'Matter of Laugh or Death,' a humor column
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
(appearing each week in the Republican-American newspaper, Waterbury, CT)
SOUND BITES BITE
Have you noticed that the broadcast news media is obsessed with sound bites? Nowadays almost every news report includes a quick comment from someone involved in the story. However, these sound bites rarely offer any insight, except the insight that the reporter has no clue of how to do his job. There are three primary categories of useless sound bites:
Moronic Statements. Just because someone agrees to speak “on camera” does not automatically mean that person has anything worth saying. For example, I recently heard a radio news report about the mudslides and floods plaguing California. After explaining that the weather forecast called for at least 6 more inches of rain during the next 24 hours, the reporter played a sound bite from an area resident.
But it wasn’t just any area resident, say, a person worried that his house was about to be washed away. No, the reporter chose to broadcast the thoughts—and I use that word very loosely—of a teenage boy with the IQ of broccoli. Young broccoli boy declared over an entire radio news network: “This is cool! I’ve never seen a flood before!”
Apparently if you have the IQ of broccoli you can not only be featured on a broadcast news report, you also can get a job as a broadcast news reporter. Which leads us to the next category…
Moronic Questions by the Reporter. Here’s the scenario: something terrible has occurred—a child is missing or a home has burned to the ground. A distraught victim of the situation, possibly the mother of the kidnapped girl or the man whose house was destroyed, is accosted by a TV camera crew. The reporter shoves a microphone in the person’s face and asks the million-dollar question: “How do you feel right now?”
I don’t expect distraught people to be able to think quickly on their feet, but I’m hoping that some day a person will reply, “I feel that’s the stupidest question I’ve ever heard. Now I have a question for you: how do YOU feel right now, now that I’ve shoved your microphone completely inside your left nostril?”
A Word from Mom. Whenever someone is arrested for committing a heinous crime, a camera crew always tracks down his mom. And no matter how clear it is that her son committed the crime—such as a surveillance tape showing him wave to the camera before methodically shooting the convenience store clerk—the mother’s sound bite is always the same: “My boy didn’t do it! He’s a good boy. The cops set him up!”
You’re aware no doubt of the tragedy that happened in Waterbury just before Christmas. A punk who had been convicted of auto theft four times in the past (makes you wonder how many times he stole a car and didn’t get caught) was spotted by cops driving yet another stolen car. The punk took off, drove through a red light at 80 mph, and smashed broadside into a car, instantly killing a husband and wife.
The punk’s mother was quoted as saying, “He’s a good person. He has a good heart.” (I guess you could say his heart is “good,” in that it’s still beating, which cannot be said for the hearts of the two innocent people he killed.)
We really don’t need to hear from the mothers of criminals, nor do we need to hear from most of the other people featured on news story sound bites. Hey, I have a radical idea: why doesn’t the news media just give us the facts about a story and leave the emotional nonsense to the celebrity gossip programs?
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