The 10 p.m. October 30 newscast produced by KPNX-TV Channel 12 sunk to new lows in already murky depths of the Marianas Trench where local TV news resides.
Arizona's News Station brought on a surprise guest, Sheriff Joke Arpaio.
By the time the newscast began taking shape, most real news organizations in the Valley were working on a big story involving the Crime Avenger--the U.S. Justice Department's decision to sue Arpaio and Maricopa County over conditions in Arpaio's jails.
Reporters for the Arizona Republic had filed a story that would be bannered on the front page the next morning. "U.S. to sue Arpaio over jail problems," the headline said.
Although New Times didn't have an edition coming out for six days, its writers already were reporting on the Justice Department's lawsuit.
So the Flash sat up and took notice when Channel 12's anchors announced that the Sher would be on the newscast. Surely, they'll grill him about the lawsuit, the Flash thought.
Instead, they had "Sheriff Joe" sit with the anchors and read part of the freakin' sports.
The easy part. (He's no Keith Olbermann.)
The Flash should have seen it coming. Two provocative, gut-wrenching scoops that preceded Joke's monotone hockey blather were a snippet on the dangers of testicular cancer (inspired by a plot line from that evening's episode of ER) and a breathless report from the set of the NBC sitcom Friends. Shockingly, the Friends cast members solemnly avowed that they are real friends in real life!
For its October 30 effort and for its continuing mollycoddling of anyone in a position of authority, the Flash presents the Bill Close Award to the newshounds at Channel 12. The award, named after the former Channel 10 anchor fossil, is for journalistic achievement that goes below and beside the call of duty.
Y'all must be proud as peacocks.
Lies, Lies, All Lies
And speaking of the Halloween Day edition of the Republic: That particular front page must have been what the Flash's old pal George "Happy" Orwell had in mind when he coined the term "doublespeak."
* The lead story had Sheriff Joke and U.S. Attorney Janet Napolitano curiously denying that the lawsuit filed by the feds meant the county's jailers had done anything wrong.
* The saga of Arthur "Loco" Downey, who was busted for using an 8-year-old boy to sell crack cocaine. Downey swore to the cops that the boy was his boss, and the diminutive gangbanger gave Downey free crack in exchange for his lining up customers.
* Scottsdale declared victory when a jury found the police department had wrongly fired Officer Jesus Torrez, after Torrez had blown the whistle on racism on the force. Oh yeah, in letting Scottsdale off scot-free, the jury ordered the city to pay Torrez $100,000.
* The report on the second-degree murder conviction of the baby-shaking British au pair. "I didn't do anything," Louise Woodward sobbed. "Why did they do that to me?"
* An account of Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt's testimony before the Senate Government Affairs Committee in which the former Arizona guv swore that his department's nixing of a casino proposed by three Indian tribes had nothing to do with the fact that tribes with competing casinos had given the Democrats $500,000.
If you believe any of these stories, the Flash has a nice quiet, pristine lot in New River he'd like to sell to you.
At a recent social event, an Arizona Republic editor told the Flash that the paper's top managers covet a Pulitzer Prize more than ever and are under the impression that one is imminent.
The editor did not specify which of the Republic's journalistic coups might warrant such a prize, but the Flash suspects that the legions of Arizona children who have been "saved" by the Republic will want to nominate the august organ. Of course, those grateful waifs will have to hurry to beat all those abused senior citizens whose homes formerly were without hope, but who have since found hope, thanks to the Republic.
Just in case neither of those stories will do, though, the Republic's top managers have come up with some innovative methods of inspiring the staff to great heights of investigative journalism.
On a recent reconnaissance mission, for example, the Flash slipped into the Republic's pulsating, space-age, ninth-floor newsroom for a little clandestine look-see.
There, at the entrance, was management's brainstorm for arousing its generally miserable stable of writers: a Mesa Tribune newsrack labeled "This Is The Competition."
The Flash couldn't resist scrawling a little message and posting it on the adjacent Republic rack. It read: "This Is The Paper YOU Work For."
Salmon Cuts Pork
If you follow Arizona politics, you know that that large, puffy thing formerly known as U.S. Representative Matt Salmon has become a workoutaholic. He's lost 70 pounds--going from 252 to 182--by running 50 to 70 miles a week.
The newly buffed studly told the Washington Post's column The Source (a distant cousin of the Flash's) that the exercise regimen has made him a better thinker.
"It's my best time for thinking. It's really therapeutic. . . . On some days, when I'm feeling Gene Kelly-ish, I sing and dance in the rain. Even in front of my constituents. They expect we are all one brick shy of a load anyway."
Salmon claimed that one day in the gym, Newt Gingrich approached Salmon, who had repeatedly called for the House speaker to step aside during his ethics probe.
"Are you taking that fen/phen stuff?" Gingrich asked. "I told him I don't believe in diets, I count fat grams. He got real excited, and he's lost about 25 pounds. Maybe if we can't trim the fat in the budget, we can trim the fat out of the Congress members themselves," Salmon said.
He completed a recent marathon in 4 hours 46 seconds, and has reduced his pants to a size 40. The old size 40s were hanging pretty low, Salmon said, and "You just gotta say no to crack."
Is this guy really a Republican?
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