"If it bleeds, it leads" is local TV's aphorism that dictates its belief that fires, car crashes, and shootings lead off the nightly newscast. These stories, of course, are more "visual" and easier to cover than poverty, worker exploitation, and the health care crisis.
But, now and then, it's hard to find an assortment of adrenaline-enhanced stories. And so it was that WOW-TV's panicked station manager met with his news director late one afternoon to go over the final line-up for the 6 O'clock news, which, with few variants would be the same news the station would run in its "expanded news coverage" shows over the next 24 hours. The station manager wasn't happy.
"What do you mean leading off the news with a report that some jokers at the Public Health Service found the cure for AIDS? Weren't there any accidents? Fires? Murders!"
"Sorry, Boss, there's nothing out there."
"NOTHING?! "Nothing' as in "no accidents,' or "nothing' as in "You're about to get a job at Kwik-E-Mart'?!"
"Boss, we really tried. I have five camera crews running around right now."
"Think you can get two of them to run into each other? We'd pay the hospital bills."
"Boss, don't you remember? The union made us agree to a six-month moratorium on stories that involve us maiming our crews just for the sake of ratings?"
"Some union," the station manager huffed. "Doesn't even want its members to get more air time."
"It's only for six months," said the news director. "After that, maybe we could cut the brake linings on Unit 3 and have Unit 4 cover it. But for right now, the news scanner is dead."
"What happened to that fatality on Honeysuckle?"
"By the time we scrambled the chopper, the drivers had exchanged insurance numbers and left."
"Left!?" thundered the station manager. "No one leaves when there's a camera crew on the way!"
"Best we could figure out, it was just a few paint scratches."
"Any of the cars red? If you got there faster, it might have looked like blood. Check the cops again. They might be covering up something."
Walter Brasch is an award-winning journalist and professor of journalism emeritus. His current books are Before the First Snow: Stories from the Revolution , America's Unpatriotic Acts: The Federal Government's Violation of (more...)