A Waste of Time & Money

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Warning, the following piece concerns the touchy subjects of Casey Anthony and Sarah Palin. This isn’t however my views on them per se. Most of you can, by now, divine my takes on a irresponsible party-girl parent believed to have drugged and killed her kid, and an irresponsible party-line-towing girl who’s probably never heard of William Dawes and probably thinks the Townshend Acts were a side project of The Who’s guitarist. No, no opining on those subjects here. Rather, this is about the media coverage of said subjects.

If you don’t live in Central Florida, consider yourself lucky (for more than one reason), in that you haven’t been subjected to the non-stop media coverage of the Casey Anthony Trial. That is, unless you watch nothing but HLN – then you’re screwed (for more than one reason).

From 9-5 (and then some), Monday thru Saturday, network TV is held hostage by court proceedings. It’s the OJ trial all over again. Everything is preempted. No soaps, no gameshows, no talksho… hmm, what was the problem again?

Ok, so the trial is on par with anything produced in a studio geared for those home sick from work and school. But Saturday?! I thought the courts adjourned for the weekend. Do we really need this cutting into Saturday Morning TV too? Not that there is anything good on Saturday morning anymore.

Ok, look, so I blew my argument out of the water. The trial isn’t cutting into anything important. That doesn’t change the fact that all this coverage is grossly unnecessary. HLN has the same coverage, with the same inane analysis as all the rest. Isn’t that enough?

Networks, are you really trying to boost your ratings with this drivel? It’s not a ratings war if you’re all broadcasting the same program. And your ratings mean nothing if you’re not showing ads. And HLN, you’re taking commercial breaks?! Who the heck gets sponsors for a horrific murder trial?

I mean, this isn’t some world unifying moment that deserves simulcast – like a new Pope or Hands Across America. This is grizzly imagery and long boring interviews that caters to a select few morbid individuals… like pay-per-view wrestling. Which brings me to my point (finally!).

There is, alas, an audience for this. Why else would the nightly “world” news programs re-cap the day for those who didn’t DVR it. Why not make it pay-per-view? It’s already a highly billed spectacle, why not make some money off of it? You know, recoup some of the $500,000 already blown on this ordeal so far.

Don’t think it would fly? Tell that to the black-friday-style masses (link to CNN) waiting in line at the courthouse for front row seats. Everyone wins! The state makes money, all the jilted crime groupies get a good view (sans the proximity to other crime groupies), and children on summer break without the refuge of Cartoon Network won’t get scarred for life from the gritty pictures of a three-year-old’s rotting corpse.

Now on to coverage of other grizzly details… Mama Grizzly details (har har har ).

Over the past week now, “journalists” have been dispatched to Alaska where 25,000 pages of Sarah Palin’s emails were released to the public. This C.F. is result of a mess of Freedom of Information Act requests filed back when it may have been relevant in 2008, and deals with her time as governor of Alaska.

And, like most fishing expeditions, everyone came back empty handed. They come home, only to sit around the anchor table and spin self-indulgent yarns about the harrowing experience about how the big one got away. Needing validation, they turned this non-event into a self-referential meta-story (aka fish sticks), featuring video clips of dozens of paper boxes on dollies and all sorts of folks leafing through mounds of paper.

Mounds of paper? Of E-mails? Mounds of paper… 24,000 pages worth of E-mail… ELECTRONIC MAIL!

Why the dryad would you print out 24,000 pages of E-mail? And then fly TO said E-mail? This is the blankety-blank digital age folks. Come on!

Maybe I’m looking at this from a copy-jockey’s perspective. Someone comes to my counter and wants 24,000 pages printed, it’s a big deal. A champagne-corks-flying-burn-the-mortgage-the-farm-is-saved deal, especially in this economy. Assuming state and/or media outlet contract pricing, its like .04 a page (roughly average amongst the big 4)… That’s $960 bucks right there. And, since there was at least 17 separate FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests (link to ABC News), I can only assume by the sight of all those boxes more than one set was made.

Let’s assume just the major players got them: ABC, FOX, NBC, CBS, the AP, Reuters, The NY Times and CNN. That’s nearly 200,000 pages – over $7000 in pulp and toner, nevermind the plane fares, lodging and pooper-scooper fees after the journalists crapped themselves over the possibilities!

And then scanning it? Some news agencies have scans of printed emails up on their website. Digitally scanned images of printed documents that were digital to begin with? Words cannot fashion a decent simile for this, it’s so stupid. Print to PDF anyone? Anyone? Adobe Acrobat X Pro’ll run you less than a set. CutePDF is flippin’ free!

Again, walk into the average copyshop, that’d run you .25 a page… 6 grand.

So, for one set printed out and scanned back in you could distribute 50 preloaded Kindles, or around 2000 custom gold-plated laser-engraved 4gb flash drives.

Maybe next we can put the scans into a text-to-speech reader, and press a 300 vinyl record collectors set. Better yet! Platinum records! Send it off into space ala Voyager. It’ll give aliens something to listen to after watching the myriad of TV transmissions from the that stirring daytime serial, The Case Against Casey Anthony.

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Ryan is an artist / writer out of Melbourne, FL.

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