© St. Petersburg Times, published August 9, 2002
CABLE NEWS people didn't matter to me until Sept. 11.
I drove to work that morning without ever turning on a TV.
Now they are my friends.
If the election were held today -- any election -- I would vote for Christiane Amanpour. Or perhaps Ashleigh Banfield.
I am certain they would represent me fairly.
Christiane: "I'm standing outside the Palma Ceia home of Patty Ryan, less than a kilometer from Plant High School. U.N. peacekeepers are en route to this war-torn neighborhood with bricks, mortar and $13.5-trillion in international aid. The world is watching as Plant High struggles to pay for its new gate."
Ashleigh: "Here is Patty's dog. And look -- Can we zoom in? Can you see this? -- here is Patty's other dog. We learned today that neither of these dogs can read. Which is surprising because Patty tells us she pays $478.94 a year in school taxes. Off camera, she tells us she would rather have a cleaning lady than a new gate at Plant."
Christiane: "The U.N. caravan made an unscheduled stop today when Patty threw herself onto Himes Avenue in protest."
Ashleigh: "Right here -- Can you see this? -- I have a sample brick from the Plant High gate. Our producer had it analyzed and learned that these bricks are made of gold bullion and crushed Robinson High School textbooks. And this mortar, we were surprised to learn, is made of Milk Bone particles. Patty seemed particularly bothered by that."
EACH MORNING, I tune in Paula Zahn. I give Imus his due. Each night, I share the couch with Brian Williams, Chris Matthews, Aaron Brown and Larry King, confident that if the world ended, I would at least find out about it.
I admit they do not always take our relationship as seriously as I do.
Chris, for example, is slacking off with malaria. Mike Barnicle fills in.
I wish Chris were here. He would know what to say.
Chris: "So this high school, I know the one you're talking about, I was down there in Florida last year, let me get this straight, these parents, these boosters, they think chain-link is chintzy so they get the ball rolling on a $300-trillion brick and steel gate, they promise it won't cost taxpayers a dime, then after the deal is done, they ask the local School Board down there for money. These people oughta be crucified."
THIS SUMMER, Connie Chung and Phil Donahue joined the cable news lineup.
It troubled me at first because I thought both were dead. I suffer the midlife affliction of Never Being Able to Remember Which Famous People Are Still Alive. Didn't my parents, long gone, once watch Connie and Phil?
Connie: So, Patty, you're upset about this gate, aren't you. Just between us? Off the record.
Phil: Gates! Bricks! Whoa. You know what I'm saying. I mean, tell me if I'm wrong. Whew. Boy.
SO FAR, Brian has yet to weigh in.
You may know that Phil bumped Brian from MSNBC to CNBC.
I wonder: Should people be so interchangeable? One day, Brian, the next, Phil, like outfits on a Barbie doll or actors in a soap opera?
Playing the role of Yasser Arafat today is the Maytag repairman.
I long for the sound of Chris Matthews yelling. It makes me nostalgic for family vacations.
At least I can count on Christiane and Ashleigh.
Christiane: At issue here is whether tax dollars should fund this endeavor. Critics note that the Plant High freedom fighters did promise to pay their own way.
Ashleigh: I'm here in front of Vinyl Fever, which is across from the Plant High School gate project. Patty gets her hair done next door. She tells us that her annual school taxes would pay for nine haircuts. My producer tells me he found a good deal on a Dar Williams CD.
Christiane and Ashleigh.
All the way.
- Tampa's Kennedy Boulevard was once called Grand Central. Now Grand Central is a weekly City Times column. Writer Patty Ryan can be reached at 226-3382 or firstname.lastname@example.org.