Karl Stefanovic

The Problem with Local News

Chyron for CBS 2 Los Angeles Inland Empire Reporter Crystal Cruz.

Sometimes we adore local news, and you can take the word “adore” in that derogatory context, so loathsome it’s adorable.

CBS Los Angeles, which is a local affiliate and not a crime drama spinoff, reported yesterday on an exclusive story about an auto service receipt that had already achieved viral status:

A man in Riverside who went to see an auto mechanic said he was personally offended by what was written on his receipt – and it wasn’t the price.

Customer Ruben Rodriguez said, “I saw the words ‘stupid’ and I just kind of was like, ‘What?’ And I read it and reread it.”

CBS2/KCAL9′s Crystal Cruz confirmed that scribbled at the bottom of the receipt was “customer to stupid to understand normal thinking.”

Rodriguez said it was written by George Fritts, the owner of George Fritts Auto repair in Riverside. He’s quick to point out a grammatical error: Fritts should have used “too” when he wrote “to stupid.”

“That is one of the issues that I pointed out when I went back into the store. And I don’t think he was too excited about that, but I did my best to help him out,” Rodriguez said.

It should be pointed out that even if the term is unfamiliar, we are witnessing a variant of Skitt’s Law, an internet axiom suggesting that pedantry will be subject to pedantry. You know, like writing “to” instead of “too” when denouncing another person’s stupidity.

Setting that aside, what makes the story adorable is CBS News “Inland Empire” reporter Crystal Cruz:

Yes, this rude receipt, sort of gone viral. The customer posted it on social media, has gotten a lot of mixed responses regarding this receipt. Tonight we’ll let you decide who’s in the right or the wrong.

Really? Who’s in the right or wrong? How is this actually a question? From a business perspective, we need not merely observe that the customer is always right; there is also the fact that this sort of thing chases off other customers. A more general perspective might wonder about advice on keeping oil clean; the first thought to mind is that we use oil filters for this purpose, but then perhaps it might be that the mechanic is just a poor salesman trying to con the customer into using some sort of additive. Given a chance to respond, the mechanic only said that he stands by his assessment, and offered no details toward what his advice about keeping oil clean actually was. In the end, there isn’t really a question about who is right or wrong. More than the receipt itself, CBS 2’s “exclusive” report is a waste of time, money, and human resources.CBS2 (Los Angeles) Inland Empire Reporter Crystal Cruz, 19 November 2014.

And this is why local news is adorable. Certes, cable news has myriad problems of its own, and print media looks more and more like its sorry electronic version, but local television news makes Kenny Brockelstein into a modern prophet and casts the abysmal midday talk shows offering homemaking tips for the housewife audience between soap opera reviews and teases media geniuses. CBS 2’s “exclusive” report is a genial presentation of style lacking any sense of journalism in general or reporting specifically.

Which, in turn, only highlights the importance of Australian anchor Karl Stefanovic’s bit with the blue suit. The problem here isn’t a matter of wardrobe or hairstyle, but, rather, what passes for reporting in the twenty-first century.

And that’s the problem with worrying about her hair or wardrobe; maybe we should start asking reporters to pay attention to their reporting.

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CBS 2. “Exclusive: Auto Mechanic Leaves Shocking Note On Customer’s Receipt”. CBSLA.com. 19 November 2014.

Karl Stefanovic’s Suit

Framegrab of 'Today', an Australian morning news program.  Co-host Karl Stefanovic (left) responded to criticism regarding the attire of his broadcast partner Lisa Wilkinson, and other women in business and media, by wearing the same blue suit on the air for a year; nobody noticed.

“No one has noticed; no one gives a shit. But women, they wear the wrong colour and they get pulled up. They say the wrong thing and there’s thousands of tweets written about them. Women are judged much more harshly and keenly for what they do, what they say and what they wear. I’ve worn the same suit on air for a year – except for a couple of times because of circumstance – to make a point. I’m judged on my interviews, my appalling sense of humour – on how I do my job, basically. Whereas women are quite often judged on what they’re wearing or how their hair is.”

Karl Stefanovic

A note from Down Under provides a moment for thought:

Angered by the sexism he saw being heaped upon his female colleagues – and attempts to downplay it – Karl Stefanovic decided to conduct an experiment.

He wore the same blue suit on air, two days in a row. Then three. A month ticked by without a ripple.

Now, a full year has passed – and he is still wearing the same cheap Burberry knock-off, every morning, on Channel Nine’s Today program.

Not a single audience member has asked about it, he says. Fashion commentators and other media also seem oblivious.

Yet co-host Lisa Wilkinson still receives regular and unsolicited fashion appraisals, as she revealed in her well-received Andrew Olle lecture last year. (“Who the heck is Lisa’s stylist?” one emailer demanded to know. “Today’s outfit is particularly jarring and awful. Get some style.”) These same viewers, however, have failed to observe – or simply don’t care – that the man beside her happily slips on the same outfit, day after day.

(Lallo)

Did you ever notice how news is written at websites in Her Majesty’s Dominion? As few words per sentence, as few sentences per paragraph, as possible. Twenty years ago I learned that the word processor I was using at the time judged grammar against three documents, two of which were the Gettysburg Address and a boilerplate insurance contract, and all equaled out to an eighth grade reading comprehension equivalent or so.

To the one, them’s some pretty smart fourth graders reading the news in Australia. To the other, well, it is effective. That is to say, compared to what passes for daily media in the United States, how many of the words in Michael Lallo’s report about Karl Stefanovic’s suit are actually wasted?

And questions of sexism aside, look, it just has to be pointed out that the white and blue and pink thing Ms. Wilkinson wore is so 1988. Couldn’t you just die?

Huh? What?

Oh.

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Lallo, Michael. “Karl Stefanovic’s sexism experiment: Today presenter wears same suit for a year”. The Sydney Morning Herald. 15 November 2014.