Sally Thorner's return is not necessarily the news

January 04, 1994|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,Television Critic

The Loch Ness Monster, Loni Anderson's finances, snow-scared consumers stocking up on milk, and a story about a guy getting his nose bitten off in a bar fight in Denver.

WJZ (Channel 13) management said its new "Eyewitness News at Five" with Sally Thorner wasn't going to be a hard news show.

It was a curious mix of Thorner perkiness, semi-weird tabloid stories, weather, sports, "live" remotes from an editing booth in the WJZ newsroom and a jarringly uneven pace.

Let's just say it was not a great launch.

It's hard to say which was the lower low last night. Maybe it was when Thorner and John Buren talked live on the telephone with a guy in Scotland about the Loch Ness monster. Or, maybe when Buren delayed his sports report to search the floor for a button that fell off his coat.

The call to Loch Ness resulted in a Scot named Adrian Shine telling Baltimore viewers that he thought Nessie was either a "swimming deer" or "a big sturgeon." And what a classy trans-Atlantic goodbye to Mr. Shine from Buren: "Well, we're up against the clock here, pal. We've got to go." Not so up against the clock,though, that you can't look for the button, John.

There was a tension tearing through the broadcast from the opening minutes. Producers opened with Ron Matz "live" outside a Giant reporting on the run on groceries created by local weathercasts predicting snow.

But a few minutes later, weatherman Bob Turk said he didn't think there would be a big snow storm last night. If that's what Turk believed, then good for him that he didn't hype the weather. But, why was he later telling viewers how to use fertilizer to de-ice sidewalks if salt isn't available?

Or, maybe, it was me who was confused by all the Loni and Nessie stories. Maybe Turk was saying that you could use fertilizer to stop the bleeding if you got your nose bitten off in a bar fight.

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