L.A. Does the Shamrock Shake
One of the more entertaining benefits of living in Southern California is to experience our semi-frequent earthquakes and then watch the hilarious news coverage that ensues. Last Monday morning, for example, found our local high def doofuses in classic form.
As the ground shook at 6:25 a.m. on St. Patrick’s Day, many of our local broadcasters went to live continuous coverage for the next hour-and-a-half to bring us every possible breaking non-story so that viewers had all the necessary information to survive the ongoing aftermath of our latest natural disaster.
Was there damage? Not a bit – unless you consider knocked-over books or a wine glass falling off a shelf catastrophic property damage. Were there casualties to man or beast? Uh, um … well, no. As I flipped around the channels during the non-stop coverage, broadcasters were pleading with viewers to share their photos, video clips and commentaries about any and all damage caused by the latest earthquake. Nothing. Stations had video feeds from their airborne helicopters showing … normal traffic. Yawn. No broken water mains. No collapsed freeway overpasses. No panic in the streets. But “stay with us throughout the morning so we can bring you the latest updates on this breaking story!”
Social media outlets were shaking with laughter all day Monday, as links were posted to clips of our crack local news teams reacting on the air – some like grade schoolers on the playground – as the quake hit. One link in particular was reposted many thousands of times, showing KTLA morning anchors Chris Schauble and Megan Henderson panic and duck for cover underneath the desk during the broadcast.
Yes, they did the prudent thing. In fact, during one of her countless interviews, USGS seismologist and perennial “go-to” expert, Dr. Lucy Jones, even commented on the KTLA couple’s daring on-camera dive saying that they did exactly what we are all supposed to do as quakey, shakey California residents. Still, it was pretty funny to watch.
Over at KCBS, the gaggle of gabbers wasn’t too much more poised. Although no one dove for the safety of the desktop (there will be disciplinary meetings!) the fearless on-air foursome did provide useful and enlightened running commentary, including: “Whoa!” “Big earthquake!” “Really big earthquake!” “Yes, big!” “Wow!” “We can still feel it!” “It feels really, really strong!” “I still feel it!” “My hands are shaking!” “Again, wow!” and “I agree.”
You’re watching trained professionals, kids. Do not try this level of reporting at home.
Throughout the next hour and a half of continuous coverage there were breathless announcements of breaking news like: “This Channel (fill in the number) exclusive just in: we have just learned that the quake has officially been downgraded from a 4.7 to 4.4. When we learn more, we’ll be the first to tell you.”
In much the same way as our dear local media sensationalizes and hyperbolizes even the slightest amount of precipitation, Southland earthquake coverage has earned us national, if not international, ridicule. There’s even an unofficial award given by pundits and provocateurs to the local news anchor that executes the most memorable on-air desk dive during an earthquake. The dubious “Shocknek Award” is named for long-time local veteran of the airwaves, Kent Shocknek, who made news of his own in 1987 while broadcasting during the Whittier Narrows earthquake, making an Olympics-worthy dive under the anchor desk, and continuing to report the news with the camera locked onto an empty chair. Hearty congratulations to the KTLA 5 team for taking this year’s honors!
I’m sure newsrooms all across L.A. County are buzzing with how to maintain ratings now that the latest non-event is already days old. But never fear. I just heard a report that there may be a potential drizzle in our seven day forecast.
Fire up those Dopplers, people, and prep for live remote stand ups on mist-moistened streets. Things. Could. Get. Damp.
I’ll see you ’round town.