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hostage to the lowest common denominator

I can sympathize with being in TV news here in Tucson. You're not in the Big Show that must be Pheonix TV news Shangri-La, and you probably have to share make-up chairs with the weather guy and the health specialist who comes in twice a week (the Pheonix newscasters certainly all get their own chairs), and the little cachet you can hope for in your job is in being "Southern Arizona's news leaders" (a title that would imply some sort of competition, as if, for example, Bisbee was really putting out a quality broadcast). I have no doubt that our local newscasters strive for excellence, for telling hard-hitting stories with contempo flair, for serving the public good amidst the adversity that is southern Arizona news.

Perhaps that is why I found it absurd, and yet moving, to be informed by one of tonight's anchorwomen, about fifteen minutes into the broadcast, that they were very, very sorry to have interrupted the conclusion of First Monday this week. The show ended with the young girl being allowed to stay with her family, and she did not have an abortion, said tonight's anchorwoman.

Viewers were informed of this event solemnly and seriously, without further comment. They went right to commercial, no doubt to return after running some used car ads with tonight's feature on real-life firefighters.

I'm not sure which is weirder: That enough people were sufficiently frustrated with missing the last five minutes of a show that was a) horrible horrible horrible*, and therefore b) cancelled shortly after its premiere and is therefore c) relegated to fill summer prime-time opposite Fear Factor, to call or email the television station with their complaints; OR, that the decision-makers at the station matter-of-factly took time out of their newscast to let the viewing audience know how the show ended.

Perhaps the news manager thought it would be a gentle throwback to fireside chats of yore, when Roosevelt read the comics page to the nation. But it was not so. Instead, the tiny hairs that rose, quivering, on the back of my neck, were my sympathetic journalist embarassment sensors, and they were registering ultimate indignity.** Would Dirk McFeely or Kathy Wemblydown, sophisticated and well-paid Phoenix news anchors, have been forced to tell their viewers how a re-run ended? Certainly not. It is indeed an oppressive burden that our southern Arizona news leaders must carry.

* Way back in the fall, I saw promos for this show about U.S. supreme court justices, all of which ended with James Garner (as Chief Justice), huddling up with the other justices for a big pre-session team cheer, football-style. I hope and pray that the Supreme Court, if given the chance would kick in the ass whoever wrote that script.

** I am reminded of the Calvin and Hobbes cartoon in which Calvin's dad is forced to read comic books to Calvin as bed-time stories. " ... and then, in the next frame, Supertoad goes 'PLOOEY!'"