I Cried On My Way Home

She had already lost her hearing. Now she had lost her sight. All hope was lost. Then her boyfriend figured out how to communicate with her.

I am a sloppy sentimentalist. I cried my way home tonight. It was a story on public radio. I was listening to Radiolab on WNPR. This is the best program on radio!

Radiolab is a documentary series. That’s the simple part. It’s how the documentaries are put together that’s so amazing. I have never witnessed more intricately woven stories.

Everything on Radiolab is happening in sync on multiple levels. A sentence might be started by one person, continued by a second and finished by a third. It works.

The off-center vibe is carefully crafted by the two hosts, Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich. Even their conversation weaves in and out of the interview and actualities.

Today’s show (actually from mid-January) was about Emilie.

In this segment, we take an emotional left turn to a story of a very different kind of lost and found. We begin with a college student, Alan Lundgard, who fell in love with a fellow art student, Emilie Gossiaux. Emilie’s mom, Susan Gossiaux, describes her daughter, and the terrible phone call she recieved from Alan nine months after he became Emilie’s boyfriend. Together, Susan and Alan tell Jad and Robert about the devastating fork in the road that left Emilie lost in a netherworld, and how Alan found her again.

She had already lost her hearing. Now she had lost her sight. All hope was lost. Then her boyfriend figured out how to communicate with her.

Like I said, I cried. It was among the most amazing stories I’ve ever heard.

Sad Day for Local TV?

I just went to the ABC News website and watched a little Robert Krulwich piece on “ABC News Now,” a digital scheme they’re using to distribute gavel-to-gavel coverage during the conventions. Just log onto your computer and you’ve got it.

Judging by Krulwich’s piece, the video quality is quite good. As I’ve said here before, you don’t need or want full screen video when you’re watching TV on a computer.

What’s scary about this is that it might be the seminal moment in the dissolution of the 50+ year bond between networks and their local affiliates. That’s huge.

Let’s face it – local TV stations are an expensive method of distributing national programs. However, they come with built in pull. They have (usually) good cable position and the draw of local news and other non-duplicated programming. In other words, until now, they’ve been worth it.

A program of equal value will get a higher audience on a local broadcast station than it will on a pure cable channel. Network television has been predicated on that assumption for 20 years or more.

World News Now seems to operate on the assumption that ABC can get away with a smaller audience because they have lower distribution costs, the ability to run commercials and also charge a subscription fee to see the feed. If it works they can slowly but surely eliminate the middle man.

That may not be such a terrible thing for me, because it will demand more local programming – and I can do that. For viewers, it will help continue the downward spiral for production costs and values in free over-the-air television.

You would think local TV station owners would be concerned about this – and maybe they are… they don’t talk with me.

There are precedents for this kind of thing happening. Years ago, broadcast television was where movies went after the theater. Then pay channels like HBO got first dibs. It’s too late to put that horse back in the barn, but when the original deals were made to give first run rights to pay cable, broadcasters had loads of leverage. As far as I can see they never used it and allowed the value of their movie investment to tumble.

Is the same thing happening today? Check back in 5 years. By then, we’ll know.