NBC Fires Guy Who Posted The Bryant Gumbel/Katie Couric 'What Is Internet' Video

from the what-is-nbc dept

Like a bunch of sites, we posted about the amusing video that had been posted to YouTube, that showed Katie Couric and Bryant Gumbel, back in 1994, very confused about the internet. The video itself went viral pretty quickly. It was just sort of cute. I don’t think anyone posting the video was doing it in a mean way — it was just funny, and served as a good reminder of just how quickly things have changed. Just about the time that we posted the video, the original video was pulled down from YouTube by the guy who posted it. What quickly came out, via Rob Pegoraro, was that the guy who posted it worked at NBC, but was fired for posting the video. The guy doesn’t want to talk about it beyond that, and NBC doesn’t appear too keen on commenting on the whole situation, but, really NBC? Is that company so ridiculously thin-skinned that it can’t laugh at itself? Nothing about the use of the video was mean-spirited or harmful to NBC. The video went viral because it’s a human interest sort of thing — a reminder of how quickly the internet went from something people didn’t understand at all, to something that’s central to so many people’s lives. We all forget what it was like when we first discovered the internet (at least those of us who grew up without the internet), and the video sort of brought all that back. I’d argue that NBC firing the guy for posting this video to YouTube suggests an organization even more confused about the internet than either Couric or Gumbel in this clip (which, yes, is still widely available):

This whole thing reminds of the PR debacle by Best Buy last year when it decided to fire the guy who had made some (quite funny) satirical videos about dealing with customers at a store like Best Buy. After loud public outcry, Best Buy was eventually forced to back down, but it was really too late.

Update: Even more ridiculous: as noted in the comments, the folks on The Today Show actually played this video and laughed about it the other day, so now I’ll embed it below directly from NBC:

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Comments on “NBC Fires Guy Who Posted The Bryant Gumbel/Katie Couric 'What Is Internet' Video”

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Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:

More telling then damning.

While the three on the screen have no idea what the Internet was, the guy behind the camera seems to have somewhat of a clue. The problem comes that he didn’t know how to describe it to people who don’t know. How do you describe the Internet to someone who’s only been use to one way media? This video just shows that not much has really changed. There are still a lot of people who have no idea what the Internet is.

I think that may be the next thing I wright up in my blog; Why people still have problems figuring out computers.

anothermike says:

Re: More telling then damning.

I always heard it as a coffee cup holder.

What about the one about the coin-operated computer? “Dear Valued Customer, why does your computer case rattle like that?” The dial-up ISP charged by the minute so putting the money through a case slot was obviously how you paid for connectivity. Like a pay phone. The tech pulled enough loose change out of the case to pay for the service call.

Or the one about the customer that needed to bring their computer system into the repair shop, but didn’t know anything about the different parts? The customer brings in the monitor on the first trip, keyboard and mouse on the second trip. By the fifth or sixth trip they’ve reassembled a functioning computer system at the repair shop without too many duplicate components.

Jason says:

Oh, that was an NBC clip?

Not a regular watcher of the station (there are no NBC airwaves that reach my house, and for some reason networks are not simulcasting online), I had no idea that the clip was from NBC. There may have been a logo at the bottom when I watched it, but those sorts of things go readily unnoticed. However, this story puts 2 and 2 together for me and solidifies another example of NBC douchebaggery (ahem…CONAN)

Marcus Carab (profile) says:


Can you please shut up? I was just trying to raise a slightly different way of looking at what happened – I felt perhaps it was a bit soon to jump to the conclusion that this had something to do with the specific video that was posted. Neither you nor I know for sure what happened – which is exactly the second word in my comment was “might”

I wasn’t trying to start a fight, I was trying to start a conversation. Personally I still agree with a lot of the observations in this post, just not all of them. Why does it have to instantly become another game of attacking Mike?

You really are a child.

Marcus Carab (profile) says:

More telling then damning.

A tech support friend of mine managed to top that famous story with something that happened to him only a couple years ago.

He got an extremely baffling call from someone who claimed “Print Screen” wasn’t working. I’ll save you the lengthy exchange that was necessary to figure out what was going on and skip to the discovery.

Turns out someone told him “print screen takes a picture of whatever is on the screen” and misinterpreted that in an astonishingly stupid way: he was holding a printed document against the monitor and pressing Print Screen, thinking that it would transfer the document into his computer.

I swear I’m not making this up…

Mal says:

The firing of the person who ran that wonderful vidio of katie, Gumbell not knowing about the internet!

He was fired for this? It was a great walk down memory lane(not that long ago)and made us laugh at how it took awhile for us to catch on…and still catching on over and over again. All of my friends over 50 really enjoyed this.
This person lost his job and that racist on Cnn who drives cars, still has his job! No justice in this crazy dance of life on planet earth.

jshubbub says:

The SyFy Channel Demonstrates That This Normal

I’m glad I’m not the only one to notice this phenomenon. Sure, cancel Caprica but produce Mega-Python vs. Gatoroid. Meanwhile, show Ghosthunters (“We really don’t understand much of what’s happening. Therefore, ghosts!”) and WWE Wrestling with the proverbial straight face. Ridiculous.

anothermike (user link) says:

Re: The SyFy Channel Demonstrates That This Normal

It’s all about the audience numbers and the money those numbers bring in from advertisers. Caprica is very popular with its core fans, but there’s not enough of them to pay the bills. Meanwhile, Mega-Python Vs Gatoroid pulled in a record-setting audience; one of the biggest ever for a Syfy Original Movie.
About the wrestling thing, I thought maybe the sci-fi tie-in was that they all had superpowers but no. After tweeting with Craig Engler, I found out Syfy just wanted that audience for added flavor. The hope was that they’d branch out to see what else was on the channel. And it appears they have, making up a good chunk of the Original Movies audience but aren’t much for the hard fiction series (-es. serieses? serie?).

TeresaR says:

I was in Europe when the internet hit,

and when I got back, I was watching tv with my coworkers, and I said “What is all this .com stuff I keep seeing on the tv?” So the websites were starting to pop enough to be on advertisements and such. He explained it was the internet. Well, I went home and signed up for Prodigy (for those who don’t know, it was a dial up access service similar to aol). I pulled up my first website and stared at it for an hour. “What’s so big about this?” I thought. I didn’t understand that you needed to click on those little blue links. Finally I slid the mouse over one, and the cursor changed. I clicked. AHHH Now I see, I thought.

In less than 3 months I had created my own website for genealogy research, which later was listed in the NY Times. It’s amazing how far we have come!

Angela says:

NBC has so lost it's way

I remember seeing the Net for the first time on a friends (nerds) computer back in 92. And if not for him it would have been years later.
My response when I first saw it in action? “That’s so cool! I want to work for the Internet!”. Yet I had no idea what that meant. I thought I could go to a building somewhere and apply for a job “working for the Internet”. Tee-hee.

Oddly enough I did get a job with an ISP start up not long after. And the “Internet for Dummies” book was my bible. 🙂
I think this video is cute!

Anonymous Coward says:

The SyFy Channel Demonstrates That This Normal

Lol – they should retitle Ghosthunters to ‘Did You Hear That?!’

We bust on it all the time but it is entertaining, and I give them props for tromping around in the dark, esp. the cameramen. They are likable and want to believe, that’s cool. And you can’t go wrong with the Scooby Doo spooky house/castle/restaurant/hospital/prison formula.

I’ve toured Eastern State Penitentiary several times – it’s creepy in full daylight! And fascinating.

The Soup skewered the movie you mention – that tells one the content is pretty bad, NBC.

I’ve never forgiven them for cancelling Farscape.

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