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November 16, 2006
Local TV News Sweeps: Day 14

Well, we've reached the halfway point in the local TV news sweeps month, and the only thing keeping your weary and wary correspondent going is Visine and vodka. (See, the local news habit of using alliteration is rubbing off on me).

Several e-mailers have asked how I'm holding up after watching and analyzing five hours of news every day. At the risk of being self-serving (because this blog is not about me, after all), let me sum up the way I feel by quoting a man interviewed on Channel 13 last night.
It was a story about a sea lion in San Francisco's Aquatic Park that has the nasty habit of biting swimmers. An attacked swimmer said: "I don't know what it was. But it felt kind of slimy."

I can relate. I sometimes don't know what I'm watching, but it feels kind of slimy.

That said, there's been a lot of good journalism practiced so far in sweeps month. We just didn't see it last night, when selling sex as news made a comeback.

* Channel 3's "special report" was about "reclaiming your virginity," a movement by some 29-and-under women and men to abstain from sex until marriage.

First, this story was new, say, in the early 1990s, when The Bee first reported on it. Second, Adrienne Bankert's report just scratched the surface of the phenomenon. She quoted a few 20somethings, including one woman who said, "If I'm going to have sex with you, that's your privilege." That's about as deep as it got. A UC Davis professor added little insight into why this supposed trend is taking place.

I don't want to say the report was exploitative, but showing clips of sweaty, skin-revealing young people freak dancing and then talking about abstaining from sex in the voiceover seems a touch cynical.
The only thing new was Paris Hilton's apparent vow not to have sex for a year - yeah, as if we really believe that.

* Speaking of sex, Channel 13 picked up on the bra-that-turns-into-a-tote-bag story that Fox40 aired several nights before - only Channel 13 had lingerie-clad Japanese models showing how it's done.

* Channel 13 tried to titillate viewers with a feature on "the same-sex dance craze sweeping Sacramento."

Yes, gays like to ballroom dance! Who knew?!? Reporter Tony Lopez asked all the probing questions, such as this one to a lesbian couple: "When two women dance, who leads?"

In non-sex-related news:

* Props to all the channels for not going overboard on the sleazy O.J. Simpson "If I Did It" book and interview revelations. Fox is going to air an exclusive interview with Simpson on Nov. 27, and Fox40 (a Fox affiliate, of course, but owned by the Tribune Co.) should be credited for not automatically hyping it. In fact, anchor Thomas Drayton told viewers that the station had yet to decide whether it would air the interview and urged viewers to state their opinion in a Web poll on whether they'd watch. (FYI: 76 percent said they would not watch.)

Drayton: "We will certainly take those numbers into consideration."

* More props to Fox40 for keeping the streak of deer-related stories alive. It aired the deer-in-the-bank piece that Channel 13 "broke" the night before.

* News10 led its 11 p.m. newscast with the debate in Tracy about the University of California's plans to build a biological weapons lab in that town. Anchor Dale Schornack said it was "a story you'll only see on News10."

Uh, no. Channel 3 aired the story near the end of its 6 p.m. newscast.

* But News10 did get a clean scoop over all the other channels in reporting that a Marine from Sacramento had died. News10 reported it at 6 p.m.; the others on the late news.

* Curious (and bad) choice for a lead story on Channel 3 at 11 p.m.: It was about a 76-year-old Citrus Heights woman who was dragged by a purse thief's car in a parking lot. The woman sustained a broken ankle. Reporter Richard Sharp called her "a human speed bump." Niiiicccee. And the story was touted as being "new tonight," but then Sharp told us the incident happened at 9:30 a.m.

* Channel 3 again shamelessly plugged another NBC show, this time "Medium." Yeah, we know why they do it. You tease the report during the actual show in hopes of luring viewers. The station will do it again tonight with "ER." This practice is nothing more than infomercial fodder.
* News10, by the same token, continued to report "Dancing With the Stars" as legitimate news.

* LOL moment of the night: Fox40 quoted Justin Vierra, assistant community director for the city, in a story about the new lofts unveiled at 18th and L streets: "They actually mentioned, specifically, that it looks like Soho, New York."

Uh huh. Sure.

* Channel 13 gets TV's scoop on bounty hunter Leonard Padilla getting robbed and then hunting down the miscreants himself to recover his impressive cache of guns and knives. Highlight: Reporter Rafer Weigel toting Padilla's sawed-off shotgun.

*And now, to blatantly steal from Jon Stewart, here's your moment of zen, courtesy of Channel 13's Japanese tsunami coverage:

Weather guesser Dave Bender: "We could have them here...Well, not here in Sacramento. If we did, I'd tell you about it."

Anchor Sam Shane: "We'd lead the newscast with it."

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