OK, so it’s cold here this week. Again, it’s Michigan; it happens. It dipped a bit below zero last night, just a few degrees, not terribly far. Uncomfortably cold, life-complicating cold, but nothing terribly dangerous to people with the sense to come in out of it when they can and dress properly when they can’t.
Of course I watched the local news last night, to see what they’d do with it. I wasn’t disappointed.
The stand-up began with the camera focused on a raw chicken, which the reporter had impaled on a stick of some sort. Get it? It’s so cold, the chicken is frozen! Then the guy held up a carafe of what he told us was hot tea. “Watch me throw it in the air,” he said. And he did. There was an impressive cloud of steam. He claimed it froze before it hit the ground, but of course it didn’t, Mr. Lying Liarpants. Then he cut to some time-lapse video showing what happened when they took a large thermometer from the warm studio to the street outside; why, it fell rapidly! Who could have foreseen this astonishing development?
Then he tipped over the chicken on the stick. The camera captured its landing. I don’t know what this was supposed to illustrate. Maybe the reporter thought it might shatter into a million pieces.
My TV friends say this is the latest consultant-driven trend in TV news — props. “If you’re going to report weather, you must have a prop,” they say. Hence the unequipped reporter who squats to pick up a handful of this mysterious substance we call snow, to show how you can pick it right up, and it’s cold on your hand! Hence the rulers in last week’s snowstorm. Hence the chicken.
It would all be amusing, if you didn’t consider that readers are abandoning newspapers by the truckload, preferring to get their local news from television. Yes, there’s a good chance your very own neighbor prefers weather reports with a chicken. I expect I’ll be handed a plucked foul en route to a weather story before the end of my career. Ask now, and I’ll save you the drumstick.
John Ritter said on January 23, 2004 at 8:00 am
Why do you watch the local news when you know that it is poorly produced and super-sized to fill the new and improved hour (or worse, ninety minutes) format? Most local news shows could be over in ten minutes if they merely reported major stories and a minimal amount of weather forecast.
The local news bloopers that make the rounds (primarily on Fox) could just as well be from Schlockville, Connecticut as from the more traditional Bumfuck, Arkansas.
alex said on January 23, 2004 at 8:59 am
I’ll give your local news props, all right. At least they’re filling the time with some sort of excitement.
In Fort Wayne, the delivery is so slow it’s excruciating to watch. I mean how do you stretch a thin news day in that town into half an hour? (I could think of ways, but today’s recent grads from talking head school don’t have a journalistic bone in their bodies.) It never occurred to me how bad Fort Wayne’s local newscasts were until I lived in Chicago, where everything’s so rapid-fire that a lot of important news doesn’t even get enough coverage if it gets on at all.
Here they wouldn’t bother with putting chicken on a stick. They’re more likely to hire Jerry Springer onto the anchor team to goose the ratings. Which the NBC affiliate in fact did, resulting in the defection of the two main co-anchors.
MIndy said on January 23, 2004 at 8:00 pm
This makes me wonder if the reporters in Phoenix fry eggs on sidewalks during the summer months there. “Well, Laura, I like my eggs over medium, and we had to turn this egg after only thiry seconds for medium eggs just like Max does at the Dew Drop Inn Diner!”
Craig said on January 24, 2004 at 10:28 am
As a former large-market local-tv news reporter… I am relieved every day that I bailed when I did.
mtk said on January 25, 2004 at 2:52 pm
Disclosure: I work for a newspaper. That said, since we’re dishing on TV news, I find any time spent on local TV news a big waste. There’s no topic that I want to get information on from a local tv newscast. Health? Nope, I want the full pro/con and a good description of the researchers who are proclaiming it. Lurid, dramatic crime and lots of standup amid yellow tape? Nope, let me read the newspaper report, at least, which likely will give me 3x the detail in the same consumption time. Road work? I want the map showing specifics, not visual of a torn-up stretch of road. Weather? Don’t trust it … at least give me The Weather Channel.
Not that newspapers are my first source for everything, either, but at least my half-hour spent with a newspaper lets me get more detail and less flash, and leaves me another half hour to read a newsmagazine or a web site or a speciality magazine (such as history or archaeology or whatever) to get microdetail on the topics. TV news? It offers me *nothing* but a headache.
Nance said on January 25, 2004 at 6:10 pm
The more I watch TV news, the more I’m convinced it’s meant to be consumed by people who are multi-tasking. During my brief stint there, I learned you can never get away with satire, because people paying you only half their attention won’t get it. Also, and there’s no way to say this delicately, the audience is generally drawn from the shallower end of the gene pool. I think they aim so far over-the-top because they have to, to gain the audience’s full attention. All that relentless repetition of the station ID, etc., is just a means to drum it into your head.
That said, mtk, sometimes it seems your paper is trying to bore me to death. But that’s a topic for a long, two-bottles-of-wine dinner, don’t you think?
Andrea said on January 26, 2004 at 9:23 am
After reading this entry Friday morning, I came home and turned to the evening news to find a reporter, not the weatherman, on my local news, tossing the “ice pack from his lunch bag” down an icy side street that hadn’t been treated by the county all week. I was at a loss to find the relevance – he said it was to show us how far the ice went (about 20 yards), but it still didn’t make any sense to me – ice on ice.
adrianne said on January 26, 2004 at 11:22 am
an editor here in middletown, n.y., actually compiled a list of stupid weatherperson tricks that ran with our latest weather story. my favorite: a weather guy in albany poured water on the windshield of his car, waited for it to freeze, then scraped it off. wow, dude.