Reporting Luis Prada
When we think back to the news anchors of yesteryear, we view them as untouchable monoliths of integrity and truth. These weren’t merely men that puked the news in to your ears, these were stalwart news warriors that were doing their duty to inform and protect us — to protect us by informing us. Of course, when you look back on anything from yesteryear it looks good. Edward R. Murrow could have had a voluminous collection of vintage Victorian-era pleasure devices that he used as microphones when he practiced reading news copy in his dank basement while wearing lipstick.
All of the news gods of the past could have been twisted weirdos, is what I’m saying; but damn it, did they ever look and sound good when they did the news. There was a certain mysterious integrity about them; an inner strength and a confidence that didn’t feel artificial. They weren’t putting on airs. They were genuine people. Today’s cable news anchors are a different, far more depressing matter.
Today, a news anchor, particularly a cable news anchor, could be made out of anyone, assuming they come pre-packaged with the personality of an android set to “telemarketer” mode and the inability to decipher fact from fiction. I’m so confident that any human alive could easily turn themselves in to a modern cable news anchor that I’ve broken down the process in to 8 easy to follow steps that anyone can use to get their faces on TV and their mouths talking about crap their minds can’t even comprehend.
Don’t believe me? Here are some testimonials from satisfied followers of my plan…
“Before I followed Luis’ plan I was a chimp. A real, honest-to-God chimp. As in chimpanzee. I ate bananas and everything.” –Definitely not Steve Doocy
“Whenever I decide to become a real journalist, I’ll follow the patented Prada Plan!” –Probably Chris Matthews
Step 1: Go to Journalism School
Being educated is important when your job will eventually involve educating the public on the myriad ways the world has casually bent them over and prodded their hinnies with many non-lubed fingers. You go to journalism school to learn the skill of educating the public. By the way, I’m making being a news anchor sound like being a teaching because delivering the news is exactly like being a teacher, just you can’t see all the mouth breathing class interrupters, but you just know those rejects are out there somewhere watching you, alone, hurling hilarious insults at their TVs and feeling lonely because there’s no one around to pat them on the back.
Having gone to journalism school myself, here’s a quick rundown of everything you’ll learn there.
• How to structure a story.
If there’s anything even remotely sexual about the story, that goes in the headline and becomes the focus of the first few paragraphs. Time, place, and facts relevant to the newsworthy part of the story comes later, preferably before the end of the article, but they don’t necessarily have to be in it at all, really. In fact, don’t even bother with the relevant facts. Just make the whole thing about boobs and murder.
• The history of journalism.
Turns out people say stuff to millions of people and get paid for it. “I could do that in my sleep!” say the thousands of idiots that just barely graduated high school before they go do it for a living.
• A bunch of legal stuff pertaining to what you can and can’t say and what to do with sensitive information.
Generally, a bunch of stuff that applies to people that have dignity and a soul. As a modern cable news anchor, this does not apply to you.
Once you graduate from journalism school (good luck; not that it’s difficult, it’s just so terribly dull that you might fling yourself from a window mid-lecture and never return, eventually becoming content with life as a florist) you’ll be ready to go out there and give the world these information they need to make decisions, and you’ll be ready to tackle step #2, which requires you to…
Step 2: Forget Everything You Learned In Journalism School
Honestly, there really isn’t much to journalism that needs to be learned in a school. You hear about something, you call a bunch of people asking them questions about it – preferably someone that knows a thing or two about the topic at hand, like a professor, scientist, witness, cop, or, I don’t know, maybe your local bloviating conservative/liberal talking head – and then you write about it. That’s pretty much it. There’s all kinds of ethical stuff in there too, like what type of information you can, can’t, and shouldn’t reveal, but you’re not in the game because you’re on a quest for truth. You’re doing this for an eventual primetime slot that puts you up against all the biggest shows the networks have to offer so when you get your ratings numbers you can always say some crap like “Look how well I do against Dancing with the Stars!” or “No wonder the numbers are $#!+! I’m up against Dancing with the Goddamn Stars!”
You won’t need much of anything journalism school teaches you because everything thing you learn there – all that stuff about the great people that changed the world through reporting and writing – means nothing in an industry that is dominated and dictated by ratings and advertisers.
