Who watches local TV news? Not us. It’s too painful. As Emmy Award-winning former television news correspondent Ed Rabel wrote recently in the West Virginia Gazette in Charleston—where you can be sure local TV news is a bore—so-called local newscasts are a colossal waste of time. “Basically, the items they flog as news are merely undemanding fillers located between used-car commercials and mattress ads,” he writes. “Instead of focusing on original reporting, the local stations are focused on cosmetics ... the local television ‘news’ landscape is populated by bubble-heads and glib, young, sometimes pretty know-nothings.”
Local TV news is so close to the parody drawn by “Anchorman” it’s difficult to tell reality from farce. Who, after all, cannot see more than a hint of longtime local Chattanooga anchor Bob Johnson in surly, self-important Ron Burgundy, the fictitious but close-to-real 1970’s TV news anchor played by Will Ferrell?
So where else can one get a video news fix? Why Facebook, of course. Most weekday mornings for several months now, early risers have been treated to the embedded video of the Times Free Press’ Harrison Keely hosting the “Top 5 Things to Know in the Chattanooga Area Today.” Of course, these “five things” are usually the only things worth mentioning on any given day, but it’s more about the talking head than the talking points.
With each installment, Keely, a young would-be hipster with a Beatle-esque mop of hair and a tuft of goat’s gruff chin hair, greets his viewers with a hearty “Good Morning, Chattanooga!” It’s taken some time, but Keely—who appears to be all of 16 and otherwise oversees the paper’s Facebook and Twitter pages—has grown on us, even while the TFP’s trolling Facebook posts have not. (So stop that, Harrison. Now.)
Over time, Keely has evolved, growing more comfortable in the solitude of his lonely corner of the TFP. His wardrobe has also evolved. Early on, Keely favored bold colors and open-collar shirts, his hair still somewhat mussed, as if he’d just arrived at the paper in time to tape his segment. These days, he’s more often than not wearing a suit and tie—although someone needs to call wardrobe; these suits would not be out of place on Burgundy, but perhaps that’s part of the joke, just like the dramatic theme music and graphics that lead into the “newscast.”
Despite its clunky title—“Top 5” would work just fine—Keely’s short segments have become a favorite of our early-morning trek through the wasteland that is Facebook. He’s not telling us much we didn’t already know, but Keely’s earnest appeal and his not-ready-for-prime-time appearance are refreshing. Take note, local TV news outlets: The TFP’s young anchorman is stealing your audience—if anyone’s still watching.