Recently, I learned that my favorite lead female anchor for the local news station where I grew up decided to retire. She’d been anchoring since 1984, which means I have never known a time when she did not deliver the local news. As is standard American habit these days, I spent the better of my youth on the couch with my parents watching the news every weekday night at 10:00pm on the dot.
Growing up in Arizona, watching the local news meant developing a schizophrenic attitude towards the weather. As I got older, I watched with increasing confusion as my local news anchors would oscillate back and forth nightly on whether to complain about or celebrate the weather.
As a lifelong lover of rainy days, no environmental news brings me more cheer than rain in the forecast. Having grown up in the desert, rainy days were hard to come by. Apart from being a welcome respite from the heat, rain meant replenishing our aquifers and adding a splash of green to the otherwise brown and grey canvass that surrounds us in Arizona. Desert-dwellers like those of us in Arizona are expected to appreciate the rain more than some of our wetter counterparts.
And yet, anything more than a couple of days in a row of rainy weather was sure to elicit unanimous consternation amongst our local news team. “Looks like another day of rain in the forecast. Joe, tell us when we can expect some relief from these storms!” My jaw would hit the floor every time. “Rain? You’re complaining about rain? We live in the desert. A desert in a severe drought. Rain means survival. How could you?”
Like clockwork, after a few days of oppressive heat, they’d be back on screen talking about how we could really use some rain. Sigh.
The value of local news
It was around this time that I started to question the usefulness of my beloved local newscast. Let’s see, on an average night I was learning the following:
- Rape and murder are commonplace and inescapable facts of life.
- Corporations are hell-bent on deceiving and swindling their customers.
- No weather of any kind can ever be good for more than 48 hours.
- Politicians are corrupt thieves.
- Your favorite local sports team stinks to high heaven and will never win a championship.
- And no one can be trusted, ever.
Well, that’s swell. Basically, there’s no reason to live. Right?
Breaking the habit
I stopped watching the local news years ago. Like someone hacking and sneezing away on the bus, I avoid it if I can—it’s harmful to my health.
I love my local news anchors. They all seem like good people who know what’s it’s like to live where I live with our unique culture and environment. But as I thought about my favorite anchor’s retirement, my thoughts turned from sadness for her viewers into happiness for her.
No longer would she have to feign disappointment or joy over the weather on a nightly basis depending on what the audience craved that particular night. She wouldn’t need to know the grisly details of every horrific crime that took place within our borders. In short, my favorite anchor could live a little happier, and probably a little longer, without that type of negativity swirling around in her head. All in all, her retirement was a good thing.
I’d suggest her viewers retire with her. The informational value gained from a local newscast cannot possibly exceed the damage done by the darkness typically being reported. Like diets packed with simple carbohydrates, our nightly news habits have become addicting and unhealthy stimulants with little to no nutritional value.
There’s a lot of good in the world being done every day and a lot of optimism to be had. Unfortunately, you won’t find it on your local newscast.