Don’t Touch That Dial!

One TV news show doesn't cover car wrecks and 7-11 holdups, and, what's more, it's run by a woman.

I ALWAYS NOTICE LOCAL newscasters’ hair. Nothing is out of place; it is long enough and short enough; it never moves. I have the impression that newscasters’ hair styles are molded in plastic and the poor guys pull them on like a football helmet before going on the air.

And who are these men who claim to tell us what’s going on locally? Where do they come from? Night after night they appear, flashy in double-knit suits and striped shirts, yet grim and concerned of expression, stentorian in vocal range. The beginnings of each broadcast are positive and incontrovertible: “Good evening, I’m Ruddy Dudd and this is the news.” Then follows a litany of freeway crack-ups, 7-11 stick-ups, and banquets given in honor of the mayor.

The management of commercial television stations, caught in the necessity to compete for both advertisers and viewers, learned long ago to treat their news show like any other show—as a product. If an anchor man’s ratings slip, they ship him out, shove in a replacement, and start promoting this new “personality” like crazy. We see him heralded in billboards along the streets, in large ads in the newspapers, and in commercial spots on the station which hired him. We see him typing frantically, jabbering on the telephone, leaping into mobile news units. Meanwhile, a voice-over tells us that this man spends his every waking hour in search of all the truth that can be found out there on the grimy streets of Metropolis.

On the air that night he appears once again as neat, clean, and shining as ever and with hair-helmet once again in place. Didn’t the awesome demands of daily truth-ferreting put one speck of dirt under a fingernail? Didn’t leaping into mobile van after mobile van put one crinkle in that stiff collar? And how many hours of dogged investigation did it take, how many powerful toes needed to be

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