene may have suffered a stroke on air. I say may because we’re not altogether sure yet – all that we do know is that she was taken to hospital after that segment. [UPDATE: It has since emerged that while Ms Branson was observed by paramedics afterwards, she did not need to go to hospital.]

But, as she undergoes tests, and as her family, friends and colleagues worry – newspapers are running stories like these:

“Grammy’s reporter goes gaga” said The Sun, before hastily changing its headline to read “Grammy’s journo taken to hospital“. You’ll notice that while The Sun rephrased much of its story to suit a sombre tone, they haven’t given the same luxury to its readers – many of whose comments still appear from the previous article. “That’s so funny!” says one, referring, of course, to the original story’s content.

The Daily Record got in on it too, quickly removing a article which started with:

Serene Branson was presenting for CBS2 at the biggest music bash in the world when she struggled to put together a coherent sentence

Hastily replacing it minutes later with:

CBS reporter Serene Branson was last night under observation in hospital after it was feared she may have suffered a stroke live on air during the Grammy Awards broadcast.

But perhaps worst of all – posted well after the news of Ms Branson’s apparent stroke – is this effort from 3am, the gossip section of the Daily Mirror:

If this Grammys video clip doesn’t make you laugh out loud, see a doctor

We don’t know why we bothered with the gazillion pictures of dresses, suits, shoes and the leopard we showed you earlier – this is all the Grammys coverage you need.

Serene Branson is an American TV presenter with blonde coiffed hair, very white teeth (naturally, well… probably not naturally, compulsory) and lashings of make-up. All good so far, except she can’t speak… a word. Not even a word that resembles one you’ve heard before. Watch it – it’s officially hilarious.

As I type, the article remains on I hope, sincerely, that it gets removed/edited soon.

But this raises a couple of issues. Number one, did all of these sites get so excited that they forget to use their common news sense? Did it not occur to them that there could be more to it? Number two, for those that have edited, is it acceptable for newspapers to republish video of someone who maybe having a stroke?

Disclosure: I posted this on my own Tumblr this morning – without giving thought to a further problem. I’m not surprised that these places saw the video and figured it would make a great story – but I wonder if, in the rush to be first up with a story, they forget an editorial process which should prevent stories like this getting out there.


Staggeringly, I’ve just discovered this report from the New York Daily News. Which, despite making reference to her hospitalisation, still pokes fun at Ms Branson’s “gibberish”:

A Los Angeles reporter delivered a bizarre string of gibberish on live television Sunday night while at the Grammys.

ANOTHER UPDATE: have removed their story.

How did Fox News treat the situation? Like this:

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