Bombshell: news shows fall short
It didn’t surprise me last week when I turned on Nancy Grace and saw they were hashing over the Techel murder case. Seth Techel is accused of the fatal shooting of his wife, Lisa, and their unborn daughter near Agency. I had predicted when he was arrested that it would get Nancy’s attention; normally I relish being right, but there was no glory in it this time.
I’ve been a Nancy Grace follower since she was an analyst on Court TV. I have been intrigued with and disgusted by injustice since I was a young child, and Nancy serves up a healthy portion of that every week night. I’m addicted to the adrenal rush of self-righteous indignation, and Nancy Grace is my primary dealer. Most of the time, I find her antics amusing, and although I do tire of how she berates her panel, I suspect she’s chuckling all the way to the bank.
The first thing that bothered me about the Techel case being featured on Nancy Grace had its roots in old-fashioned jealousy. I’m only slightly ashamed to admit that one of my greatest aspirations in life is to someday appear on Nancy Grace - preferably as part of her panel. In the meantime, I frequently call the show, hoping Nancy will pick up. For more than a year, when Nancy announced that the phone lines were open, I would dial, get a busy signal, hang up, and immediately dial again – over and over for the duration of the show. By the end of every hour, I had Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and I’d missed three quarters of the show. One night, about two years ago, it paid off; I dialed and instead of the familiar busy signal, a woman answered.
“Nancy Grace, what is your question for Nancy tonight?” the voice said, as if reading off a tele-prompter.
Question? I’d faced rejection so often that it had not occurred to me to have a question prepared. I considered asking, “Could I host the show the next time Nancy is on vacation?” but thought better of it. Why squander this hard-earned opportunity? I hurriedly threw out a much less relevant question, and the voice responded.
“Turn your TV to mute, and Nancy will answer calls in the order they were received,” Oz said. Then, click. I was on hold.
I scrambled for the remote and hit the mute button as instructed, which in retrospect was pointless because had Nancy answered just then she wouldn’t have been able to hear anyway because I was screaming at the top of my lungs.
“TURN ON HLN! I’M ABOUT TO MAKE MY DEBUT ON THE NANCY GRACE SHOW!” I shouted.
Zane yelled back from his room, “YOU’RE DUMB!”
I patiently waited as Nancy took a call, changed the subject, took two more calls, changed the subject again, and then took an additional call. My heart was racing and skipping beats, a testament to the pathetic nature of my existence. And then, although I couldn’t hear her, I saw the tell-tale photograph of a fallen American soldier on the screen, Nancy’s signature close to her show each night. I was fighting tears when a recorded voice on the other end of the phone said, “Thank you for calling the Nancy Grace show. We’re sorry, but Nancy ran out of time to take your call. Please try back again.”
Try back again? Over the course of a year, I’d wasted a minimum of 260 hours trying to reach Nancy. Try back again? Are you serious?
My family was unsympathetic.
“I told you you’re dumb,” Zane said.
“What did you expect, dear?” Roger said.
What did I expect? I expected to talk to Nancy. I had things to say, contributions to make. I expected to dumbfound Nancy’s audience with my brilliance, I told him.
“It doesn’t take much to dumbfound Nancy’s audience,” Roger said flatly from behind his newspaper.
(In recent weeks, Roger has taken to shouting, “BOMBSHELL TONIGHT” as a preface to even the most mundane bites of information he wants to share with me. He says this ensures that I’m listening.)
I never called the Nancy Grace show again after my rejection, but I have continued to cling to my dream – however lame – to make a guest appearance someday, even if it be by telephone only. It chafes me that Seth Techel made it on and I didn’t. Had I appeared instead, I feel certain that I would have represented our little corner of the Midwest much more honorably than Mr. Techel did. Now, when Nancy thinks about southeast Iowa, it will be his face she sees, not mine. The horror!
My feelings after Oprah aired her special about Fairfield were similar: I felt misrepresented. It wasn’t that Oprah portrayed Fairfield in a negative light; she didn’t. However, by focusing only on MUM, the domes and meditation, Oprah’s story not only slighted the countless contributions of others, but it also missed the real crux of why Fairfield is such a great place to live and work.
Let’s face it: when 5 o’clock rolls around, not everyone flocks to the domes as Oprah suggested. Fairfield isn’t operating on it’s own time zone, Central Dome Time. When the clock strikes 5 p.m., a much larger fraction of us continue on with our jobs, our families commitments, our own lives. Oprah told the truth but told it slant, as Emily Dickinson would say.
Fairfield’s real story, which Oprah overlooked, is the clash of cultures that happened when the school opened and how that clash, in great part, has been resolved. What we’ve been left with is an amazing town rich in diversity and opportunity, a town where you may be stuck behind a combine in “traffic” on your way to eat Indian cuisine. We’ve become our own little melting pot, something very rare in any midwestern town, let alone a hamlet of this size. This coming together is our collective story.
Within that collective story, there are countless stories to be told about individuals and families in Fairfield and the surrounding communities – stories about survival in the face of adversity, stories of invention and innovation, stories of human compassion and altruism. The primary reason that I’m always thrilled when the opportunity to pinch hit at the Ledger comes up is that I enjoy meeting the people behind the headlines, whether or not the headlines are national ones.
I’ve vowed to make this the summer of my content. I’ve got a pretty healthy list of creative projects, both written and otherwise, that I would like to tackle before I head back to the classroom in August. I’m excited about the opportunity to spend valuable time with family and friends, both old and new. A lifelong learner, I have a list of new skills I’d like to acquire; I’m determined that this will be the summer I finally learn to play my dad’s ukulele. The slower pace of summer provides an opportunity to add a new chapter to my life story. I’d like to think with ten weeks before me, I’ll do something valuable, something to positively reflect my upbringing, my values, my community.
How about you? How would you represent Fairfield if Nancy or Oprah or the Fairfield Ledger ran your story? What have you been up to lately that our readers would find noteworthy? With summer before us, what contributions will you make to our fair field?
I’d like to know, and I’ll be watching. I hope the phone in the newsroom will be ringing. We’re from Fairfield, and we’ve got a story to tell. Let’s make it a great one.
Staci Ann Wilson Wright teaches special education at the Fairfield High School; she is a Ledger summer staff writer.