Terrific storytelling need only drop the ego


Arrogance has its apologists.

Frequently, that's the arrogant themselves.

The rationale goes like this: "It ain't braggin' if ya can back it up." Sure it is.

You can be exceptionally talented and still modest and self-effacing. Skill doesn't necessarily breed swagger. (Often, insecurity does.)

That brings us to "Making Las Vegas A Better Place to Live," the oft-uttered phrase on KTNV-TV, Channel 13 and secondary slogan to "You Ask, We Investigate." More condescending, too. (Individually, would you have the gall to tell someone: "I'm making Las Vegas a better place to live" -- even if it's true?)

Yet sometimes -- despite complaints from this corner over their hammer-to-the-head approach to news and nip-and-tuck/hide-and-seek way with facts -- they can deliver sparkling stuff that nearly justifies the motto, even if it doesn't lessen the unseemly egotism of their promotions.

Kudos must be ladled out to one of the best (two-part) stories of this young year so far, Darcy Spears' latest "HOA Hall of Shame" report. Focusing on homeowner associations harassing homeowners, last week's "Contact 13" investigation lasered in on the soulless board members at the Tara Villas development who, after a simple fee dispute, shut off the water -- for a month -- to a woman and her teenage son, leaving them no way to wash, clean, cook or flush a toilet.

Often airing stories on steroids -- pumped up with ominous music, shadowy visuals, breathless narration and sinister undertones that owe more to movies than journalism -- Channel 13 largely treated these pieces as straight-up fact-finding that stirred outrage with little artificial assistance. (Only one lapse into silly effects: board members' names by anonymous, featureless faces -- oooh, bad guys! -- in a graphic.)

Otherwise, using footage no more inflammatory than drippy faucets and rusted pipes implying their parched conditions, Spears conducted face-to-face interviews with the distressed woman and her son, plus state Sen. Mike Schneider (who labeled the HOA's actions "morally reprehensible"), and North Las Vegas City Councilman Richard Cherchio (who attempted to intervene on the homeowner's behalf) and knocked on the door of the board chairman, who shouted "No comment!" and slammed it in Spears' face.

Result: Spears wove compelling stories that, rather than involving politics, government and courts, which often are removed from people's everyday lives, addressed the smaller abuse of power that can affect everyone every day.

Without turning it into "Gone With The Water."

Such stories spotlight Channel 13 at its histrionics-free, "you-ask-we-investigate" best. Now if they'd only spike the ego, such as showing Spears in her office leaving multiple messages for the HOA's attorney -- her Emmy Award glistening prominently on her desk. And ... "Making Las Vegas A Better Place to Live."

Taking up the condescension mantle relinquished by KSNV-TV, Channel 3 -- which wisely jettisoned the patronizing "Watching Out For You" in 2009 -- Channel 13's we'll-improve-your-lives-for-you mantra is the type of preening that stokes animus toward Almighty Media: Almighty Arrogance.

Their story downplayed the emoting. Why not rethink the promoting?

Contact reporter Steve Bornfeld at sbornfeld@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0256.

 

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