Last week my heart sank for Ortis. Why? I don’t even know the fella personally, I only know him from seeing him on my TV screen over the years. So why the wave of empathy after reading all the column inches about him? Because I know live TV only too well and BOY, is it tough. 3 years ago I spent 18 months at Sky News in London. In that time I did over 500 hours of live TV hosting ‘World News and Business Report’. I learned right there and then that, live TV is no joke.

I truly felt bad for Ortis when I watched the now infamous video clips of his presenting from the IAAF Athletics 2011 in Daegu that appeared on You Tube. Bad, because I recognised the look in his eyes: a look which said

‘I’m a bit scared here, but I’ve gotta style it out’ and ‘I’m disappointed in myself for feeling scared’.

Many of my friends reposted those videos on Facebook, some with an additional comment poking fun and laughing at him. My first reaction was to fume to myself ‘How many of those people throwing jibes at this guy have actually sat in front of a TV camera and done live TV broadcasting for any significant amount of time??’ It’s all too easy to laugh at others. In fact us Brits masters at it. We watch countless TV shows day in day out where people openly bitch about each other, bitch about other people’s cooking prowess and some quiz shows even encourage contestants to cheat each other out of money

Why did I get angry? I’ve had a video clip of me making a mistake on Sky News circulating in You Tube. It made the Media Guardian sing with readers comments of ‘How incompetent’ and ‘I wonder if she’ll still be in her job this time next week’. So I get it, and I feel his pain.

I also get it cos there isn’t one person who’s done live telly who hasn’t right royally ballsed things up. One of my first nights at Sky it was pre- Zimbabwean elections and there was much activity at the UN Security Council in New York. I was back and forth doing live interviews and my producer, who was also new to the shift at the time, was ballsing it up too. A night to remember, for sure. I look back now and laugh. But at the time I learned from my mistakes. FAST. Because Sky News ‘gave me a chance’ and I didn’t want to mess it up. So from then on in I was prepared with scripts and plenty of background information on all the top stories of the night so that if anything like that happened again, it wasn’t going to be a repeat of a blinded rabbit in front of that car.

I left a very cosy staff job as a TV News Reporter and Presenter of Breakfast Bulletins at BBC Midlands Today in Birmingham to go freelance and be an anchor for Sky News. I clearly remember the number of people who came up to me at my Leaving Do with raised eyebrows and said ‘Ooh it’ll be so hard, Marv, it’s a brave move. Good luck’ . With the ‘Good Luck’ there was a look in their eye was actually screaming at me ‘What the HELL are you doing? Are you crazy?!???’

And I got it, I seriously doubted whether I could handle taking the leap from the occasional morning presenting 6 sets of 3-minute long bulletins to solo anchoring 5 hours worth of live rolling TV news without training. But the key to this is that no-one can be taught the skills of live telly, you just have to learn, learn fast and fend for yourself. It’s like being dragged out of the kiddies pool at the local baths to being asked to swim the Channel or else.

So what went wrong for Ortis? We’ll never truly know the full story unless one day Ortis decides to tell all in a Sunday supplement, but I know there are two things that should have happened without question.

ONE: he should have prepared himself and demanded some strong support of his production team. He should have genned up on as much of the finer details of all the events he was hosting, as well as the experience of his studio pundits. He should have had notes ready to refer to if the gallery team couldn’t cut to a VT to help him out. Believe you me there’s nothing that focuses the mind more than when you hear the Director in the Gallery shouting in your ear ‘Hell that VT’s gone down’ or ‘The autocue’s crashed’ and you have less than 20seconds to decide what you’re going to say to fill time while they sort out the technical issues. It’s happened to me loads of times and you deal with it calmly but you wing it. If you’re presenting alone, it’s just you and the audience and there’s nowhere to hide.
At least Ortis had some guests in the studio to lean on.

TWO: I can’t comment on the amount of help Ortis did or didn’t get from his production team in advance of him going on air and the gallery team once he was on air. That’s simply because I don’t know what the score was at the time. But from other expert comments I’ve read about the live coverage it seems the Gallery team weren’t able to help him out that much with, for example, cutaways to live shots, pre-rec VTs or anything else they could have jumped to if once they saw he was ‘sinking’ fast. But there must have been something, and maybe there could have been more.

I like Ortis, he’s pretty groovy on The Gadget Show and it’s high time that channel execs ‘gave fresh talent a chance’ to coin a phrase. The irony being he’s not fresh talent at all – he’s very experienced in telly but live sports TV was a new opportunity for him, so for the execs who asked him to be part of the IAAF coverage was a bit of a risk.

I really hope this isn’t the end of Ortis’s exploits in live sports TV. I hope people will take chance on him again, in the same way I went back to Sky News and improved night after night after night. What is sure is, it’s been a massive learning curve for him so the next time he does any form of live TV again, he’s ready with a serious arsenal of back-up ammunition which means he can keep talking till the cows come home.

So next time you see someone stumbling their words or floundering on live TV, have a heart. Because it might just be you one day.

Marverine Cole is a freelance journalist, broadcaster and one of the country’s top female beer writers. You can tweet her on all things media (@marvovox) or beer (@BeerBeauty)