Daily Archives: July 3, 2008

Protect the Children

By Race Bannon

Summer is the time when hordes of college interns enter into service at television stations, as wildebeest calves into crocodile infested waters. The interns, like the poor wildebeest calves, will have little chance of happiness. Which is why it’s important for parents to discourage young adults from becoming interested in careers in television in the first place. You’ll need to have a few canned answers ready for those squeaky clean, freckle-faced sons and daughters who return from college with news that they are going to be a network TV anchor after they graduate! It’s an icky trend not too dissimilar from high school boys saying that they are going to play in the NBA after graduation. Hoo-boy.

The U.S. Department of Labor says there is “keen competition” for television jobs created by “large numbers of jobseekers attracted by the glamour of this industry.” Good grief. Most television stations are purposefully understaffed sweat-shops, where your tender son or daughter will work pre-industrial revolution hours, for pauper’s wages, in a filthy and poorly maintained live truck, turning out dozens of stories about nothing, for an ungrateful, jealous, and angry god hereafter known as the news director. “Glamour of this industry”…sheesh.

It will only take around five years before they become jaded and calcified experts on exploiting the survivors of ordinary fatalities, zooming in slowly to tear stricken faces and trembling hands. At the town murder de jour they learn to recognize family members who still don’t know their son or daughter was the one killed in the ever so recent lawlessness. They’ll roll their cameras early to get every frame of the coming implosion and emotional collapse. Yay!

Lately, many broadcasters have created low cost, easy to produce, one, two, three, and four hour live shows. The shows have lots of time for advertisements, but that extended length has also changed the definition of news. News used to be confined to events with conflict, timeliness, proximity, impact, oddity, and prominence. Now news is defined simply as reality: every tree that falls, every person who dies, every teacher who is fired, every traffic accident, every arching power line, every everything … is covered. And that means that your son or daughter has a 100 percent chance of doing a live shot due to a risk of rain in the area, and a 100 percent chance of doing a live shot in front of an empty intersection where the day before, a tree allegedly fell, and then was allegedly cut up by utility crews. “Wow! That was a close one Skip. Now back to you in the studio!”

By the time your child has become an experienced broadcaster, he or she will use drugs and alcohol at almost the same rates as food service employees, construction workers, and waitresses: that’s right – media and entertainment employees are among the highest when it comes to substance abuse. You won’t have to talk with a professional to learn that soon after they’ll also be at increased risk of depression and of making choices which lead to divorce, both of which themselves may be symptomatic of whacky hours and low pay, not the booze and weed.

Respected organizations like the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics tell parents to separate their children from television from their earliest years to reduce the occurrence of childhood obesity and of anxiety disorders like bulimia, attention deficit disorder, and sleeplessness. Yet it may be even more important to insist that our young adults resist the temptations of a career in media and television, and it’s empty promise of “glamour” – a promise that delivers nothing more than a slow death for this most precious resource, our young adults.

Race Bannon is a pseudonym for a current employee of an Atlanta TV station. Bannon wishes LAF readers a happy, cheerful and optimistic July 4.

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