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Spring '05 Articles:
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Embracing the Two-Year-Old Within:
A Look at Televised Journalism

by Adam Finley
art/Marty Kelley

People will often call me on the phone, walk up to me on the street, or simply shoot my tires out with a .44 Magnum while I'm driving down the freeway and then smash my windshield out with a crowbar and pull me out by the neck–just to ask me what it takes to be a television journalist these days.

Televised journalism can be a very rewarding career, but it can take hours, even days, of training. Established figures such as Bill O'Reilly and Chris Matthews actually spent years in the trenches bloviating and gesticulating like retarded howler monkeys before finally making it, often despite the hindrance of others. As O'Reilly wrote in his upcoming book:

"As an undergrad I had a particular professor, who I will refer to here as 'Professor Anderson' who often found my revolutionary ideas about journalism to be the acme of ignorance. Despite his efforts to steer me from a course already determined by Divine Providence, I maintained that a new breed of journalist would soon emerge that would discard his stuffy and antiquated methods for something far more engaging. Namely, screaming and throwing tantrums like a two-year-old.

"Three days after this particular argument I dropped out of school and began to study two-year-olds full time. I noticed how they were amazed by the world around them, yet maintained a sense of unmitigated selfishness and egotism. I immediately fell in love with the way they would scream and become agitated if something happened they didnšt agree with. Within those drooling, misty-eyed faces I saw not only my own future, but the future of journalism.

"I was set. Two weeks later, I interviewed the Chief of Police about a deputy charged with domestic assault. My editor refused to run the story, claiming I spent the entire interview demanding a glass of orange juice while a glob of snot slowly expanded below my nostrils. This was my first time utilizing this new form of journalism, and I had much to learn. Perhaps, I thought, I should scream and shit my pants as well."

O'Reilly makes several good points, but what he fails to realize is that televised journalism often works better if there is no interview whatsoever. An enlightened journalist will ambush a person's place of employment and stand in front of a locked door saying something like, "This man refuses to speak to us." All of the so-called "interviews" conducted by Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite combined do not begin to match the sheer journalistic integrity of having yourself filmed in front of a door. In my next book, titled Shut Up, You Stupid Door!, I explore the melding of these two ingenious methods.

Local news outlets are also experimenting more these days. An affiliate in the Twin Cities recently gave written driving tests to seasoned drivers and aired the results. This was immediately followed by a story on the development of a new Native American casino during which members of the Ojibwe tribe were given copies of the Minneapolis Star Tribune and asked to complete the Jumble. The news team then spent the remainder of the newscast tracing their hands on construction paper and drawing their favorite animals. What the viewing audience was left with was that only assholes practice real journalism, and that it's difficult to draw a horse so it's better to just lie and say your favorite animal is a cat, of which a very simple but acceptable version can be drawn using basic geometrical shapes.

Martha Stewart's recent release from prison in order to finish the remainder of her sentence under house arrest presents the perfect opportunity for a young upstart to showcase his or her journalistic skills. Because Stewart can't leave her estate, you should be able to simply yell at her house from the sidewalk. Then begin your story thusly: "I'm not sure if Martha Stewart can hear me, but she is clearly not making an effort to give me any kind of indication, such as a giant ear painted on a bed sheet with a giant 'thumbs up' painted next to it and flown from her chimney like some kind of impeccably decorated Flag of Comprehension. No, it seems she's flying no such banners this afternoon."

Now you're set. As long as no one was murdered that day, you should be able to fill the entire newscast with nothing but Martha. Even if someone is murdered, you should speculate to the home audience that perhaps Martha Stewart had something to do with it. After all, journalism is a stubbornly subjective profession, and you can only work with the information you have: 1. Someone may or may not have been murdered, and 2. Martha Stewart. You soldier on:

"While no actual bodies have been uncovered, it is clear by Stewart's continued silence that she may have had something to do with the murder, perhaps DOUBLE murder, which may or may not have occurred three yards from her estate. Our news team will continue to speculate until we've conceived a more commercially viable form of reality. We will then project this pseudo-reality onto the larger world until everyone is powerless to resist it. Up next on News At Five: Is Martha Stewart harboring an illegal leprechaun workforce? We can only imagine the dank network of catacombs below her home, the walls adorned with tiny shackles and gardening tools. Also, I am eleven feet tall, and invisible."

Remember that journalism, especially television journalism, does not reflect reality; it is reality. Also, I would have substituted "fairies" for "leprechauns" in the preceding example. Their inherent infantilism, like Bill O'Reilly's, makes them vastly more sympathetic.

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Other articles by Adam Finley: