Released American Hikers Return from Iran

Of course, this requires long pauses and furrowed brows from TV news journalists

Sometimes it really is impossible for me to believe how deeply stupid national TV news can be. Last night I watched ABC News with David Muir, who seems to have come upon us suddenly, handsomely. Like many other anchors, he has a substantial and impressive history as a journalist. But now that he’s an anchor, he’s like the rest of them: polished, inoffensive, probably very pleasant-smelling. It must come in a bottle, that elegance. It makes me want to mess up his hair and slap him around.

I’m sure he doesn’t want to have a stupid newscast, but he does. It’s the correspondents, really. Jim Sciutto seems to be going for that see-saw melodicism that anchors also get in a bottle—like Chloraseptic throat spray—but his voice is too infused with edge. There’s no need to rough him up; it seems he might have just come from a bar and a shot and a bad round of darts.

He reminds me of local correspondents in Philly, like Dann Cuellar, who’s also very much invested in gravitas in situations when gravitas is not required. Poor Cuellar will require Botox from all that furrowing. Sciutto may also, but the difference is that Sciutto is actually in foreign locales, rather than, say, Mayfair.

The thing that gets me about Sciutto is that, no matter how big the story is, it always seems to be about him, too. The thought bubbles above his head would say: “You see how serious I am? You see how I got this story? You know how hard it was?” And I am sympathetic. I’m sure it’s a tough job. I’ve seen him in a lot of unflattering flak jackets, for one.

Last night I think he must have been stoned. That’s the only explanation. In reporting on the arrival on American soil of Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer, he did his typical baritone recitation of facts we already know but must hear again, Law and Order-style, so that they’re burned into our memory for small talk in the office the next day. Fattal, in his first press conference, talked about the screams they heard from other prisoners, about hunger strikes, being beaten, about the pain of solitary confinement. Now, it’s no Ariel Dorfman play, but they clearly had a rough time of it and there was some collective relief at having them home. Whether that’s indulgent jingoism or hypocritical could be the subject of an interesting report, but Sciutto was just charged with reporting the facts, which is just fine.

Then he got to the end of his report, and his final words were (I’m paraphrasing): “Bauer and Shourd got engaged in prison, David, but so far, there’s no date.” And then a pause, as if there were meaning in that fact.

Hey, Jim, this isn’t William and Kate. This isn’t Brad and Angelina or Jen and Justin. Who the hell cares if there’s “a date”? Sciutto intoned those lines in his “I’m a Serious, Grown-Up Reporter Guy” voice, looking solemn—no, concerned—as he did so. He actually seemed to believe that their first priority would be to tell People magazine when the wedding would be, and which designer she’d picked for the dress. I hope when and if they do get married—perhaps after they deal with the trauma of BEING IMPRISONED IN IRAN—they feel free to keep it to themselves.

That was it for me. I had to turn off the TV. Why does it seem to me TV news used to be smarter? I trusted Peter Jennings to give it to me straight, but perhaps I was stupider then. I’m not sure. I just know I won’t be watching for a long time. Unless Shourd and Bauer do get married—and they pick Jim Sciutto as the flower girl. That would be worth watching.