Working for the Orlando Sentinel has got to suck. They put out an entire newspaper, like, every day.
Unless they are old and fat, thus rendered incapable of performing office gopher duties for Hal Boedeker, Sentinel scribes can expect hours of redundant, frowny-face work. Unless they happen to be Scott Maxwell.
The spry 30 year-old brings us the thrice-weekly "Taking Names" feature, a half-page gem found just inside the Local & State section. It's not exactly all the news that's fit to print, but it is my new favorite part of the Sentinel.
Here you'll find gossip on the Orlando Magic, the lighter side of county government and that elusive umpteenth angle on the LYNX "controversy;" that is, the one that Jim Stratton, Mike Thomas and even Jake Vest haven't already beaten into the ground.
A veritable boldface bloodbath, no local public figure is spared. What does lame-duck county commissioner Clarence Hoenstine's license tag say? What CD was Bill McBride listening to in his car? How many pounds did UCF president John Hitt lose? Scott Maxwell, you so crazy!
And he's not burdened by picky details, either. In an A-section story last year, he called me Daniel Plotkin before misquoting me, despite exchanging several e-mails beforehand. Taking names, indeed.
His giddy delivery and outside scoops remind me of a certain gossip columnist from the satirical newspaper The Onion. Maxwell's photo even looks a little like Jackie Harvey's, with his neatly-combed hair and the pensive gaze into the reader's eyes. If only Maxwell were wearing a sweater.
As Harvey would say, "Item!"
A better Boedeker?
Speaking of Hal Boedeker, the absurdly prolific Sentinel TV critic dropped the ball in his Nov. 9 assessment of recent investigative reports by the Big Three ("There's a trend in local TV to dig deeper for the news."). Boedeker gives a few inches to WESH Channel 2's plans for increased consumer coverage and, of course, WKMG Channel 6's LYNX investigation. But he focused mainly on the legality of WFTV Channel 9's use of hidden-camera footage and audio for their "Party Pilots" series about airline pilots who drink before flights. But Hal, what about challenging the relevance of the series?
Channel 9's material was certainly compelling. One uniformed pilot was noted telling fellow drinkers in an I-Drive bar, "Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking." In light of several national drunk-pilot incidents, the reports tap into a topical subject. But WFTV never tells now-terrified passengers how to do anything about it.
We're expected to passively tune in each night as the very serious Bob Opsahl and Marla Weech report on what we should fear in the morning. Should we quiz our pilots before takeoff? Maybe carry an on-board Breathalyzer? Forget learning about possible solutions. Instead, we get to vote on the Channel 9 website (www.wftv.com), logging our disapproval of a .04 legal blood-alcohol level for pilots.
In light of how brilliantly Michael Moore's red-hot "Bowling for Columbine" illustrates the American media's obsession with fear, local television critics would do well to highlight examples in their own areas. Boedeker had a great opportunity to skewer a routine sweeps stunt. From deadly sewage to the perennial "dirty grocery stores" exposé, WFTV is letting us down, and Boedeker should have called them on it.
WKMG is already a lost cause. As Boedeker notes, they've erected ominous black billboards to tease motorists about the eminent crises to be revealed each night. And WESH consumer reporter Michelle Meredith has kept things tame at 2, with reports on restaurant tipping and inexpensive shoes. So why let the big dog off easy?
WKMG: 'Weekly is our paper'
Guess there are no hard feelings over at WKMG Channel 6. A Nov. 8 morning news brief mentioned that Eminem's "8 Mile" received "three and a half stars in our paper here." The anchor couldn't have meant the Sentinel; they only gave it three stars (and don't give half-stars anyway). I'm thrilled to know Orlando Weekly is being read around the Local 6 newsroom. And by the way, Jacqueline London, I'm free next week, if you're still interested.