What the hell has happened to the evening news on television?
Remember the news?
At 6 and 11 PM you would turn on the news and they would lead off with a juicy murder, or a titillating sex scandal. There would be news about politics, theater, movies, business, and human interest stories. Every morning the producers of the news on WCBS, WNBC, and WABC would buy a copy of the New York Post and check out the lead story on Page Three, then they would turn to the gossip on Page Six and plan the news that you and I got to see that night.
It was a time when reporting the news was much more fun than making the news. It was the time of Bill Beutel, Roger Grimsby, Doug Johnson, Sue Simmons, Rose Ann Scamardella, Geraldo Rivera, Chuck Scarborough, John Roland, Jim Jensen.
One of the first women to join that rough, tough boys club was my wife, the beautiful Judy Licht. She was a young kid, not that long out of Connecticut College, who found herself covering crime stories in the South Bronx. John Johnson, who was a fine reporter from WABC-TV, once came up to me and said, "Did I ever tell you the story of the time when your wife and I were going after the same guy for an interview and when I got ahead of her she kicked me?"
"You're lucky," I replied. "I married her. She kicks me every day."
These days the news is beyond boring. It's all weather all the time. Every night at 6 and 11 the lead story is about the weather. So it's a cold, nasty winter. So what? So last week we got six … eight … up to a foot of snow in the New York area. So what?
Whether it snows a foot or an inch, our local television stations have the same reaction: panic … elation … panic … elation. They all subscribe to the new "Chicken Little" form of covering the news. They all shriek, "THE SKY IS FALLING! THE SKY IS FALLING!"
I remember about a month ago a local anchorperson breathlessly announced that we could expect two inches of snow. She repeated "two inches" so many times I thought she was going to have an orgasm over two lousy inches. Then on danced the terminally happy weather guy, and he was ecstatic over the two inches, too.
Then they went out into the field and an attractive woman reporter who looked as if she was freezing told us how New York City was going to deal with these incredible two inches of snow. She could have told us this from a nice, warm studio, but the station had to tell the world that she was an on-the-spot "field reporter" and the best place for her to tell us about the dreaded two inches of snow was while she was standing on a street corner with her teeth chattering while she was freezing her ass off.
Then they switched to another news reporter who was interviewing the mayor of some godforsaken town in Connecticut who was moaning that his town was running out of salt to melt the lousy two inches of snow. Then they showed some tape of the place in New Jersey where they keep the salt to melt snow and they interviewed this salt honcho who said, "Typically, in a storm like this, we like to have 3000 tons."
Then they showed a plow pushing tons of salt in a warehouse loaded with salt and I thought of my dad. During a typical Sunday meal, he shook that much salt on his food.
That night the snow never came. Not one half inch, not one inch, nothing. "Something diverted ... there was some mumbo jumbo wind off-shore ... mumble, mumble …"
The fact is these people who cannot tell you what the weather will be in six hours are fast to predict that in six, 60, or 600 years we're going to have global warming.
Has there been a total overreaction about the weather by the media, which has gone nuts with the same story every night? That's what the media does. It overreacts. If it's an impending snowstorm, or a wave of cold or hot weather, the media is all over it.
We must understand that it is their job to make it sound worse than it is going to be. That's why no one under 60 watches the late-night news. And the only reason that those of us over 60 watch is because it's a dumb habit we can't seem to break.
What a revolting development.
On another cranky note: cell phones.
Everyone has a cell phone these days.
I hate my cell phone. I dropped it and now when I'm talking on my phone, my ear presses against the touch screen, cuts off my call, and calls another number. My ear is calling restaurants that have been out of business for years.
People have gone nuts. They walk against the light, against traffic, with cell phones stuck to their ears, daring drivers to hit them. I predict cell phones, in the future, will kill more people than war.
Which reminds me of a happier memory of when I used to call my mom, which I did every day. It was a wonderful nightmare that I miss.
It was in the early "Can you hear me now?" days of cell phones, and reception was terrible. This was heightened by the fact that both my mother and father were at a susceptible age so when they approached a ringing phone it was as though it were a time bomb, and lifting the receiver would either dismantle it or cause it to explode.
My mom couldn't hear all that well and I found myself screaming into my new cell phone and having comic conversations with a partially deaf 89-year-old lady.
"Hello [crackle] M-o[static]-m!" I would say.
"WHO IS IT?" she would scream.
"It's [static] me, [static] erry," I would answer.
"[static] erry... [crackle] erry, your son, [static] erry."
"I HAVE NO SON NAMED HARRY."
"Not [static] Harry," I would say.
"NOTARY? WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?"
"It's me [crackle], Mom, Jerry, [static] your [static] son."
"JERRY WANTS TO HAVE FUN? WHO'S STOPPING HIM?"
"Not [static] fun, son ...son ... [static] son."
"SON? JERRY WANTS TO HAVE A SON? HE HAS TWO SONS. WHO ARE YOU?"
"It's me, [static] Jerry [crackle]."
"WHY DIDN'T YOU SAY THAT? WHAT'S WRONG?"
"NOTH ... [static] ING!" I would scream in a panic. And then the phone would go dead. I would stare at the dead phone. Then call her back fast before she fainted from fright.
God, I so miss her.
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