Confehr: Channel surfing to newspaper coverage

Friday, October 29, 2010

Today, we're a fly on the wall in a small town home in South Central Tennessee. Someone is watching a TV show produced for this Halloween.

"Leave it to the cleaver when butchering goats and other meaty animals," says a disembodied voice over a show for foodies.

The camera pans from the kitchen and slowly zooms through the door to a rotary device over a backyard grill. The disembodied voice says, "When we come back -- tips on cookout schedules, marinades and parsley, after this from our sponsors."

Fade to black.

Music swells as the screen becomes gray with Michael Jackson's "Thriller." We see someone stridently stepping alongside a hurricane fence.

"Dracula, Frankenstein and Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde are practically inviting space aliens to America's heartland where they want to build UFO landing pads at the expense of protecting our daughters from the bloodsuckers," laughs a liberally buffooned political announcer approved by a committee to preserve things the way they are because change is really spooky.

The shadowy figure that's been pressing a yardstick against the hurricane fence to rap out a slap-slap sound with "Thriller," turns to the camera. As the thing's mouth opens to speak, the channel changes.

There's another commercial message approved by a man wearing pantaloons. Wind blows a white scarf around his neck above his leather pilot's jacket. He says, "Yup, somebody in Congress needs to know how to fly a crop-duster."

"Those Magnificent Men and Their Flying Machines" is the background music.

Bumfuzzeled by another political ad, the TV remote control is pressed again to a nationwide cable channel showing people shouting at each other about the root cause of the problem being a city in no state of the United States, Washington, D.C., where residents don't have congressmen or senators. They have nonvoting delegates.

Back to a local channel that spends a long time examining local issues, none of which affect South Central Tennessee.

With a relevant topic promised by two teasers, a man in a recliner chair presses the mute button and opens his newspaper.

He reads that his former county commission chairman, a Republican, is accusing his rival, a Democrat, of benefiting from mowing contracts awarded to his brother and father back when he was sheriff.

The former sheriff, now state representative, says the competitive bidding system resulted in the award of the contract.

The same set of circumstances is part of the congressional race here. The Democratic candidate accuses the Republican of having a husband with a business that has government contracts. Again the defense is that the competitive bidding system allowed the award of the contract to the husband of the Republican who's also a state senator.

The man reads he missed early voting, so he thinks about when he will vote between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. two days after Halloween.

He lowers his paper to cover himself from knees to chin. It helps him retain body heat. And he sleeps well.

These views are the author's and not necessarily reflective of the Tribune's views.