Posted by Marian on March 24, 2002

In Reply to: News posted by ESC on March 23, 2002

: : : : : I first encountered it in 1990. It seems ridiculous to me too (even though I'm a US-an). I think the derivation is likely as follows. "Call for" means "require"/"demand", as in "The recipe calls for two eggs" or "The plans call for nine yards of concrete". Now some dummy interpreted "call for" here as "specify", i.e., "The recipe calls for two eggs" = "The recipe specifies two eggs". Then by analogy if the forecast specifies two inches of snow it is reasonable to say "The forecast calls for two inches of snow" ... at least it seemed reasonable to the dummy. Then, given numerous dummies of sufficient dumbness, it's a short step to "The weatherman calls for two inches of snow". But maybe I'm being too pessimistic about the current state of US-an (or human) literacy and intelligence.

: : : : I think you may be right - it's very plausible. Like you, no matter how cynical I become about the current state of all matters linguistic and grammatical, regardless of territory or nation state, I cannot convince myself that I am anything other than a realist.

: : : A speculation: The path from "The forecast calls for . . ." to "The weatherman calls for . . .," spoken by news announcers, was greased by
: : : the idea that personalizing the news adds appeal. The on-camera staff present themselves to the audience as a cozy little group. Consistent with this image, an anchor guy or anchor lady will say "Now let's find out whether our own Harry Hailstone calls for rain this weekend," not "Now let's find out whether the maps and computer projections that came over the wire from the National Weather Service call for rain this weekend." (A few days ago I suggested that the interviewer who wished good luck to both sides was operating from a social, not an intellectual, orientation. I'm saying something similar here.)

: : : There's also the idea of calling a storm in the sense of predicting one. "Harry Hailstone called these showers yesterday and scooped the competition." Maybe that acts as a contaminant.

: : This discussion calls for an answer to the question: when did television "journalism" die? It's difficult to pinpoint, since it never was much of a shining example of the art. Early (1948-1955 or so) tv news routinely featured sponsor signage on the front of the readers' desks, and in the title of the program, e.g., The Camel Caravan of News. It cleaned up its act for a while, assuming a kind of dignity, and making money by the carload for stations. The utter sameness of news from market to market could be explained by the Dark Sciences of rating manipulation. Research companies (including one particularly influential on in Des Moines, Iowa) swept from city to city in the '60s, optimizing the team. Every town wound up with a News Fox, a Hairspray Harry, an Affable Weatherperson, and a Wisecracking Jock, all blended for ethinic diversity, perfect teeth, and well-scripted ad lib segues, "speaking of tragedies, didn't those Wolves take it on the chin...."
: : But it's a new Millennium, and tv "journalism" has reached an insidious new low, at least in America: the networks are all owned by megacorporations that insert "news" about their properties into the scripts of the day's events. No bad news about Disney is heard on ABC, or about GE on NBC, or about Rupert Murdoch's empire on Fox. So I just stopped watching them.

: I tell my amazed younger coworkers that there used to be 30 minutes of evening news -- 15 minutes of local and 15 minutes of national. And that was aplenty.

I believe that the "happy talk" concept, involving television news anchors bantering back and forth in between bits of news, was generated by a consulting firm out of Cedar Rapids, Iowa called Frank Magid & Associates in the 1970s. I can't say why it became so ubiquitious, let alone why it gained a foothold in the braodcast news business, but it probably had something to do with studies that indicated how short televesion viewers' attention spans were. That, coupled with the fact that television stations could actually stem some of the financial bleeding that their news departments traditionally caused, by replacing costly in-depth reporting with lighter, shorter pieces and more of this banter, must have seemed like a no-brainer to station owners. Fewer and fewer of whom, I might add, have any special love for actual journalism.