In my self-appointed role as local TV News pundit, I spend alot of time defending the actions of us wacky broadcasters. It can be tough; with out brash logos and slow-motion close-ups, we give our enemies lots of ammunition. But what little success I have in convincing others we're not all smarmy charlatans is quickly erased when stations pull stunts like this.
For those of you lacking broadband, I'll do my best to explain: In a giggly morning remote, on-air staffer Chris Burrous lives ups his segment of "Good Day Sacramento" by approaching a homeless camp with bags of fast food, a case of Bud Light and the mistaken impression that he's Stephen Colbert. What follows is a painful stretch of videotape, in which KMAX-31-CW sets back our cause at least twenty years. If it sounds crass, you gotta see it. I've watched it a dozen times so far, hoping repeated viewings would present something that would excuse the buffoonery. It hasn't happened.
Full Disclosure: I too have done stupid things in front of videocameras. When it comes to asinine behavior we ALL fall short of the Glory. But I'll be damned if I've ever scoffed at the downtrodden with free beer and a self-congratulatory attitude. What exactly convinced Burrous and his bosses that a cheeky live shot involving sleepy homeless people and a few brew-skees was a good idea remains a mystery, but if the ratings were good, look for this fool to be dishing out one-liners and dimebags outside a methadone clinic near you very soon. (And to think I once considered this to be the lowest point of our existence. At this rate of descent, I may very well black out before our industry hits rock-bottom.)
Ya know - it's not even the alcohol. Truthbetold, I could give a shit if anybody knocks back a few beers for breakfast. What sickens me is the very premise: a condescending live shot in which our grinning hero mixes it up with the Great Unwashed. No, my stomach flipped even before Burrous hoisted the Bud Light into view. When he began waltzing toward the campfire with suds in tow however, my jaw dropped. Had I the good sense to lunge for the remote (or mousepad) I would have done so. Instead, I sat and watched a few far-flung colleagues bring dishonor to us all. Stay Classy, Sacramento!
Perhaps I'm mistaken. Perhaps there's some greater context that I'm missing; a West Coast vibe that makes it perfectly cool to bag on the humbled. Maybe I got it all wrong. Maybe I'll walk into work tomorrow morning to find humble Unit Four has been replaced by a shiny Dodge Viper. Maybe. More likely I'll never grasp what that live shot was trying to accomplish. Here's one thing I do know, however: You can work in local TV News or you can go audition for The Daily Show. Attempting both further cheapens what we do, blurs already fuzzy lines and makes your un-funny ass look like just another untalented Letterman wannabe. See, the folks in those tents are real people with real lives. They're not just warm props for your lame attempt at vaudeville. Figure that out and we stand a chance at preserving the Fourth Estate. Ignore it and you won't have to worry about what the audience thinks. They'll all be heading for the exit as fast as they can, while you bomb at your local Funny Bone's amateur night. Then who will need a beer?