As Seen on TV

First: Tyra Banks. Kate had put on her show because she said some of the teachers she works with are always talking about have mentioned her. Kate didn’t know from Tyra Banks. All I thought I knew was that she was a model (sorry–supermodel) who might have done some acting. I didn’t know she had a show, but there it was, an Oprah/Montel-esque self-help fest on the subject of anorexia and bulimia. We tuned in long enough, about 45 seconds, to hear Ms. Banks cry out to her audience, “You don’t have to be consumed by an eating disorder!” There–that’s Tyra Banks.


KTVU’s 10’Clock News. One of the stories teased on the show open was about the “Nobel Peace Prize” that had gone missing at the University of California at Berkeley. The story: Police had located the medallion and a suspect. I puzzled over what Nobel Peace Prize might be on the Cal campus; though the university is given to tiresome boasting about the number of Nobel laureates among its faculty, I don’t recall ever hearing of anyone who got the peace prize.

But before I could think more about that, the anchors launched into tonight’s top story: A burglary rampage in a rich little town, Orinda, on the other side of the hills. Then the details emerged: Over the last two weeks, police say, five burglaries have been reported in the town. The M.O.? Scary: Someone’s entering residences during the day through unlocked doors. The loot? Oh, big-ticket stuff: iPods, laptop computers, “even jewelry.” In other words, the kind of garden-variety rip-offs that urban dwellers are all too familiar with. It wasn’t even clear from the cop who appeared on camera that the police think it’s an unusual occurrence. The KTVU reporter did locate a woman who had a harrowing story about a confrontation with a burglar last summer; the intruder beat her and threatened her before getting away with $13,000 in jewelry. But as the on-camera cop said, that incident apparently has nothing to do with the current spate of thefts.

You could make a case for having the story somewhere on the show: “Genteel folk fret over predators in sylvan paradise.” But why was it the lead story? Probably because someone at KTVU lives in Orinda and either had their home broken into or knows a neighbor or two who have.

On to the Nobel Peace Prize story: Well, it turns out that someone tipped off UC police that a student had stolen the solid gold medal from Lawrence Hall of Science the other day. The cops went out and picked up the kid, who said he took the medallion from a display case “on a whim.” But it was the physics prize awarded to Ernest O. Lawrence in 1939, not the peace prize. If you care, and news people are paid to and should be doing something else if they don’t, there’s a big difference between the two medals.

Eventually, way down in the show, KTVU got around to the less important stories like Iraq and the Scooter Libby fallout and what have you. Overall, 60 minutes that barely moves the needle from “bad” to “mediocre.”

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2 Replies to “As Seen on TV”

  1. Our local news outlets do the same thing. They cover small local stories and cede the bigger stories to the networks but the local stories are almost always aired first. On some nights, the leads are painfully trivial.
    “Broken water main leaves some local businesses without water for almost two hours.”

  2. You know, I don’t mind them leading with something local. That’s based on a calculation that that’s what the viewers want and what the station itself can best deliver. Fine. The thing I object to is presenting drivvel and trivia like that home burglary story (or your water mains) as the hot news of the day. I’ve been involved in too many painful and painfully stupid newsroom conversations that lead to stories like that getting promoted, and it’s almost always because someone in charge things “this is the news that effects the most people” (thus the popularity on KTVU of weather and traffic-nightmare stories high up in the newscasts) and the lack of any real thoughtfulness and enterprise in developing something a little deeper. Anyway, local newscasts, like so many daily papers, are finally reaping what they’ve sown: their audience, except for news addicts and the inertia-addled, are going elsewhere to find meaningful, relevant information about their communities and the world.

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