In other cities and towns across the country, the populace has local celebrities, hometown heroes, and iconic figures.  When I lived in Plattsburgh , NY , 3 hours north of Albany and so isolated from the outside world that news of the D.C. snipers’ arrests was sidelined by the newspaper headlines of the opening of a new grocery store, our local celebrity was the weather man, Tom Messner.  Known as “Guy Smiley” for his perma-grin, he was the most recognized face of local events. 

Turns out Philadephia isn’t such a cosmopolitan city after all, as the citizens develop fierce loyalties to their preference of local morning news programs and the anchors that are the iconic faces thereof.  Long before they make the choice between The Today Show, and GMA, they devotedly turn on ABC at 5am for their own local celebrities.  Our news reporters are the face of Philadelphia .  We don’t consult US Weeky or TMZ to see them in action, but the gossip still flies – who is having illegitimate children with whose trainers, who is behaving badly in public, and who will be appearing at which local venues for photo opportunities.   

One of the more revered personalities is weatherman David Murphy, of Action News fame.  He regularly gives forecasts from a makeshift shack along a major roadway.  Cars regularly slow down at the nearby intersection – red light or not – hoping to catch a glimpse of the man in person.  They ran a story about a six year old who dressed at David Murphy for Halloween.  The local affiliate was so jazzed they sent him a full complement of swag, including an oversized ABC umbrella that threatened to catch wind and hoist the youngster directly into the traffic helicopter’s flight path.  And they broadcast the whole spectacle.   

Action News, as our ABC affiliate has dubbed their news programming, is vastly superior to the alternative on NBC.  The NBC folks, while still maintaining the requisite diversity of ethnicity and gender at the news desk, manage to broadcast consistently awkward programming every day. Their anchors have zero chemistry, and could not ad-lib to kill on-air time if their lives depended on it.  They air a “light” segment in the last 2 minutes, which I often catch as I change channels in preparation for my 20 minute mind-numbing daily dose of The Today Show.  You know the type of story – the middle school football player who pulled the prank play, the cat with two legs who uses a wheelchair, the decoration of the Rocky statue for Halloween with an orange-and-black jock strap, the 18 month old parakeet who called 911 to rescue his Mawmaw from a diabetic coma.  They cut back to the desk after this segment airs, and it’s just dead.  “Well, I hope my cat never has to dial 911. Heh heh.”  “Do you think you could tuck that football under your boobie and pull that play?”  “Umm, I hope the fire crew responds quicker next time I set my grill on fire.”  And then dead air and grimaces till the credits roll. 

Still, for all Action News’ superior segues and banter, there is one segment that has me leaping out of my semi-dozing state to berate the TV.

David Murphy, meterologist extraordinaire, hosts a segment on “how to dress your kids”.  It’s not enough to show a pretty colored map of precipitation, or a chart of high and low temps for the week.  Parents are apparently still too dumb to know that 50 degrees in the morning means the kid needs a jacket, but probably won’t wear it anyway.  They seem to need explicit instructions to send an umbrella if there is a 90% chance of rain, or to put the kid in shorts on an 80 degree day.  For this witless weather feature, the viewers are treated to a pixelated graphic whose quality was clearly lifted from “South Park”.  They are two children, of course, waiting at a bus stop, with the appropriate clothing.  Why are there two?  Not to show a boy and a girl, or racial/ethnic diversity, but to show your morning (aka “bus stop”) outfit, and your afternoon (aka “ride home”) outfit. 

Of course, in the winter and summer, both pixel-kids are pretty much the same .  Cold morning, cold afternoon.  Hot by 7:30am, still hot at 4:00pm, no earth-shattering surprise.  Transitional seasons are a little trickier.  Sometimes the graphic has donned a jacket for the morning, to ward off the chill, and has lost it by the afternoon.  Parents can hope it’s stuffed in the backpack, and not crammed into a locker along with 4 other hoodies the kid wore to school that week. 

The graphics that make me sit up and yell, though, are the ones where the pixel-kid is wearing pants in the morning (maybe it’s 58 degrees), and shorts in the afternoon (for those balmy September days).  IS HE CHANGING AT SCHOOL?  (Yes, I scream this at the TV.)  I find it hard to believe that Action News expects parents to purchase zip-off Patagonia Trek pants for their kids during the fall and spring seasons.  Unless…did some major trail gear manufacturer purchase our local ABC affiliate?  Is vertical integration worming its way into news programming.  Gone will be the days of the impartial news media.  Our wardrobe, like our minds, will be controlled by local news media.  Only the blogosphere will be sacred.  The blogosphere, where you can still turn for unsponsored accounts and menial ramblings.  While I may grumble and groan about Uggs or ponchos, at least you won’t see me pushing brand-name sweater dresses and mandating your work wardrobe.  You’ll have to dress yourself, folks.  And no, I don’t do weather.  Open your front door and feel for yourself.  Take some responsibility for your outerwear.