And that's just at Public Eye.
I'm here to tell you today that the Lauren Jones experiment is over. But it was only a 30-day experiment anyway …and, as such, perhaps not exactly a sign of the end times.
And while I may be the resident curmudgeon here, I'm still open-minded. So I decided to reach out to the station's President and General Manager, Philip Hurley to talk him up about the whole thing.
So with the knowledge gleaned from a long and friendly conversation, I offer some good news and bad news.
The good news? It doesn't sound like our worst fears were realized. True, KYTX certainly didn't exactly push back against the blurring of the line between entertainment and news programming. But Jones chipped in – putting in, on average, 12 hour days, according to Hurley – and wasn't altogether a sideshow.
"[Jones] was a reporter," Hurley says. "She wrote some stories, she was in the field, she edited her own stories. She did everything that one-man band would do here, except for a photographer. She did hard and soft news." And her story load wouldn't always remind one of Christina Applegate's cat shows in "Anchorman," either. According to Hurley, she reported stories on the Texas floods, a prison under construction and a one-on-one with the town sheriff.
(Hurley did admit that there was a bit of a crash course in the first two days. "We had to teach her how to dress, and we had to teach her the news department was a serious business." I think it's pretty safe to say this footage won't end up on the editing room floor.)
And as for that blurring line? Hurley has a philosophy about that, too. "The issue becomes the blurring of the line between news and entertainment. But my thought on that is that we're really not cutting any new ground, because that was probably done 15 years ago. Look at national or cable news. I was interviewed from someone from Fox News, she didn't have any journalistic background … People can leave whatever career they've got and learn this business. I've trained a Miss Texas, and got one working here now. I've got a Miss Houston working here."
If you accept Hurley's argument, there's still some bad news, however. And that's the fact that it sounds like the reality show that was the impetus behind this whole project is going to be dreadful. Hurley laid down two ground rules: (1) that his staff wouldn't read any scripts and they would go about their daily business, and (2) that Lauren Jones would, you know, have to work.
And that's not gonna fly on a reality show.
See, Reality TV is about the trainwreck about to happen. Reality TV is about the moral superiority viewers feel by watching other people made a fool of on national television – no matter how bad your dating life is, it's not happening in front of 4 million people, you know? Reality TV is about the most extreme personalities exploding at one another – the louder the fights, the more tears shed, the more compelling the TV.
But if Hurley is right, then this show isn't going to be any of that. In my conversation with him, he said, "A lot of people thought the show would be just about how she screwed it up, but the show developed itself."
"It's a comedy. We knew that. It's a new genre, comedy/reality. There's gonna be some funny stuff in there. But the people behind the show are all ex-newsman. [Former PBS documentarian and "Breaking Bonaduce" director (Hmmm)] Mark Jacobs came down and sat with us and said 'we're not gonna put your station or your news department in a situation where they would be embarrassed.' And that's a commitment that they made day in and day out. Every day, we were involved in what was going on and we learned on day that all you have to say is 'no' and they wouldn't do it. We had a lot of control in the show. I can probably count on two hands the times where I had to say 'no. we don't do that.'"
So the show will either be what Phil Hurley believes it is going to be – and be slightly underwhelming television. Or he'll be wrong and the show will be cut/edited/spliced to make every watercooler disagreement a cat fight.