Tuesday, November 08, 2005

If I don't like The Amazing Race, does that make me an Amazing Racist?

The 19 Minutes staff has never been much for "Reality TV", except when the reality has involved travelers and rats, or hockey players and cross-checking. But we may have to change our attitude, now that we've learned that Reality TV is not just a ratings boon for the networks, but a source of Legitimate News.

We learned this from an ad for the local news on a Phoenix station which we'll refer to only by the fact its call letters resemble a popular Vietnamese noodle soup, promoting Tuesday's story about the Arizona scenes in an upcoming episode of "The Amazing Race". The promo was tagged with the station's news slogan: "Live. Late-breaking. Investigative."

And this got us to thinking about how a story about the Arizona scenes in "The Amazing Race" would fit such a mandate. "Late-breaking" seemed the easiest to dismiss. If they already knew about the story - and apparently have it pre-produced in such a way that they could show clips in a promo the night before - it doesn't seem to rise to the level of "late-breaking".

"Investigative" is a trickier claim to debug. For example, if the news team at this station includes reading a press release from the CBS Entertainment Division as "investigating", then perhaps a story about "The Amazing Race" would fit the description. Likewise, if the reporter was able to unearth some heretofore undiscovered nugget about the competitors' time in the Grand Canyon, you might have an argument on behalf of Investigative Journalism. For example, perhaps the competitors didn't really Leave No Trace, which seems like a legitimate claim, considering about 400 gazillion Americans are about to see the evidence of their visit on national television. But really, actual investigative journalism would more likely tell us that Grand Canyon National Park is really a money-laundering operation run by llama ranchers from Paraguay.

So that leaves us with "Live", which as we noted in our dismissal of the "Late-Breaking" claim, can't really be the case if they've produced the story in advance. Although I imagine the anchor people may introduce the piece live, between the 20 seconds they spend on the riots in France and the eight minutes it takes them to present the Phoenix weather forecast for the coming week (Tuesday - Partly Cloudy. Wednesday - Partly Cloudy. Thursday - Partly Cloudy. Friday - Partly Cloudy. Saturday - Partly Sunny.).

So we're not suggesting that our noodle friends bag their story on "The Amazing Race", nor are we even suggesting that the bulk of their news doesn't fit their self-described mission. We would just offer that perhaps, the Phoenix TV station could slightly alter its moniker. Something like: "Live. Late-Breaking. Investigative. Subject to change."

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