I have two reactions to this. For logistical reasons, I have decided to present them in this order:
1) “Damn, what a shame.” If you grew up with WBZ on your dial, you probably muttered something similar when you heard…particularly if at any stage of your childhood there was, you know, a dial on your TV.
Every year, there was Bob Lobel, sitting on a scaffold at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. There was Joyce Kulhawick, interviewing the New Kids On The Block when they came home to visit.
Every time the Red Sox blew a three-game lead to ultimately break our hearts and lose the ALCS or the Series, Lobel represented all New England sports fans in delivering the “I’m not angry, son…I guess I’m just disappointed” speech to the Red Sox. “We put a lot of faith and trust in you, and I suppose we shouldn’t have done that.”
It never failed to result in the Sox biting its lower lip, staring glumly at its shoes and feeling real bad about what it had done, and wishing that Lobel was one of those sportscasters who’d just haul off and hit them and make it easy.
And there were times when celebrities blew through town and SOME-body had to go out to the Four Seasons and talk to them. When a covert nest of Nazi spies is headed to the water-purification plant with a tanker truck of rat poison, you send in Captain America. When Jackée Harry refuses to leave town until she has a chance to tell somebody what it’s like to work with Marla Gibbs, you send in Joyce.
Overall, though, as a New Englander you just really liked seeing those familiar faces. Other on-air personalities came in and either moved up to the network or moved down into real estate, but a rare few managed to become a welcome addition to the New England landscape.
This is another item in the list of Things That The Kids Today Are Missing Out On. True, their video games are just flat-out stupidly better than what I had to deal with. But you know what, junior? You’ll never know the momentary, but still genuine, thrill of realizing that the man buying a pack of Carltons ahead of you at the Store 24 in Kenmore Square is the weekend sports guy on Channel 5. I can testify that it’s a jolt of pleasure that can’t even compare with scoring a 100% playing “Through The Fire And Flames” on “Expert.”
(This video game reference is brought to you by Google. Google: helping the ignorant fake their way through things since 1998.)
Alas, Bob and Joyce are just the latest casualties in the media industry’s ongoing and necessary change of underwear. Once again, the “Broadcast News” vision of the future proved spot-on. The logic isn’t immediately obvious, but it’s tough to keep your job when you’ve become a beloved local institution. Career-wise you want to aim for a butter zone where you’re popular enough that the station will fight to keep you but not so important that your salary shoots up to the level where they have to choose between renewing your contract or having two-ply toilet paper in the washrooms.
Or maybe the key to success, oddly enough, is to have a terrible agent. “They offered you a $50,000-a-year bump,” Swifty reports, “but I managed to talk them into moving your parking space closer to the entrance instead.”
If you want to be able to keep making the payments on that lovely home in Belmont…take the parking space. You don’t want to be selling Ferraris in a Toyota economy.
The second reaction:
2) “Gee, it’s been ages since I actually watched the local news.”
Which spells out the problem, and the reason why the era of the Ron Burgundy is over. I still get my news from professional journalists, but I don’t get my news in a way that involves sitting down for thirty minutes at a specific time of day and watching ads for snow tires.
But that doesn’t mean I’m not sorry to see Bob and Joyce go. It’s sort of like when your old grammar school gets torn town. You haven’t even driven past it in ages, but you always enjoyed knowing that it was still there.