This just in.

A question, with all due deference to our dear friend Vince, who is not part of this particular problem:

Why the hell does anyone watch local TV news?

I watched my own last night, to see if today’s plans — telephoning, work, sparring with the mortgage guy (6.1 percent?!? I don’t think so), making beef stew — are going to be shot to hell by a school delay or cancellation. We’ve been under a winter storm warning for about two days now, giving the local weathercasters ample time to inflate an entirely normal winter event into a near-apocalypse.

You’ve heard this whine before, though. This time I paid more attention to the other things that always bug me — the way the girl anchor delivers her line, then turns to look expectantly at the boy anchor; the vertically folded script, a meme that must have been peddled by consultants; the toss to the reporter on the set, who pretends that what she heard at the school board meeting is so very, very important, the overarching sense of incredible urgency,. I mean: Who falls for this crap? It’s worse than talk radio. All I want is a weather report! And not one with furrowed brows! Sheesh.

No wonder Jon Stewart is so huge.

Go read G. Beato’s piece in Reason on the year in excuses, rationalization and other equivocating.

And I missed this on Monday, but …wow. This is tops in tasteless, the rest of the story of WashPost reporter Michael Dobbs’ tsunami experience, presented here as more of an Annals of Ruined Vacations piece for a really cool cutting-edge travel magazine:

Taprobane is a tear-shaped rock just off the southernmost tip of the tear-shaped island of Sri Lanka. In the 1920s, a bogus French aristocrat created a luxuriant garden on the rock, topped by an exotic octagonal villa. In the decades since then, Taprobane has played host to a succession of aesthetes and eccentrics, ranging from the writer Paul Bowles to the art patron Peggy Guggenheim to the adventurer Arthur C. Clarke. My brother, a Hong Kong businessman who bought Taprobane a decade ago, markets it to rich Americans and Europeans as “the isle of dreams.” Geoffrey, who is known for throwing fabulous parties, had invited an eclectic selection of guests to this isle of dreams to celebrate Christmas and New Year’s.

…The first few hours after the disaster seem almost unreal. My brother was worried about his other properties along the coast — and we were all in a kind of trance. At one point, a helicopter hovered overhead, looking for survivors. “What they don’t know is that we are all down here, eating Stilton,” cracked one of the Aussies. …We drove up the coast along a trail of ruined homes, twisted buses and wrecked fishing boats to the city of Galle. My brother has a little hotel there, on a hill above the devastated commercial district. The last paying guests were leaving, and the Last Days of the Raj atmosphere Geoffrey works so hard to cultivate was giving way to the grim camaraderie of a MASH ward. Dazed tourists streamed in with stories of collapsed beach cabanas and days and nights in the jungle.

…On our last night in Sri Lanka before heading back to Washington, Olivia told me that the experience had made her aware, for the first time, how lucky she is to live in the United States. Alex, a junior at Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda, is reluctant to tell us what she thinks because it would come out sounding “too sappy.” But she hopes to establish ties between Whitman and schools in Weligama.

Only 12-year-old Jojo, a sports fanatic with a tough-guy persona, seems impervious to the wave of altruism sweeping through the Dobbs family. “The good thing about all this,” he told us, as we cut short our vacation, “is that we will be back in Washington for the last Redskins game of the season.”

Oh, thank GOD.

Posted at 8:01 am in Uncategorized |

11 responses to “This just in.”

  1. Randy said on January 5, 2005 at 9:52 am

    I have lived here in Winnipeg my entire life and everyone here knows we get lots of snow and extreme cold. And yet the news anchors treat each snowfall like a teenager regards their first beer – new, exciting, and mysterious!

    My favorite is the reeling they do over the cost of snow clearing. We are a city of 750,000, with 300 pieces of equipment deployed after a major snowfall. It’s going to cost lots of money, every time. But the anchors fret over how much it costs, and how much is left in the snow clearing budget, as if we might stop clearing snow if the budget ran out.

