Long ago I grew weary of "local" newscasts. As a well-versed friend stated recently, television stations don't even bother to call these programs "news"--they now refer to them as 'shows'. I have been following one reporter around on two OBX related stories and found both of the so-called investigations to be lacking on so many levels I can't really critique the efforts properly. And it's not just one station. All four Hampton Roads outlets offer up more sensationalism than news. Worse, they have now begun tying news "stories" into promotions for their network's prime time programs. For example, if CSI runs an episode on a person who stalks his murder victims on Facebook, we get an "expose" on the dangers of Facebook at 6PM--with a plug for the CSI program that night--and a follow up at 11.
So here I sit at 11:03 watching channel 3-WTKR. The headline story is about an 18- year old kid who broke into cars in his neighborhood. He was apprehended by an alert Virginia Beach police officer recently. The officer noticed him riding a bike in the wee morning hours carrying stuffed backpacks. Making a connection between prior break ins and the backpacks he stopped the young man and found his pack full of iPods and a laptop and other stolen material.
The thrust of the story was a jailhouse interview with the offender in order to shock us with the glaring admission that he wasn't a bit remorseful. No sir--his only comment was people should "lock their cars" and if they don't, apparently, to the crook go the spoils.
By showcasing his personality, providing him some PR, and splashing his name over the airwaves, TV-3 has given this punk exactly what he most desired--a platform to show off his arrogance and obvious lack of social adaptation. And some street cred among his peer group of equally punk-ish associates.
What he needs is to be ignored. And in my day, a good butt-whippin'. Channel 3 in particular seems obsessed with the idea of shocking us with stories that in reality are all-too-common in today's environment. Small town political disputes, youthful punks with bad manners, allegedly overpaid government and private sector officials--all of this is nothing new and nothing shocking. A few weeks ago the lead story on this channel was about a young woman who had " befriended" several sailors, wiped out their checking accounts, and now wanted to turn herself in. The channel picked up an interview from Alabama (where she had fled) conducted by a sister network affiliate, interviewed one sailor who lost his money (his face appropriately blacked out) and her promise to take a bus to Oregon and turn herself in (as Alabama had no reason to arrest her but Oregon apparently does). Women taking advantage of sailors and their money--a crime (or scam) that has been around since years were denoted by BC instead of AD. And yes, so has murder, but hustling sailors is not the stuff of a lead story even on a slow news day. Brandy, you're a fine girl, but....
And, as I finish the post at 11:19 PM, a breaking report of a teen arrested for assaulting a female jogger, with anchor Bianca Martinez noting the neighborhood had been "pretty much scared" since the incident occurred. Pretty much? My wife, who doesn't even know I am writing this blog mockingly repeated "Pretty much?". Go get 'em Bianca.
I doubt I will be perfect in my new journalistic career. But I hope I turn out to be "pretty much" better than the folks who qualify as anchors, reporters and investigators for our local TV stations. Because, quite frankly, I'd "pretty much" rather watch 'South Park' than the local TV news.