Nothing highlights the absurdity of most commercial news media like minor-market local coverage. Desperate for viewers, local stations drop in teasers during prime-time commercial breaks, teasers that are apparently meant to variously annoy you, scare you, or make you go: WTF? Or, as we say in Utah, what the crap? Their purpose is definitely not to give you helpful information. Here's the kind of thing I mean:
"A grandmother, a phone call, an inmate. Why they matter to your bank account."
"Rain? Snow? Sun? All of the above? Will it be time to break out the bbq, or unpack the umbrellas?"
"How childhood obesity is affecting the safety of your pets, and what it could mean for Southern Utah."
I guess sometimes we just don't have news here. Like for example last night. After watching another fine episode of Parenthood, I thought I'd catch a few minutes of the local news to see what's going on. Top story: It's Windy. After a couple of days of beautiful spring weather, a storm was a-brewin'. So there were about ten minutes of on-location reporting and recorded interviews of people all saying more or less the same thing: "It's really windy." At one point, we saw a picture of a tree that had blown over. The reporter mentioned a power outage and said, "...possibly caused by this downed tree." Orrrr possibly not. Possibly caused by a downed tree fifteen miles away, or by someone simultaneously using their toaster oven and Wii in a poorly-wired house. Who can say for sure?
My feelings about local news got some indirect play in my latest book, Once Was Lost. Melinda Ford is a local reporter in the fictional town of Pineview. Bits of information about Jody Shaw's kidnapping are revealed throughout the book in the form of Melinda's newscasts. She's one of those side characters for whom I imagined an entire life outside of the book...I pictured her as a cross between Nicole Kidman's character in To Die For and a young, ambitious small-town Nancy Grace who practiced saying, "For KPXU, this is Melinda Ford" in the mirror every night, with different dramatic inflections. Like Samara's mom says in the book, "There's nothing that girl loves more than bad news," and in a way Jody's kidnapping was the best thing that ever happened to Melinda Ford.
Which brings me back to last night's news, and me saying to my husband, "What are they smiling about?" They were grinning like fools there behind the news desk. I guess that wind storm made them pretty happy.