There are few good ones anymore, but I’m all for a solid April Fools prank. However, I may have went to far one fateful day back in 2010 when I nearly cost my employer some serious money.
I was working as the Assistant News Director at WLDS-AM in Jacksonville, Illinois. It was my second job in the field and just three years into my career.
I thought it would be HiLaRiOuS April Fools Day news story to write that a new piece of technology has been installed in car radios over the last few years that allow radio stations to track which stations are being listened to, and we will now be charging a small fee for listening to our station. I thought the joke would be obvious, but just in case, I attached to the fake news story a photo of the sign outside the radio station that depicted the call letters, with a vertical line through the “S” in WLDS.
So it was more like “WLD$” – you see what I did there?
Obviously a joke, right?
Not to one particular advertiser who was so appalled at the idea that he called up station management and immediately cancelled his advertising. Even after the joke was explained, he still was pretty fired up, and he didn’t continue his advertising until a week later.
I found out about this the following morning after being called in the general manager’s office where he politely explained why he disproved of the joke. OK…maybe not so politely.
To be fair, in the clarity of hindsight, perhaps our respected newscast wasn’t the best vehicle for April Fools pranks. It just sounded too plausible, and honestly, a station’s newscast isn’t a place to be joking around. People rely on that kind of stuff for actual information.
Lesson learned the hard way by a young broadcaster!
Since then, I’ve just retired from the April Fools game on the radio!