    Anyway, I’ll stop prattling, I’ve got snow to shovel…

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  2. vince said on January 5, 2005 at 10:39 am

    Cue the voice-of-the-devil announcer…

    “Just when you thought it was safe….

    …it’s a parent’s worst nightmare

    … the sky is falling!

    You can blame three factors for the incessant insipidity of local TV weather coverage.

    1. Consultants who sell TV stations that this is what gets folks to watch. After all, fear sells. (In politics and TV)

    2. News managers who buy the consultants’ lines.

    3. You the viewers who watch in droves — no matter how you might claim not to. The ratings prove viewers DO tune in.


    Those vertically folded scripts are actually not a consultant’s ruse. TV Scripts print vertically in a single column down the right side of the page. Only two or three words fit per line — which matches how they appear on the teleprompter over the camera lens.

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  3. John said on January 5, 2005 at 11:09 am

    “What is in every household that could silently kill you!!!!! Film at 11!”

    I haven’t watched local news in years and only turn if on if they have a live camera at a developing story. Print journalism is so much better for regional news.

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  4. Richard N. / Toronto said on January 5, 2005 at 12:30 pm

    Happy New Year, Nancy & all.

    I agree with Nancy & the other commenters’ thoughts about local TV news. Never watched it�until Moses Znaimer & his friends invented CityPulse thirty-something years ago. I remain astonished that it hasn�t metastasized further than it has; it seems to have remained a Canadian phenomenon.

    It has all the ambulance-chasing of your classic Eyewitness News, but none of the cuteness: no anchor desk, and everything is very �city�-focused, edgy, with a bend-over-backwards attitude to the city�s diversity, and (technically) tight.

    And it always leads with what people want to know: are the schools closed?

    Always except lately. Sometimes it doesn�t work. The first 13 minutes yesterday were about the tsunami disaster, with about half of that the local response, including the obligatory report from a suburban school�the kind of thing they usually buried toward the bottom of the hour. Sometimes the �city� focus gets a bit silly. I guess they thought reporting on traffic accidents and murders and other local crises would be too trivial in the face of 150,000 dead.

    I�m not a total fan of the CITY-TV experience, but they certainly produce a watchable local news, and have brought up the level of their competitors.

    Nancy, �The New WI� (CHWI-TV) in Windsor is their affilliate. I haven�t seen it, but I expect it�s a lot like the mother ship in Toronto.

    Cheers from Toronto

    where we got a light dusting of snow this morning

    but no school closures

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  5. mary said on January 5, 2005 at 12:37 pm

    I turned on the local early morning news yesterday so see if the torrential downpour we were having was going to stop any time soon. Before they got to that, we got the local morning anchor interviewing Matt Lauer about interviewing Amber Frey. Thank goodness he told us that Matt would be talking to Amber even more on the Today show and on some other show at night, or I might have never known.

    It rained all day, by the way.


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  6. alex said on January 5, 2005 at 1:22 pm

    Local news in a market like Fort Wayne is infernally dull, I’ve rediscovered after my eighteen-year stint in Chicago. There it’s simply tabloid fabulous! On one station, there’s Pam Zekman–famous for the Mirage Tavern expose in which she and other newspaper reporters were set up in a sham business to catch unscrupulous officials and inspectors soliciting bribes. These days she follows lowlifes on the city payroll in their Escalades to health spas and golf courses, where she corners them with cameras and asks why they haven’t shown up at the office in five years. Sometimes she’s confronting them in their own backyards while city crews are in the midst of building new swimming pools. She also puts hidden cameras on undercover reporters who go to work as kitchen help in restaurants–amazing rats, roaches, poop all over the place and cooks licking their fingers while they prepare your plate–and it’s about as entertaining as local news ever gets.