So, really, you don’t even go to journalism school in the first place. What decorated school of journalism did Al Sharpton go to that got him his own show on MSNBC? Or Glenn Beck? Or Rush Limbaugh? None of them ever went to journalism school yet millions out there get the news from them, even though they’re just fleshy versions of flapping muppet mouths that someone was stupid enough to put a microphone in front of.
Step 3: Confuse Opinion With Fact
“The Grand Canyon is big” is a fact.
“The Grand Canyon is an @$$#*!%” is an opinion.
As a modern cable news journalist, you will never say either of those sentences. Instead, you will conflate the two in to a single factpinion. The factpinion plays a very important role in today’s news reporting, as the fact buried within the opinion allows those that prefer to have their news slanted to one side or another to argue that, since there is an inarguable fact contained in the statement, it is proof of unbiased reporting. This would turn the previous statements about the Grand Canyon in to…
“The Grand Canyon is a big @$$#*!%.”
Step 4: Look Like A Toy
You can’t be a modern cable news journalist without looking like a doll that’s been through at least twenty layers of heavy product testing and executive board meetings in order to determine if children will be able to put down their video games long enough to play with you for a couple of hours and beg their parents to buy your Action News play set. (Maybe that’s why Mattel finally let Barbie become a news anchor back in 2010 — flesh had finally caught up to plastic.)
Every hair on your head must be so meticulously placed that even when it’s messy it looks like it you wake up bald and your hair dresser mold injects your hair on to your head using mysterious polymers discovered after the Roswell UFO incident.
Your face must be unbelievable. It’s not that you’re impossibly good looking; that it’s really difficult to believe you’re a human. Your eyes need just enough soul behind them to get past the uncanny valley, but not enough to allow you to be around we regular folk when we yawn because you might grab our heads and attempt to suck out our human essence so that you may become more like us.
Step 5: Learn To Yell
The news today isn’t about being quiet and carrying a big stick. It’s all about not having a stick at all but screaming about having one loud enough that everyone believes your stick is a redwood and it has the word “motherf***er” etched across it, along with a couple of the more badass bible verses.
People like Chris Matthews, Glen Back, and Bill O’Reilly have made a fortune off of this. They’ve shown that having a valid point is non-essential – if you scream louder than everyone else, and you put enough emotion behind your words, your newscast will transcend the news and enter the realm of drama. You will become the struggling “Every Man” character in a daily one man show that just so happens to be about whatever’s happening in the world. At this point, screaming is no longer about getting your voice heard as it is about having your voice be the only one in the room. It shows that you’re passionate about the subject at hand…or at least that you can improv enough passion that it seems like you’re a valiant warrior fighting against injustice.
Essentially, your show should be like a particularly self-righteous episode of Whose Line Is It Anyway? that’s being filmed during a boy scout jamboree in which untrustworthy scoutmaster Higgins put speed in the Rice Krispy treats. You don’t have a script, just some bullet points that all have, like, seven exclamation points after them, and if the kids don’t have a loud distraction they’ll go all Lord of the Flies and start killing the fat ones among their own troops. Your voice must soar over the insanity so briskly, so proudly, so triumphantly, that it captures everyone’s attention and brings the chaos to a halt. Sadly, what you have to say is the verbal equivalent of a fart that stains your underwear.
Step 6: Stretch
It might help to get in a few squat thrusts and downward dogs before your nightly newscasts to loosen your BS muscles, but that’s not the kind of stretching I’m talking about. I’m talking about stretching time.
Twenty-four hours is a lot of time that needs to be filled. With roughly 60 percent of that being filled by commercials, and the remaining 40 percent by semi-coagulated news byproduct, you have know how to talk when there’s nothing to talk about. When there’s big breaking news, facts will take time to trickle in, but you’ll quickly find that there’s almost no time to take a break from reporting the big story of the day and move on to other subjects as your researchers dig up more rigorously fact checked information. In those moments — when people are hearing about the story and tuning in at various times of day to get caught up — there’s no other alternative; you have to fill the empty air time with heaping helpings of crap and speculation; half-truths and half-baked opinions from people tangently involved.
