Not News
August 9, 2006

Once Upon A Time in the world, there was this little chunk of land known as Michigan. And Not So Very Long Ago, there was a smaller chunk of land within the confines of Michigan known as:
Rainbow Farms.

But tale of idiocy I tell today really only touches tangentially on Rainbow Farms ... you can read more about the farm and their standoff with local law enforcement, the FBI and their 420 festival here and here.

No, what I have to discuss today is our local news. It sucks. Wait, wait, this all ties together in a minute. Be patient, trust me. But our news does suck. Really really really suck.

You see, about the time the standoff at Rainbow Farm commenced, WNDU, NBC local affiliate, channel 16, owned at one time by the University of Notre Dame, bought a news helicopter. While owned by Notre Dame, channel 16 was well-known for purchasing new tech and new gadgets so they could be the best of the best (in a really small local market ... whoopee). So, they painted their lovely new helicopter a deep colour of blue, a bit on the dark side and happily flew around from town to town reporting on as many of the local high school footballs games they could manage on a Friday night.

Wait, I mean they reported news. And traffic stuff. Yeah, that's what they did.

But mostly they flew to high school football games in their nifty new chopper.

Enter the conflict at Rainbow Farms. As I said, this story isn't about Rainbow Farms, but what you do need to know is that the guys who owned the farm had pretty much had it with the local cops. They were getting paranoid about the cops, and my very brief understanding of the conflict suggests that they had reason to be concerned. So, there's this kind of low-key standoff between the local cops and the dudes at the farm ... and the geniuses at channel 16 decide ... hey, we have a news chopper, let's go report The Big News �. And off they flew.

Let's see, it's dusk. It's a dark colour helicopter. It's a standoff with the cops. It's guys who're suspicious (rightly so by this point).

Yeah, I certainly think it's safe to do a low fly-by right over the frigging armed suspicious dudes, sure. Why not? What's the worst that could happen? I mean, this is the NEWS and we gotta deliver the news, right?

Yeah. You know what happened next. I know what happened next. (Well, I'm writing this, so I damn well better know what happened next, but you know what I mean.)

One of the dudes mistook (cue groovy announcer voice) NewsChopper 16� (end groovy announcer) for a military or police black helicopter and took a shot. Duh.

Now, I would not want to have been the pilot or the passenger on that chopper. I'm damn glad no one was actually hurt. But good lord, how stupid could they have been?

The focus of the channel 16 news that night?

"WE GOT SHOT, WE GOT SHOT, WE GOTTED SHOT, CAN YOU BELIEVE THAT SOMEONE SHOT AT OUR BRAND-NEW HAPPY NEWSCHOPPER, CUZ WE CAN'T BELIEVE IT, BUT IT'S TRUE, WE GOT SHOT AT!"

Dear lord. I am not kidding you. Out of their what, 22 minute newscast at 10, I think 20 minutes was spent discussing the tiny hole in their freaking helicopter. A more reasonable actual news account of the story is on their website here.

It was like a car wreck of a newscast that evening, I tell you. I couldn't look away. I could not believe they were continually talking about the fact that they had a small bullet hole in the rear stabilzer. "They were all okay," they hastened to add, "but it was scary." Really? No shit. You flew down low over a tense, armed standoff and got shot at and it was SCARY? I had no idea. Thank you for that bit of news.

That was the first five minutes of the newscast. Then next 15 minutes consisted of a running commentary about how bad this was ... they'd been SHOT at, didn't you understand? and then ... then ... THEN ... they trotted a camera crew out to the helicopter pad. At first, when it was still a tad bit light ... the helicopter wasn't back yet. So, they showed us footage of the empty helicopter pad ... and discussed that they had been SHOT at, do you BELIEVE this shit? SHOT AT. Them!

Finally, the chopper arrives. It is now full dark. During the commercial break, they frantically get a camera crew back out to the helicopter pad and attempt to light it up and somehow avoid washing everything out all at the same time. Quite a trick what with the bright lights bouncing on the bright, shiny-new chopper.

They spent another five minutes after the break showing us the little bullet hole and the ragged bits of the fiberglass where it had gone through. And then assuring us, that "No one was hurt, but it was scary."

Now, look. Local team, big news story. They got excited. They had a new toy. I understand that they wanted to show that toy off and get to use it. But good freaking lord, could they show a little common sense and not do a low fly-by? And why were they surprised that they were shot at? I mean, a really good investigative reporter does understand that there is danger involved in the job on a regular basis.

But in the larger scheme of reporting the news, the fact that they had a bullet hole in their rear stabilizer truly was not a 15 minute news story. A sentence or two as they discussed the story of the standoff - fine. Yeah, it should be mentioned if for no other reason than to warn the public to stay away from the standoff. (Unlike the fine idiots who took picnic lunches to Waco on the weekends for the Branch Davidian mess.)

But the fact that they were not shot down is not a news story!

*sigh* Heinlein's quote seems particularly appropriate when applied to the local news:
Never underestimate the power of human stupidity.

It boggles the mind, it does.

Posted by Red Monkey at August 9, 2006 7:12 AM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble |

 

RevJim said:

Sadly, this is the epitome of local news nation-wide. Sure did enjoy reading it with your perspective, though. It is fun reading.

August 9, 2006 12:06 PM
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