I’m currently visiting America's 98th largest media market. Besides being a delightful and charming tourist destination, it also boasts superb cuisine, a pleasant climate and, shall we say, a slighter slower pace of life.
Perhaps the most dramatic difference between the country's 98th and number one media markets, though, is the news coverage. An event that might warrant 15 seconds on a Manhattan news station totally pre-empts The Wheel of Fortune, Andy Griffith Show reruns and Judge Judy's decision (just as she's raising her gavel).
Here's a snapshot of how one local TV station led off its 6pm coverage of the fiery deaths of three people allegedly caused when a meth lab ignited.
The news anchor reiterated the facts and then, quickly and dramatically, cut to a field reporter who was with the brother of one victim. The ensuing conversation must have taken 15 minutes and included such pearls as:
Brother: “Jimmy Earl was always a good student. I remember mom's smile when he brought home straight A's in eighth grade.”
Reporter: “So, he was always a good student?”
Brother: “No, he sort of lost his way in high school.”
Reporter: "Really, well what happened then?”
Brother: “Funny thing about that. Ma always wanted a college graduate in the family. Me? I ended up in woodworking. Jimmy Earl wanted to see the world, so he enlisted.”
Reporter: "The Navy?”
Reporter: “The Army, then?”
Brother: “Jimmy Earl always did things the hard way, so headed off to Camp Lejeune.”
Reporter: “Tell us about his military career.”
Brother (chuckling): “Some things are better left unsaid.”
Reporter: (exasperated, and clearly being cued by a producer in the studio to end the meandering interview) “Well, is there anything you'd like your late brother to be remembered for?”
Brother: “Yes'm. He enjoyed camping, reading and taking long walks.”
Reporter: “Poignant. Very poignant. Camping, reading and long walks. So sad. Well, I know I speak for the entire Action Seven news team and viewers when I express our sincere condolences. This is Kitty May Atkins, with Tommy Sam, brother of the late Jimmy Earl, one of three victims in Tuesday's horrible, horrible fire allegedly started in a meth lab. Back to you in the studio, Clem.”
I had to chuckle. In Manhattan, the same story would be lumped in with the following:
Anchor: “Tonight's lead stories including a drive-by shooting in Staten Island, a sex slave ring in Soho, angry commuters hit with a nine-hour delay on NJ Transit trains, nothing sweet at all about the 16th rape in Ridgefield and three dead from a fire that may have started in a meth lab. But, first let's go to Katie McGee and what looks eerily like a waterspout in West New York. Katie?”
Ah, for the simpler things in life.