Anchorman 2 as history lesson

Posted by Dan Barkin on December 28, 2013 

I went to see Anchorman 2 the other day with my son. Our main reason for going was part of a father-son tradition of going to see silly movies together, because we have the same silly sense of humor.

But I realized after thinking about this for a couple of days that the movie was a useful history lesson for him. My son was born in 1989. He has never known a world without 24-hour news on TV.

Anchorman 2 gave him an opportunity to see - in a goofy, parodied and twisted way - how it got started. The premise of the movie is that Ron Burgundy and the scattered elements of the former Channel 4 News Team have been recruited from local TV in San Di-a-go to work for the first 24-hour news channel starting up in New York, the Global News Network, aka GNN. Get it? GNN.

I remember watching when the real, first 24-hour news channel started up. It was in June 1980, and the Cable News Network came on. I was in southwest Virginia, watching on the town’s mom-and-pop cable that had, like, 12 channels. This was before Time Warner, Cox and Comcast completed their acquisitions of community cable systems and created the massive national systems we know today.

My only memory of the CNN launch is of John Holliman on the air. He was CNN’s farm reporter. Eleven years later he would be in Baghdad, making history as CNN’s team of reporters covered the start of the first Gulf War, live, from their hotel room. That was the story that arguably made CNN what it is today.

In media history as portrayed in Anchorman 2, Burgundy - in a desperate bid for ratings - comes up with the idea of putting stories on the air that may not be particularly significant in the larger scheme of things, but could grab eyeballs. In the movie, this decision gooses the GNN audience phenomenally and makes Burgundy a national sensation.

For my son, it was a chance to be educated as to why fairly localized murder trials or stories about missing young women from anywhere get considerable air time on cable news. Or why police chases of minor perps go live to the nation from news helicopters above Los Angeles.

You try filling 24 hours.

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