Your friendly neighborhood television critic got a little scared on Halloween night that the local TV stations might return to the old quarterly sweeps practice of running frightening new stories and series at the same rate as they used to.
They still run those stories, but not at the rate of years ago, when they had more reporters to do them.
The November sweeps started on Halloween night with the first of a two-part series on Channel 2 with the perfect attention-getting title – “Revenge Porn.”
As predicted from watching promos, the story sympathetically reported by Michael Wooten was a cautionary tale advising young women that it isn’t so smart to send nude or provocative pictures to your boyfriend, because someday he might become an ex-boyfriend and post them online.
The message probably could have been delivered in 30 seconds, but Wooten’s initial report was around six or seven minutes, an uncommonly long time for any news story.
Wooten interviewed a young adult woman on camera, a local teenager and her mother whose faces were camouflaged, and a young adult woman from out-of-state who has become an advocate for changing laws and ending revenge porn.
I was shocked. Not that revenge porn exists, but that a local woman who was victimized years ago and now says she is engaged would go on-camera with her real name and talk about becoming a victim in high school. Her motivation undoubtedly was to educate others, but she probably could have done so without showing her face and getting some unnecessary attention.
Local attorney Paul Cambria, a First Amendment expert, was interviewed and essentially said that even though revenge porn is a despicable thing to do, anyone who sends those photos will have to live with the consequences. I would suspect that many parents probably agreed with Cambria. However, the advocate for new rules didn’t like hearing that, saying it was victimizing the victim.
The scariest part of Wooten’s report concerned a Midwestern survey that concluded about 80 percent of college students practice sexting. However, he didn’t define sexting. College students told me it isn’t just sending nude pictures; it also is talking dirty.
I feel a little dirty writing about this. I thought I knew all I needed to know from Part 1, but Part 2 of Wooten’s series aired at 6 p.m. the next day at about the same length. Why did we need Part 2?
Did I tell you it was a sweeps month?
The same night that “Revenge” premiered Channel 4 had its own scary story about college students. It seems that if they aren’t sending dirty pictures or talking dirty, they are urinating in public.
Channel 4’s Lou Raguse reported that University at Buffalo students leave the big, boring North Campus in Amherst on weekends via buses and head to the South Campus and party in the residential University District.
According to Raguse’s thorough report, homeowners there understandably don’t like it, UB apparently thinks the responsibility to keep things PG-rated belongs to the Buffalo police, and college kids think they are being responsible by taking the buses instead of drinking and driving.
As much as you may sympathize with the homeowners, sweeps series with the word “porn” in them probably will disappear before this problem is solved.
I felt like I needed a bath after watching the porn and urination stories, so I headed over to Channel 7, “where good things are happening.”
Sure enough, reporter Ed Reilly did a sweet story about local World War II and Korean War veterans going on a day trip to Washington, D.C., to look at the sites honoring them and to be appreciated. After all, if it weren’t for the courage of our veterans, today’s college students wouldn’t be free to take dirty pictures and soil the walls of UB buildings.
A few days later, Channel 4’s Jordan Williams checked in with an investigative report, “Dollars for Docs,” that showed some local doctors prescribe patients plenty of drugs that are manufactured from companies that pay those doctors a lot for speaking engagements and for being consultants.
The cautionary tale may have made some people scared that their doctors are more worried about making money than curing them.
After a few days of these scare stories and seeing promos for another one about the danger of opening your homes to traveling strangers, I almost felt the need for a prescription to deal with anxiety.
Of course, when they aren’t scaring us about what is happening to the new generations, the local stations try to make us feel good about ourselves and the area.
The feel-good story of the year was the heroism of Metro Bus driver Darnell Barton for stopping his bus to save a woman who may have been suicidal. This beautiful story has made national headlines. It also has led to some uncomfortable moments as stations and citizens have tried to become associated with Barton.
The most uncomfortable moment for me came when Channel 4 wrapped itself around Barton in a promo that used his heroism to highlight its own slogans of being for Buffalo and “working for you.” It was a complete non sequitur; Barton’s heroism had nothing do with Channel 4’s slogan.
Then the ubiquitous Donald Trump announced he was giving Barton a $10,000 reward, which resulted in Trump getting his money’s worth in positive publicity everywhere. Couldn’t he just have given Barton the money anonymously?
I didn’t have as much a problem with Lou Billitier Jr. of Chef’s Restaurant getting positive press for giving Barton a dinner, tickets to a Sabre game and a photo on the Chef’s wall near celebrity politicians and entertainers who have frequented the establishment.
After all, Billitier and his family have done a lot of kind things over the years, and his expression of gratitude seemed genuine. Besides, Billitier made me laugh by thinking tickets to a Sabre game this season is a reward.
And after watching all the scary sweeps stories, I certainly needed a good laugh, because laughter is always the best medicine – and perhaps the best revenge.