Jesus has never been my homeboy, but I’ve grown quite fond of Bob Oakes. He is intelligent, cheerful, mature, and real. And soft, like a teddy bear. Cuddly uncle Bob Oakes, travelling to Western Massachusetts in his hybrid car, reporting live from townie bakeries at 6a.m., trying his hardest to pronounce Spanish names without an accent. Uncle Bob Oakes is the coolest. I’m not sure why I’m talking about Bob Oakes (I guess I talk about Bob Oakes any chance I get), because the story that’s on my mind is a bit Robert Siegel read on whale and fish poop. Apparently whale poop helps fertilize the ocean and Robert Siegel said ‘poop’ and ‘feces’ and ‘dung’ and ‘floating poops’ on air like, twenty times. And the researcher contributing to the story described the weeks he spent watching whales poop and tracking their floating dung across the ocean waters. It reminded me of my college years and the radio anchor career I never had.
At four o’clock on Thursday evenings, I’d race from dining hall to campus center, down the escalator and into the radio station, tucked away in its obscurity. From this dungeon a fellow Journalism student and I read the news live at five o’clock, broadcast to the school and surrounding community. But before we could read them, we had to search the newswire for our stories; a couple national, a few more local, a bit on stock market numbers, and one piece of ‘interest,’ or however it was called. We rewrote them on the spot, so they’d be more listener-friendly, rehearsed for a few, then went live. Only 15 minutes, I believe, or maybe a half hour. I pretty much always read the market numbers because I loved the way they’re done on radio – The Dow Jones industrial average rose seven points to twelve thousand, one hundred seventy six point thirty three points, while the S&P500 was up by two points, closing in at two thousand, nine hundred five – so fast and relaxed, with just right intonations and minimal breathing noise, giving the impression I understood and cared about what the fuck I was saying. As long as I sounded like I was reading for NPR, I was happy.
The local news were fun; while we generally had to include the boring university funding bits, we also got a few robberies, trial cases, and domestic violence stories. They seemed real and tough, and called for a somber, dignified tone. Soon after, fluff news would be delivered with intrigue and delight, and chuckles when appropriate. I knew I could do a better job than the NPR chick with a lisp who seemed only able to write yawnful reports on fishing, the ocean, and similar tediousness. Until the evening I found an AP story on exploding German toads. Apparently there were toads or frogs in Germany being born with extra limbs and the tendency to burst. I thought that was an ‘interesting piece’ and decided to include it. Except when my co-anchor and I began rehearsing, we realized neither could read through the piece; especially the part where it mentioned how the frogs were filled with gas. We didn’t have enough time to replace the story, so we went with it. I was to read it. Problem was, because we were trying so hard not to think about it, it was all we thought about. I did just fine on my market numbers piece (no slips, not one!), but as Jess began reading the story right before my piece on the European amphibian crisis, she started chuckling. It was all downhill from there. I think I read it with a serious face for seven seconds, and then cracked up. Hamburg… exploding toads filled with gas… a shower of limbs… pool of death… It was too much. It was awesome. I laughed, nearly cried through the whole thing. Jess had to leave her seat and go laugh in the corner of the room, as I struggled to get the words out, now being squeezed through my vocal cords, and in spite of the tears streaming down my cheeks. I looked through the glass walls and the production chick was mortified; her jaw was to the floor, and she looked ready to kill me. I got in trouble, though I didn’t lose the gig. But I sort of lost my appetite for news anchoring. Serious news, anyway.