A while back we were between live shots. Our sat truck was set up in a busy place and we were sitting under the canopy. A well-dressed man walked by and stopped to talk.
"I gotta ask you," he said. "Why do you always put the dumbest people on television when you cover a disaster?"
We all started to laugh. "Do you have a college degree?" I asked.
"You wanna be on television?"
"There's your answer."
We all know that the desire to be on television is inversely proportional to one's IQ. (In other words, if you need an easy sound bite, head to the valley of the stupid.) And more often than not, these people end up in major stories, making the rest of the community (and the general public) look like a bunch of unwashed, uneducated morons.
Case in point, that story a few years ago about an attempted rape. The one which featured a funny sound bite from a guy which was then turned into a song.
Back up a bit... the story was about an attempted rape. What would possess anyone to include a humorous sound bite? What would possess any manager to allow a story like that to run? Many years ago a New York weatherman got fired for making a rape joke on air, but today we turn such garbage into a song.
We've all gotten sound bites from morons. Many don't make sense, and many are funny. But if your object is to highlight the stupidity of people, a certain group, or a certain community, you're not doing your job. Among biased journalists, this is an old trick. Use sound bites from the opposing viewpoint to make that viewpoint look stupid. Use video of the biggest whack jobs you can find to make the other side look like a bunch of raving lunatics.
We are the village, and we are raising idiots in the eyes of the viewers.
Crazy and stupid people may make for entertaining television, but they are hardly representative of the average Joe. Yes, there are plenty of loons and morons out there; but we don't have to go out of our way to spotlight them.