Ya gotta love TV newspeople. The talking head anchorman/woman is of an entirely different breed of human being. They're always, and I mean ALWAYS, looking for their big break. They're always hoping for that rare exclusive which will instantly catapult them into the stratosphere of media fame, make their name household, and land them a cushy job at a sterling network in a top market. And in the never-ending "post 9/11 world" sometimes the stories are handed to these reporters on silver platters.
If Dick Johnson just so happens to be anchoring the 5 o'clock news when the next bomb hits, then there ya go, Dick! Congratulations, it happened on your shift and now you can patiently await your very own Edward R. Murrow Award.
The whole time a reporter is, well, reporting he's hoping this is "The Big One"; the story that will seal his fate.
So then let us talk about Ravi Baichwal. Ravi is the weekend anchorman for Chicago's WLS-TV news.
Weekend people are normally producers and reporters with training wheels. It's the murky battleground for the dreamer production assistants and the annoying, aspiring segment producer.
If you make your bones, step on the right heads, and grease the right palms, eventually you'll end up working on the weekend shift doing graphics, producing a segment or maybe even doing the sports. See how you do when they throw you into the fire on a Sunday night at 10.
So let's say you're Ravi Baichwal. You've worked your way up from being a tape operator to a segment producer, to the guy they send out to stand on the side of the highway during a Lake Effect blizzard and now you're at the anchors desk on a Sunday night on ABC Chicago. Your heart is fucking pounding.
And just then, while you're live on air, a silver Mazda MPV with Indiana plates crashes into your studio, jarring you and the building...
and instantly you think, “O my god, is this it? Is this my big break unfolding before me?!”, they say every journalist gets his one story and you think, “Is this mine? Has our station just been attacked by terrorists? God, I hope so!”
The screen goes blank.
Moments later you're back on the air. You've counted your fingers and toes and you're alive, you're OK. So now it's time to throw it in overdrive. The world, your delusions hope, is watching.
Ready? Action! Ravi, we're back on the air...
Give us some panic. Make us fear the unknown. Rule out, or gently fail to mention, that this could be, and probably is, just a freak accident. Instead, cryptically insinuate the incident may have been deliberate. Yes!
Yes! The terrorists are in Chicago and they're gunning for ABC's Sunday evening news anchor, Ravi Baichwal. The terrorists plan to plow their silver Mazda MPV into the studio's reinforced glass wall while Ravi's live on air.
When we return from commercial Ravi has finished shitting his pants and now appears to be channeling Cronkite reporting The Tet Offensive.
Suddenly Ravi is very serious, he's calm, he's cool, but he's grave. Ravi is our backbone now. O, sweet, fearless Ravi. He's deadpan and deliberate. He's using weighty parlance now; phrases most famously tied to New York and 9/11 such as “first responders” and “deliberate act”.
Suddenly ABC Chicago is Ground Zero and Ravi is first on the scene, rolling up his sleeves and burying himself in the facts and the truth and the dirt and the grit and grime. Ravi is seven-years old again playing reporter in his parents basement.
It all boils down to a culture of fear, perpetuated by the media. Stations televise each bit of news of murder and mayhem because it delivers ratings. By now we should know panic sells. And no matter how much we're hoping for transparency and truth; integrity and veracity, what we're seeing is egoistic individuals wrestling with their own narcissistic agendas which are laser-focused on glory, no matter how it comes or what it takes. I thought Michael Moore's Bowling For Columbine did a pristine job of showing what I mean here. Go back and watch the footage of all the reporters in a row doing their live feeds from Columbine and you'll see what I mean. That one dude, Jeff Rossen, actually turned up on ABC-7 here in New York. Rossen was the guy freaking out about his hair while reporting on the Columbine shootings. Ironic, no?
Sadly, the days of Edward R. Murrow are long gone. It's Jeff Rossen and Ravi Baichwal's world now.
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