Saturday, September 29, 2007

I knew there was a reason

My name is Bridget, and I hate local television news.

What is it, exactly, that I find so revolting about KVOA, KUTV, KOLD, etc.? Well, many of the things that I despise about them are satirized very well in this video clip about Americanizing Al-Jazeera from The Daily Show. I already talked about it on My Adventures in Jordan, but here it is again in case you missed it. The parts relevant to this conversation come at the end.

Granted, The Daily Show was making fun of American news in general, but it certainly holds true for the local versions as well.

Still, there's another side to local news that keeps me from watching it. Have you ever noticed the cliffhangers they throw at you during commercial breaks? You're watching LOST, you've lowered the volume during the commercials and are trying to mind your own business when all of a sudden, you hear something like "A band of thieves has launched a new jaunt of terror through Tucson neighborhoods. ARE YOU NEXT?!?!?!?! Find out at ten!" Or even, "The weather was cool and pleasant today, but ARE THINGS ABOUT TO CHANGE FOR THE WORSE?!?!?!?!??! Tonight, at eleven."

Give me a break.

Today, I realized that Jeremy and I are not the only ones who eschew local news in all its forms. I've been reading Gavin de Becker's books about "the gift of fear." Near the end of his book by that title, he basically tells people not to watch local news programs. Here are two excerpts from that section:

"Local news has several favorite phrases, one of which is 'Police made a gruesome discovery today in [name of local city].' The satellite age has increased the library of available shocking footage, so that now, if there wasn't a something grisly in your town, you might hear, 'Police made a greusome discovery today in Reno,' or Chicago, or Miami, or even Caracas. It may not be local, but it is greusome, and there's some footage, so what the hell. Whether they go back in time to find something shocking or go around the planet, in neither case is the information necessarily valuable or relevant to our life."

"A serious-looking news celebrity tells of the most current danger we simply must know about to save our lives: 'I'm standing at the scene of the latest follow-home robbery to hit this posh westside neighborhood, part of a growing trend of random attacks. How can you avoid this terror?' This will be followed by a list of cautions, some of them so obvious as to be comical (e.g., 'Don't let strangers into your car'). There will be an interview with someone seriously billed as a 'follow-home robbery expert.' Then suddenly one day you'd think such robberies had just stopped, because local television will move on to the next criminal hazard. Soon it will be 'Robbers who hide out in your purse until you get home!' followed by a checklist of warning signs to look out for: 'Purse feels extra heavy; purse difficult to close; unusual sounds coming from purse...'"

de Becker goes on to claim that you can live a happier, less worrisome life by doing away with local news. I experienced this myself this summer. I had never paid attention to local Tucson news until we were in Jordan, when I updated my iGoogle homepage with a "local headlines" feature and set it to zip code 85719. All of a sudden, all I was hearing about were murders, rapes, mall shootings (really!), home burglaries, and other terrible things, happening right in Tucson.

Of course, there are times when tuning in to the local news is a necessary evil, but those times are becoming more and more scarce as the age of internet news (with video!) advances. Sadly, it's getting harder to find a serious internet news source that hasn't gone "pop." I think
BBC is one of the last ones left, even if it is not very local and also stodgily British at times.

Better stodgy and British than featuring "news" stories such as "Someone's swiping toilet paper" (I'll give you one guess at where that headline came from before you click on the link).


Suzanne Bubnash said...

In 1978 when the west was suffering drought, all the news people could talk about was drought week after week--so repetitive, so tiresome. Then as soon as it rained, it was threat of floods. That was when I realized they work hard to create concern and even hysteria about non-issues, and I quit watching. I make rare exceptions for serious events such as 9/11. Most of the rest is fluff. The Al Jazeera clip is right on.

Anonymous said...

I'm a big fan of Gavin de Becker. At my mother's urging, I first read "The Gift of Fear" in high school, and have reread it several times since then. I think he has a very sane outlook on when we should and should not be afraid.

Crissy Bear said...

I personally like the gas price news. In the summer they talk about how gas prices are high because of all the travel, but they will go down in the winter. In the winter it's all the heat everyone is using but don't worry you just need to wait for summer and they'll go down. ALRIGHT! I've have refused to watch the local news since high school. Jason tries to get it on so he can see local sports news but even that is usually a wash. Our football team that only won two games last year beat Penn State this week but if you turn on the news all you get in the ten minute sports news session is ten minutes of high school sports clips.

*ps I knew people (boys) at BYU who would swipe toilet paper from campus to avoid having to buy any. I myself am way to picky to use public restroom stuff on a regular basis but I guess some people are just cheap...

Jeremy Palmer said...

I watch Fox news for a laugh and to see what the NRA is up to. CNN has become a tabloid. "Why aren't celebs wearing panties?" could likely be heard on CNN. CNN is also overly "anything happening outside the US is not front page material" Americana super sized fat Hummer view of the world swagger. This is, of course, only my opinion and this blog should not be held in contempt for my diatribe.

I vote for BBC as well. Their international coverage is great. I even get my US news from the BBC.

Jeremy Palmer said...

the only thing CNN has going for it is Amanpour in the international office. Good on her.

Kristen said...

Local news is depressing. Gary is a FOX news junkie. Sorry Jeremy.


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