Keeping abreast of the news


(This classic Dave Barry column was originally published Jan. 25, 1998.)

Recently, one of our local TV news shows in Miami did a special investigative report on -- I swear -- brassiere sizes. The station promoted this report relentlessly for several days. Every few minutes, you would hear an announcer's voice saying, with an urgency appropriate for imminent nuclear attack: ''ARE YOU WEARING THE WRONG BRA SIZE?'' You would have thought that women were dropping dead in the street by the thousands as a result of improperly sized brassieres. I was becoming genuinely concerned about this problem, despite the fact that, except on very special occasions involving schnapps, I don't even ''wear'' a brassiere.

Unfortunately, although I saw dozens of promotions for this special investigative report, I never saw the report itself. I assumed that the message would be: ''Wear the right size brassiere!'' My editor, Tom Shroder, who has a keen interest in the issues, did watch the report, and he told me that it explored the troubling question of ``women wearing brassieres that were tragically about 10 sizes too small for their breasts, which left said breasts with no other choice but to spill, tragically, out of the brassiere cups into the camera lens.''

But my point here is not directly related to brassieres, although it is a lot of fun to use the word ''brassiere'' in a newspaper column, brassiere brassiere brassiere.

My point is that, pound for pound, the most dramatic and entertaining programming on television is your local TV news shows. Their only serious competition is the cable channel that, 24 hours a day, features the TV Evangelists With Hairdos The Size Of Adult Yaks.

If you don't receive the Big-Haired Evangelists channel, you need to march right down to your cable company and throw rocks through the windows until you get it, because these people are way more entertaining than any space alien you will ever see on ``Star Trek.''

My favorite is a woman with a gigantic mound of hair colored exactly the same designer shade as Bazooka brand bubble gum. Perhaps this fact explains why, almost every time I tune in, this woman is weeping. Her tear ducts must be as big as volleyballs. Using the standard evangelical measurement of Gallons of Weepage Per Broadcast (GWPB), this woman could very well be threatening the seemingly unbreakable records set back in the glorious '80s by Hall-of-Famer Tammy Faye Bakker. I would pay serious money to see a Weep-Off between these two great performers.

But as entertaining as these shows are, their message tends to be somewhat repetitive (''God loves you! So send us money!''). Whereas on your local TV news shows, they're always surprising you with dramatic new issues that you should be nervous about. Often these involve ordinary consumer items that, when subjected to the scrutiny of a TV news investigative report, mutate into deadly hazards. (John R. Gambling, of radio station WOR in New York, has a wonderful collection of promotions for these TV news reports, including one wherein the announcer says: ``TONIGHT AT 6: YOUR DRY CLEANING CAN KILL YOU!!'')

A while back, one of our Miami TV news shows -- I think it was different from the one that warned us about improperly fitted brassieres brassieres brassieres -- did a dramatic, heavily promoted investigative report on: frozen yogurt. This report, which seemed at least as long as ''Alien Resurrection,'' but scarier, investigated the possibility of deadly bacteria in our frozen-yogurt supply. If I understood the report correctly, there have never been any cases of any actual person actually being harmed by local frozen yogurt, but that seemed like a minor technicality. The point was: IT COULD HAPPEN! THE YOGURT OF DEATH!!

The way I have dealt with this menace is by taking the medical precaution of never eating frozen yogurt without first putting large quantities of chocolate fudge on it, on the scientific theory that the bacteria will eat the fudge and become too fat to do anything inside my body except sit around and belch. But I would not know to do this if it were not for local TV news.

I also would not know how I am supposed to feel about many stories if not for the fact that the TV news personalities make sad faces for sad stories and happy faces for happy stories. Sometimes, to make sure I understand the point, they come right out and tell me, at the end of each story, whether it was ''tragic'' or ``nice.''

FIRST PERSONALITY: What a tragic story, Bob.

SECOND PERSONALITY: Uh ... no, it wasn't.


SECOND PERSONALITY: No. That was the story about dogs playing mah-jongg.

FIRST PERSONALITY: Whoops! I had it confused with the story about the plane crashing into the orphanage! Ha ha!

SECOND PERSONALITY: Ha ha! Coming up, we'll have part four of our special investigative report: ``Formica: Silent Killer In Your Kitchen.''

Well, I see we've run out of time, so that's all for this week's column.

Remember to be nervous about everything. And now for these words: brassiere brassiere brassiere.

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