When I first saw this video, it made me happy. But not in the way you might think. Watching the ladies do their thing was fun. What made me happy, though, was vindication, that feeling you get when you find out you were right after all. Since I hate to say, "I told you so," I wont.
But I will say this. Back when I anchored TV news -- and it was a while ago -- the higher-ups brought in consultants who pushed a concept called the "happy talk" format. This was light chit-chat between segments, which sometimes rose to the level of repartee, but not often. I wanted to live in an ideal world back then, not the real one. So with all the self-righteousness of Martin Luther tacking his 95 Theses to the cathedral door, I resigned from the news business and wrote an essay saying why. The essay was eventually published in a textbook and taught for a while in college classrooms. But the only "reformation" to come out of it occurred within me.
Over the years, the consultants have come up with other ways to jump-start flagging newscast ratings, since merely delivering information was not enough to hold the public's attention. If you've been near a TV set when the news was on, you already know what I mean. Reporters jumping from airplanes. Confessing to past sins. Weeping on air. Becoming the news instead of presenting it.
But what you see in this viral video featuring newscasters in Memphis, Tennessee, is the best move yet. Nearly three million "hits" within 36 hours. Coverage in Cosmopolitan online. Why didn't anyone think of this before?
I predict the woman in the purple dress will soon resign her job as co-anchor to become a Hollywood actress. She will star in a remake of Lost Horizon called Quan Yin, which will be completely innocent of any other meaning Quan Yin might have. The movie will flop. But this viral video will live on. I also predict a slew of copycats coming to a screen near you. Other newscasters have already posted their versions of this so-called "Hit the Quan Challenge." (If you do not yet know what "Quan" is, a trip the Urban Dictionary will prove most enlightening.)
When the consultants first invaded the news department where I worked and told us every newscast must have an animal, a fire, and no politics unless the "governor was caught on tape screwing his secretary," one of my colleagues, an award-winning journalist, asked, "How low can they go?"
Now we know the answer. Happy Talk News has become Happy Feet News.
Keep your seat, Mr. Sondheim. There's no need for clowns. Just bring on the penguins. And fear not. This is not the beginning of the end of broadcast journalism: that happened a long time ago.