I know that it's shooting fish in a barrel but my god, local news is just soo bad.
I remember distinctly two things happening to me when I heard about the space shuttle tragedy. The first one was - well very personal and quite unsettling so I won't repeat it here - you probably have a similar memory. The second thing that happened though was that I was thankful I was hearing about it from NPR and not watching some idiotic local talking head talking about the 'local angle'.
So in that thankfulness I decided, I was going to avoid local news for the rest of my natural life. This seemed prudent as, my need to get more information about this right away was quickly satisfied by NPR and the web, and well local news in Phoenix is quite literally the worst local news I've ever seen.
It could be that I'm an ideal audience for local news because I don't have the Cable TV. Which is difficult for many of my friends to understand I know. (We're usually talking this over while I'm sitting in front of their cable TV so, please friends, remember how much I appreciate you having your cable TV, but I digress.) Being an Antennae TV watcher I basically have three choices with the news. 1) Local News 2) The Jim Lehr News Hour 3) The Internet.
So if I really need to watch the news I watch the Jim Lehr news hour. If I need news quickly I go online. I'm left wondering why I would ever watch the Local news. On my few viewings of the local news I've only been able to come up with three reasons to watch it. This is of course based on the content of the local news which isn't fair to the set designers, lighting, hair and makeup folks that clearly bust their humps to bring me a pretty local news program. Pretty doesn't get the job done by itself though, as we all know, pretty is as pretty does.
So a few years back I determined that a story is a candidate for local news coverage if it:
a) motivates you to shop
b) tells you where you should go to shop
c) implies that violent crime or terrible tragedy only happen to people that aren't shopping
(In some cities I understand they cover the weather but that's pretty predictable in Phoenix.)
I may be oversimplifying but I've been able to trace every single loca news story I've ever seen in Arizona to these guiding principals so, until this weekend, I was still looking for proof that there's more to it than that.
So based on my understanding that this is what makes local news worth covering, I guess I'm not someone that should watch the local news anymore. Now I know this to be true, it's just that today I saw something on the local news that seemed to me both bitterly offensive and hysterically sad.
When 7 astronauts paid for the dreams of the space program with their lives on Saturday morning the debris from their disintegrating craft sprinkled over Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. The words are hard for me to find to express the loss. Why then can we not honor these fallen men and women in the fact that the nobility of their, no, our common purpose and our depth of commitment have in such an endeavor? Why can't we insist on taking their memories and their ideals and respect them enough to remember that the terrible price they willingly paid is worth paying?
Visiting my neighbor I was surprised to learn that there have been a few investigations into debris that has been reported as close as two miles from my house. I certainly don't need to remind you how important it is to gather any hard evidence that can be provided to the investigation to understand what caused, and more importantly, how NASA can reduce the risk of catastrophic failures. It's just as obvious that in order to gather hard evidence you need to chase a lot of wild geese. I hope they figure it out and get the problem identified and the risks reduced. It's just that it's not really news until they either find something that was part of the space shuttle or bust someone claiming it was for personal gain.
The local news decided that the best way to cover this 'news' was to interview some kids on skateboards showing their camera crews how this stuff they found lying on the ground, wait for it, could be debris from the space shuttle. Mind you not that it is or is no just some garbage on the street. They were careful to point out that it could be anything.
While I'm watching I'm thinking, "Oh so you're saying it could be anything. I see. Anything.. right.. ok."
A few minutes later I'm ready to go into a fetal position on this. I've just spent 10 minutes of my life, ten minutes that I'll never get back, so they could tell me this could be one of two things.
Option 1) There may be pieces of the space shuttle very near my house, and we'll remind you that that's the space shuttle that disintegrated over the country, losing all brave hands, stranding three astronauts on the space station and creating a greater need for government funding for the space program.
Option 2) It could be something that fell of some old car. It's really impossible to know. (Seems to me that until they do now it's not news but maybe I'm thinking about this more than they expect or want me to.)
So then, and this is where it gets funny, they cut to an interview with a child in the elementary school right next to my house. These children were asked when they arrived at school today to write a short essay on what they think of the tragic events of this past Saturday.
And I'm sure they shot a lot of kids saying a lot of cute sad things about how bad it was and how cool it looked on TV and how they really wish that they had a Play Station game that teaches the astronauts how to power up and transform the yu-gi-ho space shuttle into some indestructible thing or whatever. Do I get that? Do I get some poignant innocent expression of sorrow and shock that somehow allows me to distance myself from the tragedy by looking at it through the eyes of a child?
The one kid they picked says, and I may be paraphrasing but it was pretty darn close to: "This shouldn't happen I don't think they should fly the space shuttle ever again if people are going to die in it". Sure it's innocent and sure it's probably more eloquent than anything I could have said at that age. But how the hell does that statement help?
So I start giggling because, as much as I love Arizona, this is just how awful our local news is.
We're spending money to put people in space. Some people might die. I hate it, you hate it, we all hate it. But we'll be in space and we'll all share in the wonder and excitement that comes from discovery and that's the best work we can do. I'd gladly get on a space shuttle flight tomorrow with the fatality odds NASA has. It's worth all the risk. Without exceptions, it's the most amazing work we will ever witness mankind doing in our lifetime.
So let's not cover that part of it though. Let's talk about the stuff on the ground that people say might, or might not be space shuttle debris. And then let's get a shot of kid saying we shouldn't fly into space. Never mind that we're not funding such inspirational work enough. Let's just shoot this cute little kid saying "we shouldn't go to space if people might die" because clearly if people are going to die that means we have to stand behind the idea of going into space. It's as if they are seriously positing that if going to space means making little kids sad then maybe we shouldn't do it.
We as a nation spend a lot of money on the space program, especially when compared to education or health care or other stuff that's good for us but just seems too expensive. But still way less then we spend on the military and on a system designed specifically to knock things out of space (they keep saying it's going to work soon if we just keep paying for it, and I guess that's news too). I don't really want to take a body blow like the tragedy of this past Saturday and then hear this kind of 'local angle' tripe.
So, can we return the national debate to the few questions I have about what the hell we're going to do after we invade Iraq? Oh that's right, that topic doesn't involve shopping, where to shop, or how awful life is if you don't go shopping right now. I guess I won't be able to look for coverage of that debate on the local news.
I feel better now. I really find not watching local news to be one of the few things that, when I remove it from my life, has an entirely fulfilling effect.
I know that it's shooting fish in a barrel but my god, local news is just soo bad.