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? Continue reading