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November 21, 2006
Local TV News Sweeps: Day 19

Warning: This blog posting contains strong language and disturbing images.

Not really. We’re actually trying to keep it clean here today. But it’s going to be hard, because several local TV news reports Monday night were definitely R-rated.

Sure, a couple of them ran a disclaimer such as the one above, moments before launching into video of Michael Richards’ now-infamous and profane tirade. But you’d have to have a pretty quick remote-control trigger finger to change the channel and miss the first swear words.
PEOPLE MICHAEL RICHARDS.jpg
It wasn’t just the former “Seinfeld” star who pushed the envelope. Channel 3’s Dave Walker had a hilarious blooper-reel-worthy slip of the tongue himself at the end of the 11 o’clock broadcast. KCRA also aired a harmless, but nonetheless scatological segment featuring Walker, consumer reporter Lynsey Paulo and a toy doll. And perhaps the most disturbing story of all – Nazi gingerbread men.

But first, let’s recap the Richards story.

Channel 13 went way, way over-the-top on this story. It led both the 6 and 10 p.m. newscasts with it. At 10 p.m., it spent a whopping 6 minutes, 37 seconds on Richards. And, because I’m always looking for ulterior motives and hidden agendas, I suspect it was because Jerry Seinfeld and Richards (via satellite) were on that night on David Letterman’s show, which also happens to be on CBS.

Conversely, Channel 3 briefly covered the Richards story at 5 p.m., but didn’t have any mention of it at 11 o’clock. Curious. Richards’ tirade definitely qualifies as a story, so conspiracy theorists such as me might think Channel 3 didn’t want to give Letterman any props for scoring the appearances since, of course, Jay Leno airs right after the 11 p.m. news - on NBC.

News10 had it about right, devoting 56 seconds to the story. (Fox40’s report, by the way, was 2 minutes, 27 seconds.)

Now, about the content of the reports: All the stations ran grainy footage of Richards going off, complete with the F-word just barely bleeped out (c’mon, the bleeping didn’t fool anyone) and either little Xs or stars covering other offending words, including the N-word. But in one of the night's biggest bad decisions: Channel 13 didn’t X out the N-word in the closed captioning.

Channel 13 also covered the story from every conceivable angle - some might call it thorough; I call it overkill. Tony Lopez interviewed the head of Sacramento’s Urban League. Kris Pickel interviewed a local comic. Lopez told us all about the Web site TMZ.com, which broke the original story. And, as a sidebar, they plugged a new children’s book about the N-word.

Meanwhile, Channel 13 waited until almost halfway into its newscast (the 12th story) to report on the victim of the serial rapist speaking out.

On to other bleep-worthy items:

* At 11 p.m., the irrepressible Walker had a slip of the tongue while introducing a story about a 50-year-old can of Coors beer found in San Diego.

Said Walker: “And as we wrap up the newscast tonight, some of you just might be crapping open - uh, cracking open - a cold beer.”

Co-anchor Edie Lambert cracked up. Walker soldiered on. “Take it any way you want,” the unflappable Walker said. Lambert, still laughing, then took over: “I’m going to leave that alone.”

At the end of the report, which relayed how badly the beer smelled and tasted, Walker offered this assessment: “I think I had it right the first time. That is a crappy can of beer.”

This is why Dave is so beloved in Sacramento.

* At 6:30, Walker and Paulo put on something of a comedy routine during a Call 3 segment on testing holiday toys. Paulo handed Walker the Hasbro Baby Alive doll, telling Dave: “She eats, drinks and, well, you know what.”
baby alive.jpg
A mock horrified look crossed Walker’s face. “You have to wonder about the toymaker. What were they thinking about when they do something like this?”

But then Walker got into the spirit of the experiment, saying KCRA would give viewers “the straight poop.” Then anchor Lois Hart chimed in: “I’m betting it’s not terribly realistic, what comes out.”

Paulo: “It kind of is.”

Hart: “I’m with Dave. What were they thinking?”

* What's the deal with Fox40’s obsession with Nazi stories? A week or so ago, it reported about a high school soccer team somewhere in the Midwest that played a Hitler speech before a game. Monday night, it featured an artist in Ohio who got in trouble for a display of Nazi gingerbread men in a store window.

* Awful tease, great report: Channel 3’s scare-the-do-do-out-of-you tease - “A breast cancer nothing can detect!” - turned off at least a few female viewers I know. But the actual story, reported by Lambert Monday night, was excellent health reporting. Kudos to Channel 3 for devoting 3 minutes, 50 seconds to the report.

studio 60

* A wag of the finger, however, to Channel 3 for wasting 2 minutes, 1 second (but, hey who’s counting?) of precious 11 p.m. airtime to a puff piece on going behind the scenes at NBC’s “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.”

* LOL sound bite of the night: Sac Mayor Heather Fargo was asked by Fox40 sports guy Jim Crandell how to keep the Kings in town and fund a new arena. Fargo: “Maybe every player in the NBA takes a 1 or 2 percent reduction in their pay and that money goes into an arena-building fund.”

Yeah, like that would ever happen.

* And let’s end with the obligatory animal story of the night (bears, not deer, in this case): Fox40 reported on a Vermont man mauled by a black bear before he killed it. Cue the video of a bulldozer carting off the carcass of the 600-pound quadruped.

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