Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Midwest Ethos

Having lived and worked in the midwest, the west, and the south, it's sometimes difficult for me to understand those back-easters. Unlike many of my midwestern acquaintances, I adapted to the pace of life in New Orleans quickly. What's the rush? They thought us northerners were always talking too fast and in too much of a hurry.
And there were the L-A years - laid back is not a cliche, but a descriptor. It's true. I fit right in. They did business at the speed of light and did life at the speed of baseball. Midwesterners take some things for granted, like snow in winter. My morning started with Dunkin' Donuts Dark Roast and The Today Show, where they sent one of the anchorettes to do a live-shot in Central Park, to lend credibility to the weatherman's assertion that it was snowing in Noo Yawk. She craftily gestured on-camera with a panoramic arm-swoosh to help illustrate that flakes of snow were actually falling, and that the city was bracing for TWO INCHES of accumulation which would most certainly make for a challenging day. The local weather mavens in Madison, often the target of my snarkiness, would use that snowfall amount in a sentence such as "an Alberta clipper is going to pass through today, but it's not going to be that big a deal and won't amount to much...just a couple inches of snow".
Then, I had a Facebook exchange with a friend who co-anchored a morning radio show with me back in the mid-90's in Madison, who's now a star co-anchor of a very high-rated St. Louis morning radio show. She groused about the Missouri drivers on the freeway at 4 AM on her way to work, slipping and sliding everywhere on the six inches of snow they got overnight and early this morning, and how they didn't know jack about driving in snow. She was raised in the Chicago suburbs and knows a thing or two about driving in snow.
I may need to put in a sub-category here of "UPPER-midwesterners", to deal with this snow-driving thing. But I digress.
I can't decide if Washington DC is a "southern" city or an "eastern" city. We midwesterners think the east-coasters are wound a bit too tightly, and that southerners are a bit too unravelled. So it was with some surprise that I heard on the news last night that congress might actually push back that "deadline" for the digital conversion of television signals. I suppose congress is somewhat of a melting pot for all geographical appelations, but I would have bet money they wouldn't move the deadline. See what happens if you file your taxes on April 16th. I've already ranted on this blog about what "deadline" means to people in the news profession.
The item on the local TV news last night about the Senate approving the delay was followed by a scripted remark (God forbid the anchorette would go off-script!!!!) that THIS station, like the others in Madison, were already prepared for the digital conversion, and that THIS station was going ahead with the plan to shut off the analog broadcast on the 17th of next month. I interpret that as a "midwest" thing. We understand what deadlines are, and we meet them. Not that those in other parts of the country don't; it's just the "midwest work ethic" thing that we don't view a deadline as an arbitrary date or time which can be negotiated. Without going too deeply into the technical side of things, it costs money (electricity) to run transmitters, and if you're running two, it's more expensive than running one.
If the broadcasters lobby was as strong as the bankers lobby, my friends who own TV stations would be awash in bailout money.


  1. Washington D.C. is a southern city with Northeastern pretensions. (Washington calls itself "the most important city in the world." New Yorkers call D.C. "the most self-important city in the world.")

    D.C. is south of the Mason-Dixon Line - which is synonymous with the southern boundary of Pennsylvania. Of course that would make Cape May, New Jersey a southern city, too.

    The test - and this is no joke - is whether, when you go into a diner or roadside pancake joint - they routinely put grits on the table with the salt and pepper. If the grits are there, you're in a southern city.