Op Ed

Local media breaks more wind than news!

by Don Vtipil

"We’ll have live team coverage of the weather in just a few minutes, but first "Breaking News!" Reporter Brenda Breathless is on the scene in Virginia Beach where the Virginia Beach S.W.A.T. Team believe they have a jaywalker holed up in his girlfriend’s apartment. Brenda, tell us how this all began."

How many evenings have you watched the local news begin on a similar note? Over-sensationalized "news" stories and ludicrously long stretches for local connections to national events.

Yes, we had our Rudy Boesch of the original "Survivor" program. The local news hucksters have tried to sell the local connection of several other "Survivor" participants as "local" because they had been in this area for some period in their lives. "Our own" Evan Marriott of "Joe Millionaire?" Local bull dozer operator? Fact is, he’s been operating heavy equipment in California for five years, yet our news folks refer to him as if he were plucked off the job at Mount Trashmore last week.

On a slow news day (almost every day) the 90 minutes between 5 and 6:30 P.M. needs to be soaked up somehow. The weather guys go on and on and on repeating the too much information about the weather their Super Triple Space Age See All Doppler Radar is showing. The weather could honestly consist of a two-minute (tops) report telling us what the high and low temperatures are expected to be for a few days, whether or not it is going to rain or snow, and any unusual winds or storms are predicted. Who cares what it did yesterday or this morning, where the weather is coming from, or what it is doing in Des Moines? I mean, does it make any difference if the cold air or moisture is coming from Canada, the Gulf of Mexico, or Walla Walla?

And how about that inane "banter" between the on-camera folks? Hey! It soaks up some of that surplus air time.

Finally, the "Breaking News" or "lead" story of the day that comes complete with "team coverage" (poor reporters standing out in the rain in front of a home, store, or bar for no apparent practical reason). "The Super K-Mart behind me is one of those that will be closed ."

It is interesting and fun to track the hyped story of yesterday or today and watch how it migrates without further mention to the back pages of the newspaper or fizzles into total oblivion. Remember the slow news day on December 26th past? All the local news folks had their pants in a bunch over the Delta Airlines pilot who blew a 0.07 as he was about to co-pilot a flight? Golly gee! We even made the national news on that one! There was the inevitable live coverage by reporters standing in front of his Yorktown home (he was in Atlanta). What ever happened to the guy? You’ve got to read the Sunday, January 19, "Pile-it" to find out. You’ll have to turn way back to page B7. Shows you how important the aftermath of that sensational story was.

If you really want some great yuks with the local news, watch the weekend editions. All the directors, studio personnel, and talking heads are the second string. The cameras zoom in on the wrong person. The films, graphics, and sports scores do not match the stories being reported. The weekend personalities are a hoot to watch as their eyes dart all over the studio looking for the camera with the little red light.

Some of those who are trying so hard to put "Hampton Roads" "on the map" think a major league sports team would do it. Some like to crow about our "region" being the 19th or 32nd or 43rd (whatever) largest media area. But as long as we govern like the bush leagues, snipe and argue like the bush leagues, act like the bush leagues, and have bush league media (newspaper and radio/television), we will stay in bush leagues.