DeadAir 2012: Oh. The humanity.

"Now boarding..." This Week's DeadAir 2012 Nominees

This Week - Monday, August 22, 2005
A little flava for the peeps in our hood
Portland-Vancouver News Anchor Week

When you're a child and your parents give you a plastic shield, a helmet and a sword and send you outside, it's not long before you start fancying yourself a godlike, indomitable warrior, especially if you're fortunate enough to rope in some younger neighbor kids to buy in. It's not called "megalomania" when you're seven, but it's the kind of tendency that can carry through to adulthood (see also "Management / Radio Shack") and metasticize. The ego is a very excitable organ, and only takes a little stroking for it to assume enormous dimensions. Take a title and something resembling a cooler uniform than everyone else, and add in a cast of supporting players who are scrupulously deferential to you, either because of their own self-esteem issues or because they aren't earning as much as you are and they feel they need to pay props if they're ever going to get very far, and it's very easy to believe that you are king of all you survey. That's a very heady thing, even if what you survey doesn't extend past a bullimic Production Assistant and a bored-looking third-generation Pole operating camera #3.

No grownups rule this roost more regally than your local television news anchors. From on high they deliver the news to the rapt commoners. Their fame precedes them everywhere they go, with a Q Rating unrivalled anywhere in town, except maybe by "Uncle Gene the Mattress King" from Bedroom Emporium. Sure, some, like Portland's venerable and ageless Mike Donohue, are solid professionals with modest egos who are perfectly happy doing their jobs with a quiet competence and riding in a parade convertible with the Queen of the Miss West Valley Dairy Products Pageant every year or two, but they're the exceptions that prove the rule.

For every one of them, there are ten others who are all too aware of the power they wield. If you want to know how the City Council voted, why the Haz-Mat team was at the zoo yesterday, who died on the 405, or even if you just want their little jesters to tell you if it's going to rain tomorrow, you have to go through them first. They have complete omnipotence when it comes to all the news that's fit to air, and they make a special point of making sure you know it. Like a sadistic EMT playfully withholding a morphine shot from a burn victim, they'll spend the evening teasing you repeatedly: "An escaped mountain lion, a contaminated reservoir, mental patients with machetes and methamphetamine sold to children, all in your neighborhood--coming up tonight at 10 o'clock, right after 'Sue Thomas: FBEye'".

As a rule, it's mostly about the anchors, but they aren't in it alone. The supporting news players are telegenic and well-meaning but quite often vapid extras in the Anchor's Big Show. They can smile, grab and handoff the clumsily-delivered segue baton, and exude enough benign charisma that one day might land them a commercial for the Saturn dealer out on Highway 19. The weather personnel are either attractive twentysomething young women waiting to make the jump to lunchtime news in a larger market, or grown men seemingly retarded at a 4th-grade level. On the sports desk are usually cocky but detached ex-college shortstops who are well aware that this is beneath them but find the motivation to report to their jobs every day in their belief that they're only a year or two away from getting that call from ESPN.

There is no vegetation or natural fibers or colors found in nature in these local newsrooms. It's a candycane world of Botox, synthetically-enhanced hair, and straitlaced propriety, punctuated by awkward and transparent bonhomie, with the occasional flaccid transitional joke that wouldn't have made the cut on "Mama's Family", and an atmosphere so suffused with Aryan purity that even its token ethnic members project a lilywhite ambiance rarely seen this side of "The 700 Club".

Welcome to Your Local News, dedicated to bringing you the news that's important to you, preserving the natural treasure that is our Anchor's Ego, and to keeping the bloodline pure.

 
Ground Casualty Nominee
Paris Hilton in NightVision
 


 

Name: Jeff Gianola

Transgression(s): Wednesday's Child has helped me make my boat payments.

Evaluation: Some say he's a tyrant and a bully to his staff, some say he's just folks you'd like to have a beer with. For us, Jeff Gianola's aw-shucks manner and earnest we-must-save-the-children mien have been ubiquitous in Portland and Vancover for going on two decades too long. Just when you think he might have been kicked up-market to send a few million different viewers lunging for their remotes and getting cavities from his cloying, lacrymose "Wednesday's Child" segments, there goes a city bus driving by with his toothy, perfectly-coiffed picture and another local network affiliation filling its starboard side. Even worse, except for a brief stint apart in the late 1990s, he's usually swinging his schtick with the not-cool-enough-for-"The View" Marie to his Donny, Julie Emry.

