McAdams On: The Third Certainty

Anyone who’s ever been a news editor at high school newspaper, a grain elevator journal or a national TV network knows the third certainty. After death and taxes, it’s feast or famine. There is either so much going on it’s virtually impossible to cover it with the resources at hand... or not.

Or not is when six people retiring from the local Safeway get the front page. (Those weekly inserts Safeway buys have nothing to do with it, Commissioner Copps.) Or not is when some woman in Buffalo tells the President of the United States he’s hot and it sparks a conflagration of analysis. An evolutionary diminution of the collective intellect also could be at work there. That, and the fact that the U.S. news media has approximately one freelance reporter covering Iraq and Afghanistan with a Flip Video camera, a first-generation iPhone and a Segway to get across Iran. Now if Iraq or Afghanistan would buy an insert... but I digress.

Or not recently hit a handful of Midwestern TV stations in the form of a guy purporting to be a yo-yo champion. That is correct. Five TV stations booked a spot for a guy who said he was a yo-yo champion. They probably needed something for the space formerly occupied by run-away Toyota stories. Toyota buys the TV equivalent of inserts, but that has nothing to do with anything, Commissioner Copps.

Kenny Strasser, the alleged yo-yo champion turns out to be a either a performance artist in the vein of Andy Kaufman or a guy dressed like Red Green who needs help. Identifying himself as “K-Strass” in a painful white-dude rap-scat on KODE-TV in Joplin, Mo., he proceeds to turn and spin several yo-yos over his head, entangling the strings. He then says he’s considering giving up the yo-yo thing because he doesn’t have the “muscle memory” for it.

The stations that booked this guy are taking quite a heckling on the Interwebs. After all, there’s supposed to be someone checking the credentials of these yo-yo kings, right? Correct, and that person would be collecting unemployment, thank you very much. And how hard is it to produce fake credentials? There’s always someone walking around in a military uniform bedecked with medals they did not earn. There are a few hundred thousand folks with falsified resumes and fake IDs, and a couple of million with some form of self-delusion. Fake yo-yo champion credentials? Not a problem.

Does that excuse the TV news desks that booked the K-Strass? Absolutely not. It also does not excuse deception, the new black in our culture. Actually, deception became the new black in the mid-’80s when lying was redouble-speaked as “spin.” Instead of a passing fad, lying became more of an enduring quasi-classic, like corfam shoes. You get used to the discomfort.

The K-Strass incident will serve TV stations like KODE in more ways than one. Nexstar, which runs the station, might bother to hire fact checkers. Fact-checking easily can be centralized. “Vetted by the Nexstar Fact-Checking Desk.” Now there’s a marketing hook. “Myrtle, what’s ‘vetted’ mean?”

Also, a heck of a lot more people now know about KODE-TV, the ABC Action News 12 affiliate in designated market area No. 147. At least 608,106 of them or so--the number of hits the on the KODE K-Strass YouTube clip. That’s roughly a third more folks than in KODE’s market. If KODE could monetize that, they would A) make a truckload of money and B) do something Google hasn’t been able to do.

The reporter in the clip also deserves some sort of props for gamely getting through the thing. I personally hope he’s fought over by the “Today Show” and “Good Morning America.” More likely, however, K-Strass will get a reality show and have a full mental break-down on national TV.

Until then.... “Up Next: Live from Los Angeles--Cute Kitten Plays with Ball of Yarn.”