The TV news has really gotten desperate. They have to fill an hour every night at 5:00, then another at 6:00, and then a half hour at 11:00. It’s no surprise that they often wrap up a wad of garbage, stick a bow on it, and call it “in-depth reporting”. Here are my top ten most overused TV news stories.
10: The “Reaction to the Weather” story. You know this one. A storm of some sort or another blew through the night before, and reporters go running, microphones in hand, to ask some unsuspecting schlep what he or she thinks about the storm. If I should ever get accosted by one of these roving doom lovers, they had better be prepared for a very different answer. If I hear, “So, what do think about the tornado last night that destroyed 50 homes and caused 10 million dollars in damage?”, I’ll reply, “You know, slick, I think it was the greatest freaking thing I’ve ever seen in my entire life. I actually hope we have another one tonight.”
9: The “Parking Ticket Scofflaw” story. They trot this one out every once in a while on a slow news day. Somebody goes and searches through the police records to find the person with the most money owed in parking tickets. They then shout with astonishment during the broadcast, “Mary Q. Public owes $200,000 in unpaid parking tickets!” They try to find Mary and figure out why she continues to park illegally/has not paid her fines and usually end up with one of those ridiculous scenes of an ardent reporter chasing Mary down the street yelling, “Do you think you’re above the law, Mary? Do you realize you’re on your way to hell, Mary?”
8: The “Birthday Party for the Century-or-Older Person” story. This is supposed to be a feel-good sort of story, maybe reminding us that we aren’t as old we might think. Instead, we witness some poor fossil going into respiratory distress trying to blow out 105 candles and then imparting words of wisdom like, “I didn’t vote for Harding.”, or “Eating mayonnaise gives me gas.”
7: The “Unnecessary Health Story”. If things go for a while without somebody finding a cure for cancer or some other disease, they pull out this tired dog. Teasers like, “Could eating 10 pounds of a chocolate a day help you lose weight?” or “Fascinating study reveals that consuming five-alarm, super-blistering, tacos from Hades MIGHT cause heartburn. Stay tuned for this must-see story.” are examples of this type of nonsense.
6: The “Rescue of the Idiots” story. In Michigan (where I live) I hear at least 10 or so of these every winter. It’s always some boob that tries to drive their truck out onto the lake to go ice fishing in 35 degree weather. We are then shown video of disgusted rescue workers hauling these fools to safety. In other parts of the country, these stories might include things like, “Man who jumped into tiger pen at the zoo to impress girlfriend rescued.” or “Man who wanted to see if he could leap across 26-foot chasm rescued at bottom with only 34 broken bones.”
5: The “Less than Important Scandal” story. Unfortunately, scandal stories rake in big ratings, so even if there isn’t a relevant scandal to report on, news crews get inventive. We hear sorry headlines like, “Janitor indicted in toilet paper theft scandal.” or “Jaywalkers running rampant!” A popular way to try to prop up these uninteresting “scandals” is to add the suffix ‘gate’ after everything. Examples of this might include ‘unpopped kernelgate’ or ‘over watered lawngate’.
4: The “Bizarre Foreign Sports” story. If there were no games on the day of the news broadcast, this lame filler is often injected. We get to see videos of people racing on antelope, women bashing each other over the heads with dishes in some kind of tribal boxing match, or people racing each other in sled dog races using Chihuahuas.
3: The “Less Than Famous Person Died” story. Death is a big news topic, and in TV news it is always the appropriate choice between a death story and a non-death story. This logic gives us such stories as “Walter J. Nobody, founder of the National Society for Dung Beetle Preservation, passed on today, leaving an incredible legacy.”, or “Becky R. Swineski, inventor of edible underwear, died today and was mourned by several.”
2: The “Weirdos Convention” story. Here the news station finds some odd or unpalatable group having a convention and then sends in the cameras to provide us all with a sensationalist freak show. Headlines like, “The People Who Think Their Dogs are Vampires Convention opened today.”, “Fans of the movie Swept Away descended our city for their yearly convention.”, and “The People with a Tattoo of Howard the Duck Convention celebrate Howard’s timeless popularity.” fall into this category.
1: The “Celebrity Hospital Visit Story”. Do I REALLY want to know that George Clooney had a prostate exam today or that Britney Spears was seen at a hemorrhoids clinic? No, I actually don’t. I’d rather see a story on the mating habits of Tibetan Yaks. These stories also include speculation about plastic surgery.
Come on, newscasters, surely you can do better than these sorry excuses for news. Can’t you?