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Dude, ploys for ratings
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I spent several years of my life working in the TV news business. As a result, I am an avid watcher of TV news.


I never worked anywhere that it snowed, so I never had the opportunity to do one of those first flakes of snow stories that TV stations seem to like.


If there is the slightest hint that it will snow, the Atlanta stations will dispatch their live truck to Brasstown Bald and look for the first flake of snow. Then they will proceed to give you safe driving tips when faced with three or four flakes of snow.


Widespread flooding is not something that happens in our state on a regular basis, but when it does, TV news goes crazy.


They send the reporter to the nearest place that sells fishing waders. Next thing you know, there is Ken or Barbie standing up to their backside in nasty water. In most cases, the person operating the camera is standing on dry land. I’ll leave it up to you to determine the smarter of the two participants.


Why is it so important for the reporter to stand in water?


The answer is the same as why a reporter wearing mittens stands on Brasstown Bald looking for snow. People will watch.


TV news ratings go through the roof when bad weather happens.


But the folks at TV stations must not think we’re very bright. If water is flowing into someone’s car window or is above the front porch of their house, I can figure out with relative ease that this is a pretty serious flood.


TV news budgets could be spared the cost of multiple sets of fishing waders.


But TV stations have 30 minutes of newscast to fill up, so they do a live shot for the sake of having a live shot.


My favorite live shot is when they have an apartment fire, a regular occurence in Atlanta. They will interrupt whatever is going on to cover one of those.


If the fire is raging out of control, they will fly the station helicopter over that place forever.


Then, on the next newscast, they will have the follow up. Unfortunately, virtually all apartment dwellers in Atlanta fail to purchase renters insurance. There is also a contest among the stations to find the least intelligent of the victims and put that person on TV.


My new favorite TV gimmick is the guy in the reflective orange vest that is going to fix every traffic problem in Atlanta.


He is called “Commuter Dude.” I guess “Traffic Tamer” was already taken.


The Dude gets calls from viewers about traffic lights that take too long and intersections that can’t be seen because the local government hasn’t trimmed the bushes.


He gets some poor bureaucrat from the street department or the Department of Transportation out to the site and gets them to admit it needs fixing.


I am reminded that this is from the same station that a generation ago gave us “The News Hawk,” a guy who tackled tough news stories and concluded them standing with a gloved hand extended. Then, a real live hawk would fly down and perch.


I guess that guy is now resting in a retirement home for old TV gimmicks.


Harris Blackwood is the author of “When Old Mowers Die.” His e-mail address is