In an effort to quickly warn its viewers of a potentially serious situation, WGN-TV made a brief error this morning. What initially appeared to be a small plane crash, a damaged road and some damaged cars on S. Martin Luther King Drive, was nothing more than an elaborate set up for an NBC television drama being filmed in Chicago.
At 8:11am this morning, the WGN Morning News went live with footage from their traffic helicopter, SkyCam 9, that showed a scary scene. On the southbound lanes of S. Martin Luther King Drive, between E. 29th and E. 31st Streets, it looked from the air that a single engine aircraft had crashed into the road, taking a chunk of the pavement out and skidding to a stop. Along the way, a wing of the airplane had sheared off from the impact and went through the windshield of a southbound SUV. A a few other cars near the impact scene had seemingly minor collisions. There were some Chicago police cars and fire trucks, along with one ambulance at the scene and many onlookers, although there was not much frantic activity happening.
WGN-TV news anchors Larry Potash and Robin Baumgarten described the scene for their viewers while SkyCam 9 continued to hover above the wreckage, sending back the shocking images.
All was not as it seemed, though.
Less than two minutes later, the station was told by officials that the entire "crash" on King Drive was nothing more than a purposely faked stunt. The NBC-TV drama "Chicago Fire," which films entirely in the Chicago area, staged the crash for a rescue scene in an upcoming show, scheduled to air early next year. The producers of "Chicago Fire" placed small signs on posts & trees in the area, asking the local residents to NOT call 911 and that they were merely filming a TV show on location. They were doing so with permission from the City of Chicago and the Chicago Film Office.
However, outside of notifying local residents and the Chicago Fire Department, the media was not alerted in advance.
As the live images were being shown on television, WGN-TV staffers were getting confirmation from the Chicago Fire Department about the apparent accident and were told it was not a true plane crash. WGN-TV then immediately informed their viewers of what was truly happening on Martin Luther King Drive.
In typical WGN Morning News fashion, the whole incident turned into laughs, as the news anchors, using the old expression, made lemonade out of lemons.
Robin Baumgarten feigned outrage upon finding out the truth, saying "“Are you kidding me? Are you kidding... They might want to tell the news folks when they are doing this and shutting down King Drive! Are you kidding me? Are you kidding me?!?"
Larry Potash grinned and said "So really... it's a good news story, which is what the people are always looking for... and in the end, we brought it to you." He then joking blurted out "It's for a show that nobody watches on NBC." Added Baumgarten "So call them and complain..."
The "plane crash" incident and the breaking news that became a blooper was a running joke throughout the rest of the last hour of the program.
The WGN-TV website does not currently have the video of this scary, then funny three minutes of television, but a viewer captured it on video and posted it on YouTube:
UPDATE: WGNTV.com has indeed added an edited version of this morning's television events, including some of the fun that took place after the mistake was brought to light:
The Chicagoland Radio & Media website (abbreviated as CRM) is a celebration of all things relating to Chicago-area media matters. CRM is a news source, a location for fans to voice their opinions, and an online museum of Chicago media's past and present, with a hopeful eye to its future. For the visitors, readers, and fans of the website, CRM is a both a resource and a release, both educational and an escape, and both factual and fun.
If it has a connection to Chicago area radio, television, print, and/or other forms of media -- information on it can be found here at ChicagolandRadioAndMedia.com!