Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Making news

When I first started in this business (yeah, I’m surprised I can remember that far back, too) I worked with an editor who had a pet peeve.

This guy was straight out of central casting, or perhaps “Shoe,” when it comes to the crusty, cantankerous newsman.

His “peeve” was the way his industry – newspapers -- fawned over television. It drove him nuts. He could never understand why newspapers consistently gave all kinds of coverage to what amounted to their direct competition.

If it was up to him, he would eliminate the daily TV listings that appear in the paper each day.

That was in the days long before cable TV came to dominate our lives, and make mine miserable as I field calls from readers who want to know why I can’t list their new favorite station.

This guy absolutely hated stories about the “personalities” that populate local TV news. Of course, that kind of coverage is now a stock part of the newspaper, this one not withstanding.

Some things don’t change.

Which is to say, unless you’ve been living under a rock, that another TV news person is making headlines.

Alycia Lane, female anchor along with Larry Mendte on local station KYW (CBS3), got involved in a dustup with some plain-clothes police officers on a New York City street.

At 2 a.m. Sunday.

The bottom line is Lane ended up getting arrested on charges she punched out a female New York City police officer.

Voila! The headline reader now finds herself in the headlines. And it’s not the first time.

Of course, there are two starkly differing versions of the story. The police version indicates Lane and some buds were in a cab behind a slow-moving car. At a red light a guy gets out of the cab and approaches the car and asks them to speed it up. Turns out inside the car is a group of plain-clothes officers. Police get out of the car and start grilling the guy. Anchorwoman then gets out and starts snapping pictures. She gets into a confrontation with a female officer and police say she has some not especially nice things to say, then allegedly slugs her. She’s arrested and spends much of Sunday in the klink.

Lane’s version is different. She denies striking the officer or making any derogatory comments.

In the meantime, Lane is on an early “vacation.”

But I can’t help but think of that old editor, and what his reaction to this story would be.

Forget Iraq, the economy, the holiday season or the immigration issue. Alycia Lane has been arrested.

That’s what people are talking about at the watercooler, or the corner tap room, or in the grocery store checkouts.

My question is why? I think it has something to do with celebrity. It’s a local version of Lindsay Lohan or Paris Hilton.

People who appear on TV are welcomed into people’s homes in a way that newspaper people for the most part never are. It’s something for which I will forever be grateful. I don’t say this is a face that was made for newspapers for nothing.

That person who appears on the TV screen becomes, in many instances, part of the family. They are a familiar, comforting sight that greets a lot of people every night.

There’s nothing wrong with that. I don’t hold it against them. I take a lot of comfort in the anonymity my job affords me. My picture appears in the newspaper, and every once in awhile someone will approach me and ask, “Aren’t you the editor of the Daily Times?” I have a stock reply. “That depends on who wants to know.”

There is a fame, a celebrity that goes with the territory on TV. Alycia Lane is not the first to go there. It’s not even her first trip down this road. Remember the bikini pics she e-mailed to married NFL Network commentator Rich Eisen?

Of course, that’s not exactly the same as being criminally charged for allegedly taking a poke at a Big Apple police officer.

Yes, Alycia Lane’s picture appears on the front page of today’s newspaper. It’s what we call a “teaser,” up in the top left corner. It’s not our lead story. But it is out there.

I imagine a former editor I used to know is likely rolling over in his grave.

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