    Years ago another station wanted to goose its ratings, so it hired Jerry Springer as a commentator to sit alongside the anchors. Carol Marin resigned in protest, and was soon followed out the door by her co-anchor. Ultimately, the station dropped Springer after all of the negative attention it received. Marin received many plaudits at the time for standing up against the cheapening of the evening news.

    Actually, the local affiliates could use some of this sort of perking up. I say let’s have a nightly point-counterpoint with Kevin Leininger, who’s the screechin’ Chreeschun from the local newspaper, and Sox Sperry, who’s the local hippie wannabe/neighborhood activist/old-school leftist provocateur. As a weekly feature, I’d suggest an item called “Bootie Cooties,” in which a reporter walks around with an electronic meter that screams whenever it detects traces of e coli–on people, in restaurants, wherever. And for a fun week-long expose, how about hidden cameras in the gay cruising parks? The theme–“Gay parenthood is more common than you could possibly know. Eight out of ten cars spotted where homosexual liaisons occur has one or more child safety seats in the back. More at eleven… .”

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  7. Nance said on January 5, 2005 at 1:40 pm

    Hate to tell you, Alex, but Karen Hensel did the sex-in-the-parks thing years ago. I like “booty cooties,” though. You’ve got a future in this business.

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  8. Mark T-K said on January 5, 2005 at 5:02 pm

    This just seemed to fit somehow… Nancy, have you tried Sirius or XM satellite radio? It is so far above broadcast stations in offerings (and lack of commercials) that it puts them to shame. I have to believe broadcast radio (and eventually TV) are going the way of the buggy whip. I got a Sirius subscription for Christmas and am not looking back — just got it installed yesterday. And they just announced a deal with Microsoft to develop TV programming delivery, which means they’ll effectively be competing with DirecTV but without (I assume) the need for the little 18″ dishes. Maybe bring the prices down for everybody.

    Also, FWIW, Standard Federal Bank’s website is advertising 30-year-fixed mortgages at 5.75%. Maybe better than who you’re working with?


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  9. brian stouder said on January 5, 2005 at 8:48 pm

    Local news – what the hell.

    Fort Wayne local broadcast news I get from the radio more than TV; but my in-laws live in Logansport and get Indianapolis and Lafayette broadcasts….and I genuinely like WTHR (ch 13) Indy. I think it’s because it’s such a throw-back…I liked local TV news back when Ken Kurtz, Bob Speaks, and (eventually) Steve Coronna were at channel 15. A desk, some film reports, weather, and sports.

    For awhile I was infatuated with Audrey Port, and watched channel 33’s atrocious news show just to see her.

    Had to laugh a few months ago when some Ohio news person got fired when (gasp!) nude pics of her turned up on the internet… while on vacation she had entered a wet tee-shirt contest in a Florida bar, and waddaya know – she ended up starkers!!!

    When I heard this, I immediately googled her name, and then ogled her image(!!), and – really truly and honestly – I cannot understand why they fired her. Her news broadcast would never lose against the competition again.

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  10. Nance said on January 5, 2005 at 9:08 pm

    I guess you missed the story about the anchor in Cleveland who posed nude for an art photographer for some sweeps-period report, and they ran the photos on the air. Astonishingly, it was a ratings smash!

    Oh, dear God. I just googled “nude anchorwoman photos” and found the woman of whom you speak, Brian. That boob job is HORRIBLE. They look like Lee Press-On Boobs.

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  11. brian stouder said on January 5, 2005 at 9:50 pm

    Yeah – she actually looked better when she was still scantily clad, as opposed to when she arrived at totally starkers. Also, one couldn’t help notice notes that her nether regions had obviously gotten a lot of… grooming(!!)

    The other thing that struck me when I saw the pics was the number of cameras one can see amongst that bar crowd! And it STILL seemed to be a good idea to her at the time.

    Didn’t see the Cleveland story – but to quote (or at least paraphrase) Madam Telling Tales, maybe she was ‘doing research’; or else it is OK to show on TV because it is Art!!, by God!

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