Jellybeans, locusts, chemical fires and BREAKING NEWS!
I don’t watch much television news, for several reasons. First, call me crazy, but I just want the facts, you know? I’d like to hear something like, “Today, North Korea’s president gave a speech in which he said, ‘Neener-neener-neener, you can’t make me stop building nukes!’ while simultaneously looking into the camera and flipping off the United States.”
With most TV news today, you get something like, “Today, North Korea’s president gave a confusing speech, which we feel our viewers wouldn’t understand, due to the fact that you’re all basically imbeciles. So, here to explain what he really said and what it really means is our network’s political analyst. We’ll give you a minute to get a pencil...that’s the one with the eraser on the other end.”
Now, I realize I’m taking a huge risk trying to interpret for myself what “neener-neener” really implies, but I’m just crazy enough to want to give it a shot.
Secondly, I am more fed up than anyone has ever been with all of the gloom in newscasts today. In fact, not only are the stories themselves always hopeless and dire and apocalyptic, but newscasters have now begun predicting doom and gloom with every story they do. Every discovery, every “breakthrough” carries cataclysmic warnings; each tiny negative event has doomsday written all over it.
“Today, scientists discovered that eating jellybeans makes your hair grow. There was concern at the jellybeans conference in Lucerne that this may have grave consequences for mankind. For instance, the possibility that the world will run out of barbers and hair stylists, and people would have to resort to the back-alley haircuts of olden days. And, with so much hair growing, can the Earth absorb the piles of hair on floors, in Dumpsters, etc.? Could the weight of that hair on the surface of the Earth cause it to stop spinning? Here to help you understand the necessity for a jellybean crisis survival kit is our medical analyst, Dr. Jeffrey Getaclue!”
Finally, I am sick to death of “BREAKING NEWS!” Has anyone else noticed that every single newscast nowadays begins with “BREAKING NEWS!”? Of course, we all want to know if there really is BREAKING NEWS! somewhere in the world. Like tidal waves that are swamping entire countries at this moment, or locusts gobbling up farmhouses, or even crazed gunmen actually shooting at the reporter himself.
But, once the networks realized that actual BREAKING NEWS! got our attention, they thought, well, anything could be BREAKING NEWS! as long as it’s happening RIGHT NOW. And, newscasts degenerated from “Good evening, BREAKING NEWS! tonight from the scene of an accident on Highway 85…” to “Good evening, BREAKING NEWS! tonight from Dave Doppler, who’s on the coast, where they could have had a really bad storm tonight. Dave?”
And, Dave comes on, wearing boots and a rain slicker on what looks like a clear, lovely beach at sunset, teens playing volleyball behind him. “Well, Bill, the apocalyptic storm we predicted has … uh … not happened. But, it could have, and that’s made folks here very frightened (happy volleyball players laugh joyfully in the background) … uh … back to you, Bill.”
Another example was the recent coverage of a chemical plant fire in a nearby town. Now, I like a good chemical plant fire as much as the next guy, as long as no one’s getting hurt. But, to take “Cake Boss” off the air just to prolong this sky-is-falling coverage, repeating the same thing, over and over, well, that’s the freakin’ last straw! Hey, network folks, FYI: When there’s nothing new, it ISN’T NEWS!
“For those of you who just tuned in, we’re still covering a chemical plant fire in Hooterville. Businesses have been evacuated, and several folks have been taken to nearby hospitals. Here’s our man on the street, Manny O’Street, to give us an update. Manny, anything new out there?” (His face is hopeful … well, desperate.)
“Fred, businesses were evacuated, but no one’s been hurt. And, no one was in the plant at the time, so … umm … no employees were injured. And, the folks sent to hospitals were firefighters, who’ve all been released and are back here ... uh ... containing the fire (behind him, firefighters are standing around drinking coffee and making monkey faces at him). Meanwhile, chemical burn tents were set up, but … well … no one needs them.”
“Any word on how the fire started?”
“Gosh ... no. Well, back to--”
“Is there any threat to nearby buildings?”
“Mmm … no. So, uh, back to you--”
“Wait, Manny! (He is frantic - there’s time to fill!) What about--”
“No!” He shakes his head firmly. “No, Fred.” It’s futile. He disappears.
“Uh ... ha-ha ... we seem to have lost Manny momentarily, but we’ll continue our coverage for the rest of the day, so stay tuned for new developments.”
Vicki Wentz is a local writer, teacher and speaker. Readers may contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit her website, www.vickiwentz.com.