Breaking News, All Over Again - And a Life in Front of the Tube
A while back (2003????), I posted a strange entry about how the networks had ruined their Breaking News cut-ins ("We interrupt this broadcast to bring you a special report....") This grew more out of my lifelong fascination with big news events than any interest in graphic design criticism; name any big breaking news story of the past 30 years, and I can tell you where I was when I first heard, and probably what channel I tuned to.
But, despite being a 24-7 citizen of the interwebs, it had never really occurred to me to dive into the deepest chambers of YouTube to see what relics of these past special reports might now exist online. (It makes you feel a bit ancient to realize that when I wrote that 2003 entry on breaking news, YouTube was still about two years away from being launched.)
On Friday night, we finally watched Man on Wire, the story of Philippe Petit's 1974 high-wire walk between the World Trade Center towers. (Fabulous movie--definitely watch it.) Afterwards, Bill and I were talking about having no memory of it happening (despite it being only two days before Richard Nixon's resignation)--I had started to say that I remembered it, but then realized that the memory seeping through the haze was from 1978, when one of the Flying Wallendas got blown off a wire to his death. On Saturday morning, I wandered to Wikipedia to read more about Philippe Petit, and followed a link to an archival radio report from WCBS about the stunt.
Then I went to YouTube, and my day-long odyssey began.
This, naturally, led me to searching for any videos posted with the Sept. 11 TV coverage. (I have my own archival footage from that day, since I did remember to toss a tape into the VCR at about 9:30 am and let it run for six hours.) Needless to say, it is an oeuvre well represented.
Next, Oklahoma City 1995, though I left that quickly after I found out that it is a touchstone for conspiracy theorists. (Did you know that an early local news broadcast talked about there being three bombs, and that the bomb squad had reported one was already defused? Me neither. I must have missed the broadcast to my fillings.) This is one of the few news events (along with OJ's Bronco chase) that I out-and-out missed.
I stopped for a while to return to real life, but later in the evening Bill and I pulled up the YouTube option on our Tivo and started wandering through again.
There was the first ABC News report of the Reagan Assassination attempt, along with a cool NBC Nightly News clip from that night with John Chancellor having the temerity to say that because there would be no more news about it that night, they'd be going back to regular programming.
I went back to the British Royalty trough to look at a clip of BBC2 announcing the death of the Queen Mother, which totally freaked both of us out because it took *minutes* for them to get to the news ("We are interrupting this program to join BBC1's broadcast of a very important statement...." What? WHAT? WHAT????? What the hell is so important????) This reminded me of my blog entry from a while back about how TV stations used to sign off and scare the bejesus out of me--and, not surprisingly, old clips of signoffs are easy to find.
We are both pretty well schooled in the JFK assassination TV coverage, but this clip of the special report on a local Dallas station, during a mid-day "women's program," is something to see. As is the out-of-breath newsman.
There were the deaths of LBJ and Harry Truman; the LBJ video, where Uncle Walter is on the phone and signals to the viewers to hold on a second is a great moment.
It was at this point that we took a bit of a side journey, since the "related videos" on this last clip included a series of Saturday morning commercials from the 70s, and we turned into old farts reminiscing about our favorite TV ads. And then we found out that the Baker Falling Down the Stairs on Sesame Street While Teaching Kids to Count is apparently a touchstone for many people other than us, and we had to watch almost every one of them (10 Triangles! Five dimes! Four balloons!)
Then we got back to the news stuff, finding some brief clips of Detroit newscasts from the 70s (when we both lived there).
Alas, the one event without any posted clips is the first Special Report I ever remember seeing, at age 5, when George Wallace was shot.
I'll be spending a whole lot more time plowing through all this arcana, you can imagine, especially as other events come to mind (Munich 1972. Pan Am 103. RFK. Etc.) And I bow deeply to all those folks out there, more obsessed than I, who recorded all these things over the years and posted them. As I get older and begin to live more and more in the past (as is required by law when you start Social Security), these clips will help to pass the time between Bingo sessions.
I really have lost touch with the art of navel-gazing blogging, now that Facebook allows one to do such gazing more quickly and easily (and privately). But as I was wandering through the posts here today (looking back at last year's Road Trip Anniversary blog posts that I never finished), I realized that it's been a nice archive of events, excursions, and peeks into my psyche. So I may try to come back here a little more often.
But really, for most of the past few months I couldn't have blogged about what's been the #1 topic in my life, anyway--on May 3, we threw one heck of a successful surprise party for my mother:
I know, I haven't been around for a while. But before I try to catch up, here's my photos from the Mall today--walked from the Capitol to the Washington Monument (the closest I wanted to get to the Lincoln Memorial) and back.
The talk of the office today is not so much last night's events, but what last night's events have beget on our struggling little venture. To wit:
All single-copies of this morning's paper sold out--so it was decided to run a 250,000-copy special commemorative edition (for $1.50), and this was the line outside the building of people waiting to buy it. By the time The Man arrived, the line had made it north to M Street and had rounded the corner. The Facebook status updates of newsroom employees have been priceless all day in their wonderment--and the allnews messages of staffers desperate to get their hands on copies (and wondering what to tell the people calling in wanting to get one) have been unreal. (And there was apparently even a nice little stampede.) And the Post is far from the only paper to be experiencing this.
I imagine newspapers are now working feverishly to formulate a new sustainable business model based on regularly scheduled earthshattering events.
And, I'm starting to envision exactly what an event the inauguration is going to be.