My first paid gig in news was the most fun. This was back in the days when radio stations broadcast news and assumed a responsibility to report in the public interest and necessity. I would arrive for morning rush hour and return in the afternoon to serve as the ground information guy for the station’s traffic reporter flying around the city in his helicopter.
This was prehistoric, when there was only one such helicopter in town and when the pilot did his own reporting. My job was to listen to police scanners and call police departments to provide “Captain Dan” with up-to-the-second locations of traffic disruptions so he could report them almost live, or at least head over to the scene.
Before I left that job, he allowed me to ride with him in his tiny glass bubble with a rotor. It was fun, it was exciting and it was one of the few times I feared for my life! When the ‘copter banked for a turn at over a hundred miles an hour (or so it seemed) at a thousand feet of altitude with no chassis in sight, all you saw between your eyeballs and the ground was – nothing.
It felt especially risky because only a couple of years earlier, Marie McDonald, one of the pair of the station's gimmick traffic reporters known as “Dee and Marie,” was killed in a crash not far from where I lived.
Nowadays, helicopters don’t bother with traffic but with the trivial. Today, two pilots and two photographers were killed when two television news helicopters crashed over
Police chases are dangerous enough, and the public’s appetite for them keeps them staple of television news coverage. It is a sick addiction and a perversion of values.
These helicopters cost at least $1 million a year to operate and have never in my memory brought real news to anyone. A million dollars, however, could pay for about 10 experienced reporters or producers looking for and reporting on City Hall, the school board, zoning, corruption, crime, local business or even the arts and sports.
Talk About Getting Spaced Out!
Frankly, I don’t believe the “gee-whiz” story of the day – the report indicating that two astronauts were drunk before heading into space. For one thing, the actual report names no names and relies on hearsay. For another thing, if an astronaut were tipsy, wouldn’t it be reasonable to assume his or her colleagues would be among the first to notice – and take the keys.? I mean friends don’t let friends blast off blasted.
If there turns out be a grain of truth to this embarrassing brouhaha, it would give new meaning to the term “the right stuff” and lift off the lid of the Cape's biggest secret --
Tomorrow, Dick Cheney goes into the hospital for replacement of a heart pacemaker. That means George Bush will be acting president for the time Cheney is indisposed.
I hear the Secret Service has already wrestled Oscar the hospice cat to the ground.