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News

Simple, yes. But profound?

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Have you ever thought about how many meaningless numbers they blast you with on the morning news? This morning, Kent Shocknek of CBS Two intoned that at three-fifty-four, three rare pandas in China had given birth to four baby cubs. Now write this down, he said. In two days there were four births...the male cub was born at four point three ounces, the girl was just one ounce less. Aw, his milfy cohort chimed in, they were tiny. He sprayed her with more numbers in response.

What is this, some kind of weird Masonic ritual to brainwash us? It's like watching "They Live." It's like suffering Yom Kippur in a bingo parlor. What totalitarian depravity has led us to eat these meaningless numbers about pandas for breakfast? You can almost imagine Shocknek, this bush-league Goebbels, with the same grin on his face telling you that production is up four hundred percent in Oceania and oh, by the way, WAR IS PEACE.

We've always known in the back of our minds that local newsmen were aliens. But now to prove it, Kent Shocknek has his own blog, so rife with spelling errors and all the swaggering bullshit you expect from a local newsman that we can prove once and for all that these plastic-faced robots are without a doubt totally gooey extraterrestrials IRL. And contrary to the right rules of blogging, they'll take your comments, but they won't show 'em, which goes to prove that they ain't just aliens -- they ain't human, neither. Colleen, grab your shotgun.

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But don't worry! These friendly visitors from Uranus won't challenge you with anything even remotely confrontational that you might be tempted to respond to. Their mission in life is to put you into a coma from the moment you awake. Other than the occasional barely coherent milquetoast on the general immorality of congressional kickbacks, nothing of any substance whatsoever seems to bubble within the perfectly stagnant pond of Kent Shocknek's daily commentary, nor apparently his mind. This is truly a man for whom a panda birth is a celebrated occasion, who without a teleprompter is instantly reduced to a slurred, semi-retarded babbling. And so it's Shocknek's obliquely name-dropping invocation of Peter Jennings, a highly intelligent man he clearly idolizes, that sickens us the most. The entry is written like a third-grade book report, obviously designed to compare its writer as favorably as possible to the late, great anchor. In a way, we feel so sorry for Kent that we almost don't wanna do it, but what the hell: We're republishing it here, in all its glory, for you to come to your own conclusions.

A Good Man to Know Aug 9, 2005 7:30 am As a newscaster, Peter Jennings did just about everything perfectly. Not a day goes by, that I don't use some trick I learned from Peter, either from things he said, or just by watching him night after night. He was a good man to know.

This being a CBS station, and Jennings being ABC, that may sound a little disloyal, but Dan Rather's already on record saying just about the same thing.

Peter talked with journalism students, and small-town newscasters casually. We listened closely when he handed out his tricks: one was an exercise to stick with what viewers see on the screen. And don't try to get it all in at once. Don't say "There's the sky," but pick one section of the sky, describe what shade of blue and one or two clouds, then move to the next section, repeat. Simple, but profound. And just one example.

A lot of us in the T-V news biz, owe a great deal to a truly great T-V news man.