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Downing

Not even yoga can give Tucson TV-news viewers peace of mind

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In the last couple of years, I've gotten semi-serious about yoga. I won't be going to India or even Lenox, Mass., anytime soon, but it has become part of my life.

This doesn't mean that I'm developing spiritually: People who don't do yoga mistakenly think that there's something mystical about it, when, in fact, it's a coolly objective technology of body and mind. And it works. The more I strain to look good in the cooler-looking poses, the more inexorably my poor, banged-up old body tells me I'm an idiot. As the great yogis of the past discovered, this internal dialogue, when repeated often enough and accompanied by deep, steady breathing, creates, if not serenity, a pervading sense of amusement. Not thinking you're a fool, but knowing it, knowing it in your bones, is weirdly soothing to the irritable, magpie sort of person who writes for an alternative weekly.

Actually, all decent newspeople have short but intense attention spans, and an equally intense desire to communicate whatever catches their flickering glance: It's a self-selecting thing, and it's this quality of mind, not the self-serving ruthlessness you see caricatured in the movies, that distinguishes journalists from normal humans. We're always bored with what we already know, with what's already gone down. This impatience for the next thing to hurry up and happen is, as far as I can tell, roughly the opposite of enlightenment.

It's also the opposite of local TV news, which is one of the things that drives me to deep forward bends and chanting. The local news seems locked in an unthinking, eternal now, through which the same stories, even the same film clips, cycle night after night with a compulsive regularity that is, if not comforting, at least familiar. Everything on the TV news is new and alarming, yet always the same. The horrible collision on Interstate 10, the apartment-complex fire, the grotesque child-abuse case, the canned "health-alert" warning us about some danger we've been aware of since infancy, a little happy chat about the weather and maybe a cute clip about zoo animals. That's what's on the menu of isolated and unrelated events, today and every day. Only the diseases and the names of the intersections vary from one night to the next.

I try to stay out of the living room while it's on, but once in a while I get fascinated and sit down to watch for a few minutes. This is always a mistake. One of these days, the emptiness of the KVOA Channel 4 news will send me all the way to the ashram.

And then there's the nightly slaughter of the language. I was stupid enough to sit through 15 minutes of the news two weeks ago, when that great winter storm blew into town. As was required by Tucson news regulations, Channel 4 had sent their lowliest reporter up Mount Lemmon for an, oh boy! live report on the snow--or "the white stuff," as it's known only on TV. The kid stood by the side of the road in Look! Actual Snow! and, because it was a slow news night and, hey, they'd sent the truck all the way up there, he shouted into the microphone for a full two minutes about 1) the fact that it was snowing on Mount Lemmon, 2) how happy the residents were to see it, 3) how bad the highway was, 4) that it was snowing on Mount Lemmon, 5) that the residents were happy about it, 6) the "seriousness of the situation" on the roads, 7) how happy the residents were, 8) that it was snowing, and 9) how happy everyone was. In the course of this report, he volunteered that they had "slipped and slided" their way up the mountain. They don't cover English strong verbs in communications school.

This was followed--or proceeded, I don't remember which--by a fawning but peculiar interview with two people in Los Angeles who, it appeared, had at some time known Lute Olson. (This segment was so muddled that one was tempted to ask, as a furious reader once did when I was at the Star, "Do you even have editors?") One of these two, an inarticulate, unidentified man sitting in a bar, said that Lute has "a sense of value." Yeah, that's what we worship the guy for--his instinct as a shopper.

Finally, in the latest, breaking news about Michael Jackson, we were told that he currently lives in the Arab Gulf nation of "Baja-rain." I felt like banging my head against the wall, but settled for three-part breathing.

This place is full of smart people. Honestly, doesn't Tucson deserve something better?

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