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Media Literacy Review
Center for Advanced Technology in Education - College of Education - University of Oregon - Eugene

Newspeople Say the Stupidest Things!

Bill Walsh, Contributing Writer
E-Mail: WillWalsh@aol

On the morning announcements at school the other day, one of the reporters said something stupid. I'm not going to make fun of him - it just got me to thinking about stupid stuff you see and hear on TV.

The Billerica High School student crew had obtained footage of the floods that resulted from all the rain we got, and the student was trying to provide narration to go with the pictures. He was not only inexperienced, but he also hadn't been able to preview the shots, so he was ad-libbing it. After describing two or three of the images, he simply ran out of things to say. But the pictures of water up to people's doorsteps and flooded cars kept coming. He was searching for something to say about this dramatic footage. And although he was young, he knew (for some inexplicable reason) that it's considered a mortal sin to have silent video. He was searching for words - ANY words. Finally he said, "Yep. That sure is a lot of water."

Later (when he thought the mike was off but it wasn't), he exclaimed, "Boy! THAT was embarrassing!"

He at least had the sense to know that he had made a stupid remark when he had stated the painfully obvious. This realization seems to escape even more experienced news professionals . . .

Like when TV stations give baseball scores. I mean, they PRINT the scores on the screen: Braves 14, Yankees 1. And then - as if we're too stupid to know that the team with 14 runs was the winner - they print the winning team's name in YELLOW! And THEN the sportscaster tells us verbally that the Braves won 14 - 1. He may even add that it was a blowout (for the morons watching who might think that 14 - 1 is a very close game in baseball and that the game had been a real squeaker).

Newscasters and reporters say the STUPIDEST things sometimes!

My favorite comes from a local reporter who used to work on the weekends for an otherwise reputable Boston TV station. There was this plane with mechanical problems trying to land in Boston. So airport officials put foam on the runway, had emergency crews standing by, and instructed the plane to dump its extra fuel. It was pretty tense stuff. Family members and friends of those on the plane gathered nervously at the terminal, obviously anxious and nearly beside themselves with worry.

Well, the plane landed safely. As relatives tearfully hugged those people they had feared they might never see again, the reporter shoved a mike and camera into their embrace and asked the insightful question: "How do you feeeeeeeeeeel?"


In my fantasies, someone tells her that they're really sad that their grandmother made it through the crisis alive - that they had hoped to see a fiery crash and were terribly disappointed that the plane landed safely. But that's in my fantasies only. In reality, the folks told her that they were very happy and relieved, etc.

They should have punched her in the nose for intruding upon such a personal moment.

And then kicked her while she was down for asking such an inane question.

My second-favorite was at one of those press conferences our military held during the Gulf War.

"Excuse me, General. Could you tell us at what time the surprise invasion is supposed to begin? And WHERE it's going to take place?"

The Billerica High reporter can take consolation from the fact that stupid questions abound in the news media these days. They at least provide entertainment, if no actual information.

I'm sure that we'll see a lot of more them during the coverage of election returns and candidates' reactions to the voting.

"Senator Dole, you've just lost the Presidential election, and now Billary Clinton - the man you've campaigned against for years - has been overwhelmingly reelected President of the United States. How do you feel?"

In my dreams, Dole will turn to the questioner, break into a wide grin, and exclaim, "What a stupid question, you silly twit!!!!!!!! I'M GOING TO DISNEY WORLD!!!!!!!!!"

But alas, he'll probably try to actually answer the question. How can these "professional" news-gatherers be such morons as to ASK a question like that?

But that in itself may be a stupid question.

Bill Walsh is the A/V Media Specialist at Billerica High School, Billerica, MA.