[Update: corrected NBC to WNBC]
I never watch news on television. Why? This image, I think, sums it up nicely:
NYC-based NBC affiliate WNBC was doing a story on rats in NYC, I think related to a spate of health-code violations that happened over the summer. Up comes the above graphic.
Let’s examine the bullet points in this illuminating slide of “Rat Facts.”
- Not as big as cats.
- OK, so right out of the gate WNBC is insulting me. Hello, people, the “new” in “news” means what you’re telling me shouldn’t be something that everyone in North America over the age of 3 knows.
- Successful mammal.
- Depending on your definition of “successful”, this is either debatable, or self-evident from the fact that Rattus Norvegicus is not extinct. Or maybe they meant that some rats wear fancy wristwatches and drink lattes as they listen to music on their iPhones. But I’ve never seen that.
- 1 for every human?
- Ok. Come closer, WNBC news. No, no, closer… yes. Are you listening? Ok. NO PHRASE THAT ENDS WITH A QUESTION MARK CAN BE A ‘FACT’.
So, rounding up this list of “facts”, we have one which is insulting (minus 10), one which is ambiguous at best (minus 5), and one which is not a fact (minus 100). F-bloody-minus, WNBC.
I have struggled to imagine how this travesty of newscasting occurred. It makes me angry to think of the number of people who were shown that graphic with the expectation that they would just swallow it along with the rest of the stream of garbage that passes for information on TV. A fourth-grader could do better.
Despite this anger, I do try to have some understanding for my fellow humans (who are much bigger than cats, I’ll have you know), so I came up with what I think is the only possible explanation that does not incorporate sinister motives or a blatant and egregious lack of respect for the public. Here goes:
The story was already running on air when the news producer realized that they needed a slide to show. Who knows, maybe they had blocked out a graphic but never filled in the actual information, or they thought they had some video footage to roll and it was missing… but somehow, with 60 seconds to go, the producer screams “oh my god, we need three facts about rats in 30 seconds, people, get me some facts!” Some people pound in google searches, some poeople shout out the most rudimentary things they know about rats, and one person says “I think I heard that there’s like one rat for every human!” And thus was produced the dumbest slide ever.