Back in the 60’s, my Grandma Morrissey (born 1899) was, unlike most women of her generation, a night-owl. Raised on a family farm, Grandma went to the State Normal School in Oshkosh and got a teaching degree, and for years she taught elementary school before meeting Grandpa and starting a family. She was amazingly “with it” in her later years; knew all about the arguments for and against that Indo-Chinese war; thought the shootings at Kent State were a national tragedy; and Grandma could discuss current events with the best of them.
As a night-owl, Grandma loved to watch The Tonight Show, and she was a huge fan of Johnny Carson. After Grandpa passed away in ’68, I made it a point to spend some time with Grandma every week. One time, while watching The Tonight Show with her (back in those days, it was Johnny with Ed McMahon and trumpeter Doc Severinson and the “NBC Orchestra”), Grandma asked me if I would take her on a ride to see where Johnny did his show. I learned at that time that Grandma believed ALL television originated from the white cinder-block building under the big tower at the edge of town: WOSH-TV, Channel 41. I gently reminded her what Ed McMahon said at the beginning of each show: “From New York (that’s where the show originated back then), it’s the Tonight Show, starring Johnny Carson….”.
Grandma, who literally grew up in the horse-and-buggy days, as hip as she was, just couldn’t wrap her head around the concept of network television. To her, all TV came from that tower on the north edge of Oshkosh, and the long-since-defunct WOSH-TV Channel 41. Never mind that every half-hour they reminded her that she was actually watching The Tonight Show on WFRV-TV, Channel 5, Green Bay.
What prompted this rant, and the extended introduction featuring my late Grandma, is the recent change in one of the local TV news operations. Fox 47 in Madison for years carried a newscast at 9PM produced by the news staff at Channel 27 in Madison. A few days ago, Fox 47 made a different deal, and now their 9 PM news is produced by the news staff of Channel 3 in Madison. Most folks with any media savvy understand this arrangement. Fox 47 gets a “news” image by simply hiring someone else to do it. But apparently, here in the 12th year of the 21st Century, there are a LOT of people who simply cannot understand this.
When Channel3000 (the internet arm of Channel 3 in Madison) posted a story about how the folks at Channel 3 were now doing the news at 9 PM for Fox 47, the stupid, hateful comments popped up online immediately. Channel 3 was in bed with Fox News???? How COULD you?? Why do you HATE AMERICA now??? So, what’s Bill O’Reilly really like? This is the sort of comments that were posted.
Those of us who’ve worked a lifetime in “media” find this both amusing and puzzling, that people seem to have so little understanding of these things. A few years ago, I tried to explain to a friend who’s a fairly high-profile person in the lefty community of Madison that Fox 47 was owned by Sinclair Broadcasting, NOT Fox News. His eyes glazed over after about 20 seconds, and I knew he wasn’t following. I didn’t even get into the part about how Fox News is different from the Fox TV Network, knowing that there was no chance I could explain how networks operate through a series of local affiliates.
Perhaps Grandma’s theory - that all television programming comes from a small cinder-block building on the north edge of Oshkosh – is still alive and well in 2012, with small variations and plenty of apparent adherents.