This is why it’s good to have a phalanx of talking heads that make regular appearances on your show, very much like “Wacky Neighbor” archetype barges in to the home of your favorite sitcom character. Whenever they appear, you can almost hear the cattle prodded studio audience hoot and holler with forced enthusiasm.
These people will alleviate some of the stress of filling all that time. You can call them your “panel of experts” but really, they’re just college buddies and people that owe you favors. Maybe one of them wasn’t even in the field of journalism before joining your family of trusted blabbers, but you saved them from a burning building and in return you’ve guilt tripped them in to a lifetime of news panel servitude.
Word of warning: you have to be careful with your panel of time-filling talking heads. Network executives might start to like one of them so much that they are asked to host your show when you’re on vacation. And then they’ll get their own segment on your show. Then they’ll get their own show that airs immediately following yours. Then, when your ratings inevitably take a nose dive because the void where your soul used to be is starting to hurt and the pain is affecting your work, the talking head you used to fill time has now filled your shoes.
Step 7: Develop a Series of Idiotic Segments with Catchy Names
Something weird happens when you get elevated from the mid-morning, early afternoon timeslots to having your own hour in the late afternoon or primetime. Like entering a CDC quarantined zone and having pus-filled boils immediately pop up all over your body, as soon as an anchor gets his or her own show they start developing bizarre segments with catchy titles. Keith Olbermann had Odd Ball and The Worst Person In The World. Anderson Cooper has The Ridiculist. Megyn Kelly has Kelly’s Court. Glenn Beck had the one where he humped the Constitution and cry/sang “America, The Beautiful” while intermittently breaking his sadness to make sure people were looking at him and then going right back in to it.
Once you make it big, you need a snazzy segment that will become synonymous with your show’s personality, even if it does nothing to better inform people. It’s all about marketing, anyway, so it’s best to treat your news program – the one that’s supposed to make people smarter and, you know, stuff – like it’s children’s programming; just a series of disconnected mini-shows within the show whose introductions might as well be a more adult version of “Kids, you know what that fart sounds means! That’s right! It’s time for your favorite game based on mounting geo-political tensions involving trigger happy third world dictators in possession of 21st century weaponry! It’s…In The Nuke Of Time!”
You’ve got to capture people’s attentions somehow, so if you’re not slamming one silly-ass set of melodramatic graphics in their faces after another in the eyes of your fan base they’re libel to flip to another channel that has more shiny things on it.
Step 8: You Did It! You’re A Big-Time Cable News Anchor!
Congratulations! You did it! You’ve made it to step 8! Assuming you’ve followed steps 1 through 7 perfectly, you are now a fully-fledged anchor for a cable news program!
What can you do with all of your power, influence, and money? There isn’t much that you can’t do…but there isn’t much that you will do, is there? Nope. Not at all. Just as long as you play your cards right (by making sure all of your cards are twos as to not mess up anyone else’s chance of winning, including the guy with ten aces hidden in his sleeve) you’re set for life.
Trips to Barbados will become so regular the concierge of your favorite hotel will greet you with a bottle of your favorite red wine and a complimentary prostitute of your racial preference; no questions asked, no race need be specified upon return to the island. Your league of personal assistants will forward that information ahead of your arrival.
If the sewage falling out of your rusty pipe of a mouth is vile and toxic enough, it will poison enough of the populace that you’ll actually hold the power of public opinion in your grasp and you’ll be able to do with it what you will. You can swing it into a better future for us all, or you can be the reason we all burn this mofo down in the not too distant future. Or, you can play with the minds of the public for your own amusement, like a bored, sociopathic boy king. The amount of fun you have with your power is up to you.
But just remember this – you’re a journalist. As a journalist, your boss is not the CEO of the corporation that owns your network, or the political party that you most closely affiliate yourself with, or anyone holding a position of official power. You are an employee of the public, and as such you must serve them and do your duty to fill their brains with the knowledge those in power would rather they didn’t have. You have what is arguably the most important job in the world – you are the keeper and facilitator of human intelligence, the slyer of liars. Your power is vast and you must, at all times, respect it.
Man, that almost sounded like I meant it, huh?
Luis recently embarked on his own career of spinning pap, no previous experience required, with his Amateur Analysis of Celebrity Handwriting.