I recently discovered a wonderful new acronym that fits our business perfectly. It describes many of the people we interview, a certain demographic, and a few people who work in our stations.
Before revealing the meaning of said acronym, we must first make a stop at the theater, specifically, a horror movie. If you've ever seen "Scream" you know the rule: every horror movie has some gorgeous babe who's gonna get sliced and diced because she's simply an idiot. She wanders into the dark basement where we know the killer is lurking, some woman in the theater yells, "Don't go down there!" or "He's right behind you!" and before you know it she's been hacked up with a machete. Invariably, someone in the theater will mutter, "She deserved to die. She's an idiot."
Take that concept to romance novels, the source of the acronym. Apparently those who read this particular genre have a term for a character who's a lot like the girl in the slasher flick. Despite all the warning signs, the heroine will ignore them and still run head first into a disaster. One that is deserved because she is.... wait for it....
Too stupid to live.
Sadly, many of these people are appearing on television, night after night. Even sadder, people are tuning in to watch them.
Earlier in the week I was bombarded with promos for a show called "Splash" in which "celebrities" (actually a bunch of has-beens, with a hot babe thrown into the mix) would dive into a pool. I'm thinking, "Who the hell would watch this?" I felt certain this would be a ratings bomb.
Nope. It did very well. The general public apparently wants to watch people whose fifteen minutes of fame expired years ago swan dive into a swimming pool.
Then I noted that the hottest cable show features a bunch of ZZ Top lookalikes living in a neighborhood in which banjo music would seemingly accompany any canoe ride. Again, "Who the hell would watch this?"
Which brings us to the news business. I hate to admit it, but the consultants may have been on to something twenty years ago when they told me, "You need to write for a seventh grade level."
People often ask me, "Why do you network people always interview some toothless idiot who hasn't had a bath since the Bush administration?"
Because those who are TSTL always want to be on television.
I admit I've put my share of crash test dummies on the air over the years, but lately it's getting worse. And maybe that's why ratings for local news have swan dived. We put more idiots on the air, who appeal to idiots. Morons may be good for comic relief, but if we want to cultivate an intelligent audience, we need to put more smarts into our product. The man in the street who can't spell IQ might be entertaining, but the long term result is that newscasts are turning into reality shows.
And most intelligent people can't stand reality shows.
Advertisers love the demographic that features well-educated people with good salaries. That's why some "intelligent" shows without spectacular ratings often command top dollar for ad space. Smart people who make lots of money are a good target audience.
So the next time you get a ridiculous sound bite from someone TSTL, think twice about including it in your newscast. It might provide a laugh, but in the end you won't be laughing when the news business turns into full time reality television.