On a personal note, I've carried a torch, a la "Frankenstein", for Jeff ever since a 1988 assignment he did for KATU. He spent several days living amongst the city's homeless, eating out of dumpsters, huddling outside soup kitchens, and panhandling. (Not exactly Dan Rather hiding from Soviet tanks with the Mujahideen, but this is only a local market, and the 25th largest one at that.) Instead of letting the story speak for its sweeps-teat-squeezing self, he opened the report with a tearful reunion with his family as they welcomed Dad back from his grubby beat into the safe confines of their white, vaguely-French-sounding suburban enclave, sobbing and hugging him like he'd spent the last month held hostage by Hezbollah.

Nominated by Bridget, 8.9.05

Nominator comments: "what the hell can you really say about Jeff and Julie and their wholly Aryan agenda...I mean really Jeff...just put on the brown shirt now...let's just call Julie Magda from now on "

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Bill O'Reilly

 

Name: Bill O'Reilly

Transgression(s): I'm just going to hit my Alt+F9 Macro and go get a cup of coffee while this writes itself.

Transgression(s): Bill O'Reilly flaring his sphincter in a mid-20s media market like Portland-Vancouver, you ask? It's true--long before he was having phone sex with his producers, blowing a gasket at C-SPAN-televised book shows, and cutting his guest's mikes and telling them to get out of his studio before he tears them to fucking pieces, Bill plied his trade out here in Dogpatch. It was 1978, and like so many other things that went on in the 70s, it's not something we like to talk about much.

Bill is a cautionary tale of why local anchors should be equipped with a self-destruct mechanism in case the natural governor that keeps them happy lording over the local newsroom and emceeing the Oktoberfest every year is over-ridden and they become consumed with national syndication or cable delusions of grandeur.

O'Reilly, by his own admission a "big mouth", is his own worst enemy. His whole unsteady Uranium-235 bearing just screams, "Hey, poke him with a stick and see what he does--stand back, though." Never has his volatile charm been so lain bare as it was during his feud with Al Franken a few years ago, culminating in their famous clash at the BookExpo America luncheon in 2003, where O'Reilly exploded at Franken, "Hey, SHUT UP! You had your thirty-five minutes! SHUT....UP!!!!". Meanwhile, a flustered and bemused but still determined Franken kept jabbing and asking out-of-her-depth moderator Pat Schroeder to step in and muzzle O'Reilly, who said in the post-game on his show the next day, "If this had been the Old West, I would have shot him between the head."

Franken does an excellent job of skewering O'Reilly in the "Bill O'Reilly: Lying, Splotchy Bully" chapter of his "Lies (And the Lying Liars Who Tell Them)". He methodically lays out several of O'Reilly's claims and representations through the years, and refutes O'Reilly's account with cited and recorded evidence. O'Reilly has responded to Franken's charges with more invective, but never addressed the factual inconsistencies and deceptions of which Franken's accused him.

This is what makes O'Reilly the most frustrating kind of bully--he'll say the sky is plaid, and will then deflect all requests for proof with finger-pointing and bullying, abusive rhetoric, until before you know it you find yourself on the defensive--your motives, morality and patriotism all called into question. He's very good at it, but he's no match for our doomed airliner. See you in Florida, Bill.

Nominated by Lori S., Bridget, 8.8.05

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Nominator comments (Bridget): "let's just say now that Bill O'Reilly (should go on) b/c he just really sucks ass"

 


NW Newschannel 8

 

Name: KGW Northwest NewsChannel 8

Transgression(s): Northwest NewsChannel...Hate

Transgression(s): This was the hardest choice of all of our nominations this week. It was only hard, though, as we tried to settle on a single offender flying the NewsChannel 8 banner. As we shook the tree, the apples fell by the dozens. Showcasing a single offender would be both impossibly difficult and patently unfair to the many personnel in KGW's newsroom who give their top-shelf best to being awful. Every local station has at least a few good apples in a barrel full of rotten--even Fox--but KGW spreads its stink across every department.

