Thursday, April 16, 2009

Reporting the Good News

If you had asked me a day or two ago what the subject of my inaugural blog here on would be, I couldn't have imagined it would be a 47 year old Scottish woman on a British reality TV show singing a song from a French stage musical. It just doesn't make sense: I'm not British, I don't watch reality shows, I'm not particularly big on stage musicals, and singing competitions usually annoy me to no end. But more on all that later.

I get the feeling that the typical TV news viewer, whether he or she lives in New York, Los Angeles, Dallas, or Abilene, Texas, thinks their TV stations enjoy reporting the bad news in their respective communities. And I understand why. Murders, car crashes, fires, philandering politicians, and the like fill up large portions of newscasts from coast to coast every night.

I started my job as the 10 pm news producer for KTAB-TV in mid-January, and have already seen more grassfires than I care to count. And then I think about the house fires, the murder trials, the tragic hit-and-run, and the tone-deaf former priest twice convicted of molestation. Then I consider the level of political discourse across the country, which at times has been downright scary (including people yelling "secede!" at Governor Perry yesterday?! Please think before you speak. No one wants to even think about going down that road).

And sometimes, the most unlikely thing catches your eye.

When producing a newscast, we try to end each show with a light-hearted or funny story. We in the business call these kinds of stories 'kickers'. Sometimes we can't get to them; breaking news happens, the show ends up running too long, etc. But on Wednesday, it was clear that our newscast had to include Susan Boyle.

Those unfamiliar with Ms. Boyle need only Click Here. Upon first glance... and second glance... and third... the 47-year-old Scotswoman seemed a little, well, off. Just like the typical tone-deaf wannabe reality contestants you've seen a thousand times before. A distant relative, perhaps, of American Idol's William Hung.

And then Susan Boyle began to sing.

I was fortunate enough to travel through parts of Europe the summer after my junior year of high school. While in London, I took in a performance of Les Misérables. What can I say? My girlfriend at the time, who was also on the trip, was a theater buff. The only thing I remember from the play was the announcement beforehand that an understudy would play Jean Valjean that night. I'm impressed I still remember that.

Hearing Susan Boyle sing made me sorry I'd forgotten the song 'I Dreamed A Dream' from that play. It's moving, it's beautiful, but it's an incredibly tragic song. And up until that moment in her life, Susan had been a most tragic character herself: 47, unmarried, mocked in school, learning disability, unemployed, never even been kissed. But by the time she had sang the first eight words of the song, her life as she knew it had already changed... by the time she sang the song's last line ("Now life has killed the dream I dreamed"), her life's dream was about to be realized.

Watch the clip from beginning to end. Even the most hard-hearted (I include myself in this category) will forget the producers' attempts to make her look like a crazy cat lady and see her as the woman who melted the hearts of a cynical audience (not to mention Simon Cowell!). Eat your hearts out, American Idols!

She's now the overwhelming favorite to win Britain's Got Talent, which would allow her to sing for the Queen of England. The YouTube clip you've just watched has existed less than a week, yet has already received millions upon millions of hits. Even the song itself, 'I Dreamed a Dream,' has gained (or regained) popularity; it currently sits at #43 in the iTunes top 100. Think that's happening without Susan?

Times are tough right now. Of course, you don't need any reminder of that... after all, you watch the news. But while we as a nation, and a community, continue to work our way toward more prosperous times, it certainly can't hurt to be a little inspired by Susan Boyle. By Miracle on the Hudson pilot Captain Chesley Sullenberger. By Captain Richard Phillips, who was ready to lay down his life at the hands of ruthless pirates so that his crew could stay safe... on the week before Easter, no less. Hello, symbolism!

Why write about Susan Boyle? Because I want everyone to know that we actually like good news. Because my favorite story in my short time here has been the immediate outpouring of help to a Hamby woman with MS who lost her scooter, her only mode of transportation; from the moment her story hit the airwaves, the calls started coming, offering replacements. That gave me a small taste of the awesome power and responsibility we have here in the newsroom. Because when good news happens, we want to be there to report it.

So when we do report the bad news, try not to let it beat you down. Even if it sometimes seems we're trying to do exactly that.

P.S. On a personal note, I'd like to express my sincere gratitude to my co-workers, as well as the people I've met here in Abilene in my nearly 3 months of living here. Thank you for welcoming me with open arms... and for letting me produce your news.


  1. Mr. Moseley, I find your story to have heart and depth and it speaks of the importance of recognizing the lives of all people. While many are just beginning to know you and recognize your talent, those of us at home realize a true gentleman has left us to make his home in Abilene. I imagine no matter how long you are there, the people of your viewing community will see the world in a different light while you produce the news.

  2. Great blog! Great story... the story about the scooter and so many others like it are why I choose to live in's a small city- but it's a great city!