Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Charles Owens

October 2, 2013

Signs of life can be found in the vast wasteland known as cable television

— — Those of us in the newspaper business live a pretty hectic and demanding life. In fact a day at work can often become a marathon session when breaking news occurs. It’s just the nature of the industry and something that we actually get excited about. Because in our line of work a busy news day is almost always better than a slow news day.

But there are still slow news day, and those rare occasions when I might actually leave the office and go home bored. When this happens, I will normally resist the temptation to aimlessly spend hours upon hours on Facebook or Twitter, or even the Playstation 3 for that matter. Now that the evenings are getting darker much earlier, I instead attempt to tackle a much larger frontier — those 150 plus channels I’m paying a small fortune for each month courtesy of the local cable company. And some of those channels are actually in high definition, but most of them unfortunately aren’t.

I normally start with CNN or Fox News — both of which are not in high definition, and perhaps that is for the best. As an independent minded voter and a journalist who is expected to be fair and impartial in his reporting, I like to watch a little bit of both so that I can be fully educated about the arguments being made on both the left and the right. Of course both of the cable news networks can be downright annoying at times as they try to force their liberal and conservative viewpoints upon unsuspecting viewers. Whatever happened to just reporting the news? And by the time Bill O’Reilly and Anderson Cooper roll around, it is normally time for me to turn the channel. The truth of the matter is I don’t particularly care for either of these two men.

So when I start flipping through the many channels I normally stumble upon at least one doomsday special or a show about the predictions of Nostradamus, a reputed seer who died in 1566. These always entertaining specials come to us from our good friends at the History Channel, who nowadays seem more interested in the future than the past. Go figure.

As these shows try to predict the future, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen the same so-called experts on the History Channel talking about climate change, and how the seasons are now blending together. In addition to apparently predicting the rise of the Third Reich and Adolph Hitler (or “Hisler” as Nostradamus supposedly called him), it seems he also foresaw so many years ago the looming global warming disaster that scientists and politicians are now warning us about, or so the story goes according to the History Channel. And maybe the History Channel is right on this issue. The seasons are indeed starting to blend together. And you won’t find a better example of this than at local department stores. Walk into just about any store right now and you will see Halloween decorates in one aisle and Christmas decorations in the next. Santa Claus standing right next to a giant witch. It is truly a strange paradox, and a sign of the seasons being out of whack. At this rate we can probably expect to see the Easter Bunny in local stores before Thanksgiving.

 Most of the doomsday specials in question are repeats. In fact, I think that particular series was canceled after the whole Mayan calendar thing proved to be a dud last year. Just like the once dreaded Y2K glitch from more than 13 years ago failed to materialize. In fact, I bet the old Atari 600xL computer would still work if I fired it up today.

So I turn the channel again. But all hope is not lost in the vast wasteland known as cable television. That’s because on any given night you can normally find a football game on the tube — and those are normally in high definition. That’s a good thing. Most of the college games are on ESPN while the majority of the big NFL games are found on the networks. And a good football game will beat CNN, Fox News and the History Channel on any given day of the week.

Before moving into the country with the deer and the raccoons, I lived in the city and had what is commonly referred to as the “poor man’s” cable package. It was just the basic networks, CSPAN and the QVC network. And of course most men just love the QVC network. So I have basically gone from no channels to more channels than I have time to watch. And many that I have no real desire to watch. A dozen or so more of those channels are nothing but music.

The point of this column you might ask? After flipping through countless channels and finding nothing worth watching, sometimes it’s better just to pick up the morning newspaper, and finish reading those stories you may have missed earlier in the day. I do it all the time.

Charles Owens is the Daily Telegraph’s assistant managing editor. Contact him at cowens@bdtonline.com. Follow him @BDTOwens.

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