Urban Sprawl Nightly
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Urban Sprawl at 11<BR> By Marc Porter Zasada<P> TODAY I-VE ARRANGED LUNCH with my friend Lenny under false pretences. Lenny writes news for one of the local TV stations here in L.A. - where each day dogs are rescued, quiet neighborhoods are shocked, and celebrities are noted. You know: -Rapper Out on Bail,- -Body Found in Ravine.- -Tom Cruise Shaves Beard.- <P> Despite the loud glitz he conjures nightly, Lenny (not his real name) is a man of gentle words and conservative ties. I tell him I-m out to to fathom the Big Orange and maybe he can help. But really, I want to hear him trash his business. I want a headline like: -Writer Admits News Just Entertainment.- -Writer Told to Focus on Sex and Death.- Or even: -Product-Tie-Ins Taint Local Newscast.- <P> I drop hints over salad until Lenny puts down his fork and speaks with unusual force:<P> -I don-t like the flash and hype either,- says Lenny, -but I do see myself as being in the truth business. Most people I know are in the spin business, whether they-re in real estate or law or even medicine. Me, I just tell folks what happened, every night for an hour.- Lenny looks me straight in the eye. -I try really hard to keep my point of view out of it and I love my job.- <P> Embarrassed, the Urban Man tries another tack: -I feel like the local news doesn-t actually capture what-s happening here,- I begin. -You give us events, one at a time, 30 an hour, but you don-t try for the longer view, you don-t tie threads together. You don-t say: -Local Politicians Have Given Up On Mass Transit- or -Administration Ignores L.A.,- You provide no memory, no through-line.- <P> Lenny pauses to consider the longer view: -L.A.-s a bunch of little neighborhoods,- he says. -People focus on their cul-de-sac, their job. Maybe it-s because we-re so spread out, with no subway where everyone gathers. But more people here watch the local news than watch CNN. I can easily get a million people.-<P> Already I better understand the crowd of little stories, the chaos, the urban sprawl at 11. I confess to Lenny that I rarely tune in. There-s something about the dizzy march of tragedy and sentiment which makes my job harder, not easier.<P> Over dessert, Lenny does finally get a little defensive about burning homes, bronzed bodies and slow pursuits. But he will sleep soundly, and I suppose I-m glad. In fact late that night, flipping on the TV, I suddenly find his newscast rather quaint. Just some nice people, by turns grave or cheerful, telling me what happened in my neighborhood while never claiming to understand what it means: -Attorney Walks Off Case,- -School Funds Slashed,- -Tom Cruise Grows New Beard. - <P><P> Adapted from a piece in the L.A. Downtown News.<br> Copyright - 2004 Marc Porter Zasada, all rights reserved.<br>
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