Oklahoma City


The most fervent local news coverage I ever saw was in Oklahoma City, where all four networks had local news and the competition was so intense that L.A. looked bush league. In fact, the level of TV news competition in many of the cities we’d stayed in throughout the Great Plains for a night or two was incredible, all these young reporters and anchors trying to make a splash and get the hell out of their television backwaters and into the big time. But Oklahoma City was by far the best. The coverage of a house fire in one of the suburbs was every bit as intense as the coverage of a hellish fire season in Southern California. We saw the distant column of smoke while driving into town. Apparently if we hadn’t been a good ten miles away–or actually been inside the house–we could have been killed. A night I shall never forget. Actually, I haven’t. I couldn’t. Every station on TV seemed to be reporting live from the scene of the conflagration. They must have been tripping over each others’ wires and in and out of each others’ shots. KOKH bumping into KWTV blocking KOCO in KFOR’s way and the fire crews trying to avoid all of them. The house was destroyed, gutted, a total loss. The fortunate circumstance that no one was living in the house or was inside the house or even out in the yard when the conflagration erupted kept casualties to a minimum. To zero, actually. All this was reported, over and over and over, on all four stations. The coverage was breathless. The footage unforgiving. I felt sorry for the neighbors, with CBSNBCABCFOX crowding them, looking for the story, that human touch, that Pulitzer. There was more media than onlookers. I saw a neighbor lady interviewed four different times, and by the last interview she was almost a pro. Please shoot me from my good side, I hoped she’d said. Get out of my light. What is my motivation here?

Oh, and the gorgeous weather babes. All of the four network stations in Oklahoma City had a gorgeous weather babe. You could switch through CBSNBCABCFOX and see four lovely meteorologists at once talking about the same damn chance of showers in the morning. Weather is a huge thing in Oklahoma City. This is tornado alley. Life and death. We have sigalerts in Southern California. Not quite the same. Jackie Johnson will never tell us that there’s a mile wide tornado going through Los Angeles. She will never stare into the camera and tell us to seek cover now or die. But in Oklahoma City that is what beautiful meteorologists do. They have weather there.

But whether or not they have weather there, every TV station in America has a gorgeous weather babe or two. They’re up there in their stylish if maybe a tad tight outfits, reaching and pointing and stretching and all the men watching fall madly in love. Every man in America is in love with a weather babe. They have websites about them. They download video clips. They develop hopeless crushes. I know if Samantha Mohr walked into the room right now I’d just melt.

By the way, there’s a great zoo in Oklahoma City. One of the best I’ve ever seen. Storm proof, too. You can look at the pygmy hippo and if a siren goes off you just slip into the tornado shelter right there. You and the pygmy hippo would be perfectly safe, no matter what happened to the rest of the city.

But then the beautiful meteorologists said nothing about tornadoes.

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