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And now, this breaking news report on something

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By HOWARD TROXLER, Times Columnist

© St. Petersburg Times
published October 23, 2002

No, as a matter of fact, I am NOT trying to be funny at a time like this.

* * *

ANCHOR: Now, this breaking news. Something has reportedly happened. Details are sketchy, and we really don't have any idea of what it might be, but let's show these impressive aerial shots from our helicopter. Now let's go to our correspondent in the field to tell us that he doesn't know anything. Bob?

CORRESPONDENT: Paula? I'm sorry, I couldn't really hear you, but let me say that out here we really have no idea of what's going on. But my sources tell me that something definitely has happened. All I can say is that we'll find out as soon as possible. In the meantime, everybody should stay tuned to CNN.

ANCHOR: Thank you. As you can see, CNN sources now are confirming to CNN that something has, indeed, happened. For further analysis on this, let's go to CNN's consulting criminologist. Doctor, what does this tell you about the character of the perpetrator?

CRIMINOLOGIST: Of course, it is too early to know what this something might be, but in any case I would say that clearly, this is a disturbed individual. I would say this is a cry for attention, if not for help.

ANCHOR: Is it possible that we are talking about someone who might be, say, watching CNN at this very minute?

CRIMINOLOGIST: Doubtlessly so.

ANCHOR: We understand now that the police chief is having his briefing. Let's go there live.

CHIEF: I am here to say, I have nothing to say.

REPORTERS: Tell us all the secret things that you don't want to tell us.

CHIEF: That would jeopardize the case.

REPORTERS: Here, let us ask a bunch of speculative questions that still mean, tell us anyway.

CHIEF: No. Next briefing in 15 minutes.

ANCHOR: We'll be right back.

* * *

(Cut to CNN commercial showing clips from political talk show.)

WHINY DEMOCRAT: There's no doubt in my mind this sniper is a Republican.

SMUG REPUBLICAN: Clearly he is a product of Clinton-Democrat degeneracy.

ANNOUNCER: Hear the issues discussed in depth, six times nightly, on CNN.

* * *

(Back to broadcast)

* * *

ANCHOR: And now here's a roundup of other news. There's war with Iraq, the midterm elections for control of Congress, a reeling economy, forgotten corporate scandals and the World Series. Okay, that covers that. Now back to our round-the-clock coverage. Wait a minute . . . we're hearing now that there might be a new fact in the case.

(Crawl across bottom of screen: NEW FACT IN CASE...)

ANCHOR: Let's go back to Bob in the field. Bob?

CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Paula, sources are now telling CNN that something definitely has happened. They're urging the public to stay calm, but, honestly, I don't see any basis for that kind of statement.

ANCHOR: All right. We have confirmation that, indeed, something has happened. After this break, we'll be going to our panel of CNN experts from the Institute of People Who Talk On Television For A Living. And be sure to tune in tonight to Larry King Live, where Larry will talk about the day's events with John Walsh and Carrot Top.

* * *

It's me talking for real now.

Here is my idea, which I hope my friends in radio and other local media will support: Let's stop watching cable news during this ridiculous orgy of speculative coverage.

I'm not saying we should ignore these terrible events. Watch your regular local news on our broadcast stations. Check out the Internet, if you'd like. Am I leaving out anything here? Oh, yeah. Read the paper. Or don't.

But don't reward this idiocy any more. For a brief, shining few days, let's give the cable news networks the lowest ratings of any major metropolitan market in the nation.

* * *

A sniper on the loose, a nation on edge. Count on CNN to bring you the whole story. Now, more than ever!

-- Actual CNN promotion

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