And so it goes: One day you're mocking NBC for its abject hackery and malfeasance, the next you're sitting in Conan O'Brien's TV studio with Liz, talking about media synergy and gorging on shrimp cocktail.
Last night, our NBC affiliate -- the one located in the media capital of the galaxy -- held a Blogger Summit to tell us that it needs our help. Resources are limited, budgets are tight, and there are only 22 beat reporters to cover the tri-state area's 23 million people. (You'd think they'd hire that 23rd person, just to preserve a nice, clean, million-to-one ratio. But anyway.) You bloggers are out there, they said. On the front lines. Scraping up stories. Spewing gossip. Ranting. Raving. Photographing celebrity junkparts. How can we help bring these vital clots of content to a wider audience and boost our ratings?
The answer is, You can't. Because local news is dead, cremated, and decoratively urned on the mantel. Everything is the same. The news-team quartets are the same. The banter's the same. The hair and teeth are the same. The sets are the same. And the story sequence is the same: these people were murdered, these buildings burned down, this shit hit that fan, this team won, this team lost, this is the Doppler 4000 futurecast, this was hardly necessary.) It's so deeply entrenched that parodies of parodies have been parodied.
And it's not like they're unaware of this. The highlight of the night came when News Director Dan Forman asked us, point-blank: Why bother producing a TV newscast at all? Why not just migrate it all to the web?
Well, apart from the people who don't have a computer and/or don't know how to use one (and could tell you where they were when McKinley was shot), there's not much reason to have local news on TV. The format is too confining. Newscasts air at specific times, usually when something better is on (Like The Daily Show. Or a Seinfeld rerun. Or Ron Popeil.) Everything is crammed into finite air time, so each story gets reduced to eight seconds of benign froth. And if there's ever something you want to see, you have to wait through all the murders and fires and shit-encrusted fans before your piece comes on.
If you make news interactive, users can customize what they see and when they see it, and since there's no time limit, producers can delve deeper into stories. There's just the little matter of how to pay for it, because way too many people will eagerly bypass news stories in favor of celebrity junkparts.
So good luck and godspeed, WNBC, in your quest to revitalize local news. And a special good luck to Ushery, whose toddler is getting molars and has stopped sleeping. If he ever passes out on the air, you'll know why.