Plane crash! Film at 10!

The other night they were at it again.

During the station breaks leading up to its 10 p.m. newscast, KOVR-13 was teasing viewers with dramatic video footage that showed a firefighting tanker plane breaking up in midair. First the plane’s wings folded back to a 90-degree angle, then they sheared off as flames shot out of the hole in the fuselage where the wings had been connected, then the smoking fuselage nosed down like a doomed carnival ride before disappearing behind a ridge.

Then they showed it again. And again.

It was patho-voyeuristic fare that’s tailor-made for today’s TV news, the kind that taps into the same sensational impulses that cause us, against better judgment, to crane our necks to look for blood when we pass a grisly accident on the freeway. I know I kept watching. And, if you saw that footage, you probably did, too.

As they say in the TV-news biz: “If it bleeds, it leads.” Accidents, murders, kidnappings, stupid human tricks—they’re all fair game for the nightly newscasts, as the blow-dried newsbots who anchor those things tell us how we should feel about events without really telling us anything about them.

Many of us don’t have the spleen to watch a steady diet of the stuff, but a few people have a special appetite for it. Take former staff writer Jim Evans, who recently moved to L.A. Before he left town, Evans holed up in his East Sac apartment with his TV, a remote and, it’s hoped, a well-stocked refrigerator. He watched enough local newscasts to draw a pretty detailed picture of our local bread and circuses, which you’ll find in our cover story, “Kill your TV.”

Evans will be missed. That said, we welcome new columnist Christian Kiefer, whose weekly musings on the local music scene begin right here.