Sunday, June 25, 2006

How many bears in hammocks does it take to fill the Albert Hall?

I was on the road for about a week recently, cut off from my computer, and it forced me to experience news as I guess it is seen by people who are not obsessive about it. There was wi-fi everywhere and it occurred to me that maybe I need to get a laptop, but resolving my own lack of access to real news isn't the point. The real issue is, if you do lead the horse to the trough, is there any water in there for him to drink?

The hotel in Denver, where I stayed for most of my time out there, didn't have a newspaper deal with either of the local papers, so I'd get USA Today at my door, usually about the time I was leaving anyway. Without access to a newspaper or a computer, my solution was to get up in the morning and flip around the TV channels, looking for news while I got showered and dressed.

Mostly, I saw video of a bear climbing into and falling out of a hammock. Maybe it was a slow week, but when you're at war and the economy is in the can, I've got to think there's more news than a bear falling out of a hammock. But when I'd turn on the Denver stations, they'd go to the traffic reporter, they'd show the weather and the fires burning on the Western Slope, and then they'd show the bear falling out of the hammock again.

So I'd switch over to Headline News, where you used to be able to get the top stories of the day at least at the top and the bottom of the hour, if you didn't mind sitting through the fluff that began around 10 and 40 minutes past the hour. But apparently Headline News has abandoned that format, because now they have good-looking people chatting and giggling and, yes, showing that damn bear falling out of the hammock.

Oh, and everyone was playing clips from Matt Lauer's interview with Brittney Spears, which was just kind of sad. My experience interviewing celebs was that, however light and fluffy their screen personas may be, they didn't get to that level of the industry without some smarts and a strong drive. Loni Anderson was one of the most intense people I've ever met, maybe because, if she was going to make it in a competitive and perilous industry, she had to protect herself against the obvious pitfalls of looking the way she does. But Brittney was a child star and maybe she got to the top because other people had brains and focus. I've seen people interviewed because they were in a car wreck who had more poise and media sense than this poor child.

Apparently, however, it was only unwatchably bad to me, because the clips were in constant rotation. The bear falls out of the hammock, Brittney snuffles over the way the media cover her marriage, and then the bear climbs back into the hammock and falls out again.

And the people watching -- that is, the millions of registered voters who get their world view from this level of journalism -- said to themselves, "I saw the news today."

Oh boy.

(Today's illustration is from, a very entertaining site that hosts Photoshop contests. This is pretty funny, I guess, but remember that the governor of California announced his candidacy on Jay Leno, and that's where Bill Clinton put on the shades and played the sax. Oh boy.)*

*As noted in the comments, Clinton's saxophone appearance was on Arsenio Hall.


Teacher in VT said...

Clinton played the sax on Arsenio.

Besides that, I agree with your comments. The only thing worse than watching tv news is watching it when you're trying to actually find out about what's going on in the world....

Mike said...

Whoops -- quite right about Arsenio/Leno/Bubba.

Thank god I didn't say that in print, where there is some pressure to be accurate ...