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CNN IN STORES SHOULD TAKE TIP FROM TABLOIDS

I'm one of those people who can drop 20 bucks or so at the grocery checkout line without moving my feet.

After a trip through Tabloid Alley, my inquiring mind wants to know who went all the way with Sissy Spacek. It always turns out to be a cabdriver who drove her a block past her house.Now it seems the Turner Broadcasting System is going to save me from all this. It's still experimental, but television screens are being mounted over a number of checkout lanes in grocery stores so people can watch CNN's Wolf Blitzer and Peter Arnett give us the news.

The battle over the minds of supermarket shoppers is not going to be easy. Shoppers must ask themselves the question, "Do I care more about news from the Pentagon than Roseanne Arnold having her tubes untied so she can become pregnant?"

(As an aside, do you ever wonder why so many stories surface from one star? Soon I expect to see a hotline where you dial a star's name, press 1010 and stay on the line if you want news regarding her fertility.)

It's the old argument. People always ask for classier TV programming. But just try pitting David Attenborough talking about the giant anthills of the Serengeti against "The Love Connection," and guess which one the Nielsen families are going to watch.

Frankly, I don't think it's enough for Bernard Shaw to report that Secretary of State James Baker is in Israel. Unless he can tell shoppers that Elvis has been spotted in a Price Club in Elkhart, Ind., he can save his breath.

The entire theory behind the success of tabloid journalism is that wildly beautiful, successful, well-paid people can mess up or fall on bad times just like everyone else. Don't ask me why, but there is comfort in this.

To make the Supermarket Checkout Channel work, CNN is going to have to tailor its news to the listeners. Don't tell them heavy rains are forcing fruit and vegetable prices up. Show them Joan Collins looking seedy, pale and sickly saying, "I bought an orange and I'm broke!"

We already know that Mario Cuomo isn't running for president. Try to find out if he's being held captive in New York by space aliens.

With colorization - even better.