Maybe the most soul-crushing moment in the career of anyone who works in local TV news comes when he or she suddenly realizes that nothing is ever going to change. It’s that pitch-black epiphany, the one that finally hammers home the ugly truth that no matter where you go — what station you transfer to or what market you relocate to — the result will be exactly the same. Because it’s not the specific set of call letters that are responsible for the relentless Dali-esque nightmare of absurdity and incompetence you live through day after day, it’s the business in general. Going somewhere else won’t help, because you’ll just be met with a new set of faces that disguise the exact same awful personalities and philosophies currently leading you to be well on your way to drinking yourself to death.
Last Friday, San Francisco’s KRON broadcasted the words “FUCKING BULLSHIT” on its morning news crawl for a full six minutes before anyone noticed. The words appeared under the “Nat’l News” heading, so that as the words scrolled by you’d get an update about an internet outage, a missing teen, and then — fucking bullshit. There was no official explanation released over the weekend as to what exactly happened at KRON that led to this message going out over the air.
There are two things to know about the person who adds information to the crawl at any local station. First, he or she is one of a handful of people who have direct access to the air, meaning that despite the usual oversight and safeguards in place, the Chyron operator is in a uniquely powerful position to speak his or her mind to the world. Second, these days the person dealing with the crawl is usually some unpaid intern or barely paid production assistant, a kid who’s forced to do so many menial tasks at the same time that there hasn’t been a word created yet to describe the depths of his or her misery. That, or a producer who by the time he or she gets around to updating the crawl is literally one misplaced word away from taking the entire newsroom hostage. Either way, what you have is an instrument of quick-and-easy sabotage in the hands of one of the most disillusioned people in the building.
With that in mind, guess what apparently happened at KRON on Friday? According to San Francisco TV watchdog Rich Lieberman, who was one of the first to report on all of this, the message on the crawl was both deliberate and an inside job. Somebody at the station, seemingly fed-up — or maybe in a desperate cry for help — typed in “fucking bullshit” and let it go out over the air. According to Lieberman, staff meetings went on all day on Monday to try to determine who was behind the treachery. I spoke to someone there who said mornings in particular at KRON are essentially rudderless and whoever posted the message left no digital footprint, meaning they still have no idea who did it. As for the overall mood at KRON, one of Lieberman’s sources says the atmosphere right now is toxic. “Morale could not be worse,” were this person’s exact words.
But that’s the thing: In the time it takes you to perform a quick Google search you can find online local news message boards that host hundreds and hundreds of comments from people posting anonymously about the stations they work for. And no matter the station, no matter the market, one thing remains exactly the same: the complaints. The main anchors are pompous fools. The reporters are empty-headed wanna-be models. The news director is a feckless incompetent in over his/her head. The desk manager is a shrieking, paranoid demagogue. This person sucks. That person sucks too. Everyone’s about to get fired. Everyone’s miserable. Same old, same old, at every single station (with the exception of a very select few and good luck getting a job at any of those places).
It’s not just KRON. It’s local TV news in general. It’s all fucking bullshit.
Chez Pazienza was the beating heart of The Daily Banter, sadly passing away on February 25, 2017. His voice remains ever present at the Banter, and his influence as powerful as ever.