The Drive-By Media’s Lame Public-Service Scoops on Suburbia

I’m sort of a connoisseur of housewife news.  I like watching “The Nate Berkus Show,” Anderson Cooper, the wine-soaked hour of “Today” with Hoda and Kathie Lee, and “The Dr. Oz Show.”   Over the years, I’ve noticed that there are a few go-to stories on local news and syndicated talk shows when traffic is light, the weather is normal, and there are no moms with multiples available for interviews.
 
Rush Limbaugh coined the term “drive-by media” for those who pounce on scandal over substance, lobbing baseless accusations and then moving on to the next dropping before the full story is ever known or corrected.   From what I’ve seen, there are several popular drive-by media stories aimed at suburbia.  Some of them are sensational, some are just time-fillers that showcases the media’s silliness.
 
Eww, Germs!
 
Recently, Anderson Cooper did an entire show on the germs found on lipstick, money, cell phones and other items people use every day.  Other shows have focused on public bathrooms, hotel linens and restaurants.  I’ll cut to the chase—everything you touch has poop on it.  Or as the scientists call it, E. coli.  These segments give hosts the opportunity to bring on scientific experts with black lights and petri dishes who show the public that everything is disgusting.  Cuts to over-the-top audience reactions, and you’ve got yourself a show!
 
Everything That Tastes Good Has Fat and Calories
 
Wait, you thought that Southwest Chicken Salad, with sour cream, cheddar cheese, crispy fried chicken and spicy ranch dressing, was healthy?  This segment says volumes about what news producers think of their audience:  You’re dumb.  And probably fat.  Favorite targets paraded out with cards revealing their calorie and fat counts include flavored coffee drinks (who thought that was whipped cream was covering carrot juice?), cinnamon buns, restaurant appetizers and entrees.  Hint:  Anything with the words “crispy,” “smothered,” “Mc___,” or “topped with bacon” is not good for you.  To get the audience to participate, members may be asked to choose which item has the most calories.  Of course, the shows intentionally try to trick people by having a plain “bad” food (such as a small hamburger) with an overdressed “good” food (like a yogurt parfait with nutty granola).  Then they reveal the worst contender.  Wrong!  The parfait with granola has more than the hamburger, you stupid, stupid audience!
 
The New Way Kids Are Getting High
 
For as long as I can remember, there has been some hyped-up way to get high that didn’t involve illicit drugs.  Over the years it’s been model-airplane glue, aerosol from whipped-cream spray, hyperventilating with assistance from friends and poisonous frogs.  The more innocuous the item, the better the news tease.  “The item in the toy box that children are using to get high. … Parents, you don’t want to miss this story at 6 and 11.”  If there’s a cool, buzz-worthy name involved, then they’ve really got a sexy story.  Just this week, I saw a news teaser claiming there’s a craze on the Internet that kids are using to get high.  It’s called “i-Dosing” or “digital drugs.”  Supposedly, it’s music sold online that induces a high similar to ecstasy.  The one thing I notice is that sources for these segments are always doctors who say it can be done, parents sitting in their cars outside of school saying they’re concerned, and MAYBE a kid that’s heard of a kid who did it.  So in other words, no one who has actually done it, which is pretty odd for something that’s legal, easy to acquire and the latest craze.
 
The Household Items That Will Kill You (and Your Children)
 
A few weeks ago, I wrote about the hysteria over BPA (bisphenol A) despite numerous national and international studies saying that BPA is safe.  Judging from how often I hear about it, I’m betting any angle that puts children in the mix gets the best ratings.  The last thing they would do is give you the full story in the teaser.  One of my favorites is the dangers lurking inside your child’s backpack.  After sitting through half an hour of road closures and a ribbon-cutting ceremony, I find out that the “danger” in the backpack is its weight.  In other words, all those books and binders kids carry are giving them back problems.  Other favorite targets are pesticides, canned food, plastic bottles, and the health hazards in your fridge (i.e. leftovers that are past their prime).
 
Deep-Fried B-Roll
 
This segment is typically done when there’s a state fair or Paula Deen is in town.  Usually some local reporter is on the scene and reading copy while B-roll (the background video that news shows use during voice-overs) of deep-fried concoctions are made and consumed.  Just to keep it fresh, there might be emphasis on whatever’s new that year.  Bonus points if it’s something that seems hard to deep-fry, such as butter, Kool-Aid or Coca-Cola.  Where’s the “everything is fattening” producer when you need her?  Oh well, I’ll just assume deep-fried butter is okay in moderation.
 
Honorable Mentions
 
All the ways you can die during the holidays (deep-frying a turkey, Black Friday stampede, fireworks at home).
 
The Look for Less:  Audience members sit in amazement as an outfit is put together for just less than $100 (in other words, what millions and millions of women do every day).
 
Do “As Seen on TV” products really work?  (Answer: Sort of, but it’s a hassle to even use it.)


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