Meet the Aryan and arrogant "Boys From Brazil" touring company cast member, Jack Penning, who lords over his beat at the Portland airport, and is generally disdainful to anyone who gets in his way.

There's C.W. Jensen, a former police spokesman and tireless disability advocate--in his case, how to use a disability claim to further your TV career, continue to pull down handsome police benefits, and to avoid having to officially answer for filing improper expense reports.

You have the harmless but clueless: Jim Donovan, whose weather schtick in the 1990s consisted of one joke played week after week after week after week (forecasting the weather in major cities with a snippet from a famous alluding song--"It's going to be 65 degrees [pause, cue Tony Bennett] '...in San Fran-cis-co!'....and 77 degrees [cue 'WKRP' theme] '...in Cin-cin-attttiiiii!'") for the entire decade--a record for most trips to the same spent well rivalled only by Leslie Nielsen and his flatulence bits, and Gallagher. Or Nancy Francis (pictured at left), who either has an endorsement deal with LensCrafters, Swifty Lazar's taste in eyeware, or, most likely, someone said to her, "Wear these, and you'll look just like Ashleigh Banfield!"

Of course you have station management. The aforementioned staffers have to get and keep their jobs somehow, so someone has to be responsible for that, and we would be remiss if we let them off the hook. Besides their personnel decisions, the men and women who have filled the management seats through the years have had their share of dubious achievements, including an incident in 1999 during May Sweeps where all of the local stations dispatched their news choppers to a story about a hiker missing in the Columbia Gorge. As luck would have it, arch-rival KOIN 6's chopper located the hiker and notified rescuers. Receiving the news, KGW dutifully reported, "Missing hiker found!" They weren't about to let KOIN get the glory, though, and didn't mention that a news chopper was involved in the story until it's evening newscast, then implying that it their own helicopter who had found the hiker, and didn't mention that it was KOIN's chopper until the 11:00 PM news*.

Nowhere is their poor judgement on better display than during their weekday morning news brief. For one short news brief, for the benefit of their hearing-impaired viewers, they'll tell you about the latest bombing in Fallujah or a kidnapping in Southeast Portland--whatever the top story of the hour is--accompanied by a sign-language specialist. It would be hilarious if they weren't actually serious, reminiscent of the old SNL "Weekend Updates" where Garrett Morris from the School for the Deaf would reread the evening's top story for the benefit of the hearing-impaired ("OUR TOP STORY TONIGHT", he'd yell). It's such an audaciously-pandering bone they're throwing. One or two bite-sized news nuggets, nothing more. The rest of the news, the rest of the day is apparently only for the non-hearing-impaired.

"If it matters to hearing-impaired Oregonians, you better tune in during the morning news and catch one or two fleeting sixty-second news updates. The rest of the news? Ah, it's probably not that important unless you can hear. It would probably bore you, and besides, once we had our signer accompany our sports update and she totally fell apart on 'Shaq-Fu!' and 'Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila'."

For all of these reasons, we're proud to present KGW Northwest NewsChannel 8 as a Ground Casualty nominee for DeadAir 2012 (we're envisioning a local news conference in Florida, and KGW's delegation is attending the Promisekeepers rally at the Bi-Bowl Field [KGW has a heavy Christian cachet, owning Portland's Jesus-friendly TV station, PAX], except of course for the females, who are sent off to shop at the WalMart. If this doesn't make any sense to you, please see our Ground Casualty page).

Nominated by B. Kelter, Bridget (Jack Penning), 8.19.05

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Nominator comments (Bridget): "let's just put Jack Penning on there b/c he dissed Amy at the airport "

*In the interests of being Fair & Balanced, it should be noted that other rival KATU was equally as guilty, and KOIN's news director admitted that the hiker was lucky it was the last day of Sweeps Month. "The kid could have died," he says. "A day later, we probably wouldn't have been flying."

 
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