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Must-Flee TV 

An eye-opening exclusive report every Clevelander must read.

In ancient times, spring was the season for human sacrifice — a bloody but necessary undertaking, if people wanted their seeds sown with the blessing of the gods.

In modern times, the month of May signals the launch of sweeps, when TV reporters pay homage to their own gods — ratings — by practicing the bizarre, grotesque ritual of public humiliation. Some among you will be chosen for sacrifice.

Maybe you’re a 92-year-old survivor of seven strokes, waiting peacefully for death to visit your nursing-home bed. Are you ready for the trench-coated man who sticks a microphone in your face and says, “Dorothy, did you have an affair with Franklin Delano Roosevelt? If the answer is yes, drool.”

Or perhaps you’re a 6-year-old boy. You love your puppy and your Tonka trucks. But do you remember that day in the checkout line when you stuffed a bag of Skittles into your pocket? Well, the security camera remembers. You’re going to be on the 11 o’clock news, kiddo. Tom Meyer does not feel sorry for you. He does not think you’re cute. He eats little boys like you for breakfast.

Nobody is safe. Not children, not the elderly, and definitely not you. So let Scene be your media friend. Below is a guide to surviving sweeps month. Study it. Memorize it. Because when TV reporters attack, it may be your only weapon:

Tip No. 1: Identify the danger zones

Ambush journalism almost always happens at one of three locations: your home, your work, or any public place where your appearance is required (e.g., court). Remember the golden rule: If they get no video, they've got no story. So for God's sake, don't answer the door. That's not Publishers Clearing House knocking. It's Carl Monday, and he wants to know how your 12-year-old got an issue of Penthouse to pass around at school. (We know the little tyke found it in your underwear drawer, but do you really want to explain that to Greater Cleveland?)

Tip No. 2: You can run, but you can't hide

Like all predators, TV reporters thrive on the thrill of the chase. You = wildebeest. Channel 5's Duane Pohlman = lion. Wherever you run, those cameras will follow, and to the viewers your flight is an admission of guilt. So stand your ground. Let the camera come. The TV reporter doesn't know it, but he's walking into a trap.

Tip No. 3: The best defense is a good offense

The I-Team knows no mercy, and neither should you. As the reporter approaches, pop this line: "You want an interview? It's going to cost you $1,000, just like last time." He'll ignore it at first, but as he's firing questions just keep repeating, "Pay for play. Them's the rules." (Who knows? Maybe he'll even pony up.)

In ancient times, spring was the season for human sacrifice -- a bloody but necessary undertaking, if people wanted their seeds sown with the blessing of the gods.

In modern times, the month of May signals the launch of sweeps, when TV reporters pay homage to their own gods -- ratings -- by practicing the bizarre, grotesque ritual of public humiliation. Some among you will be chosen for sacrifice.

Maybe you're a 92-year-old survivor of seven strokes, waiting peacefully for death to visit your nursing-home bed. Are you ready for the trench-coated man who sticks a microphone in your face and says, "Dorothy, did you have an affair with Franklin Delano Roosevelt? If the answer is yes, drool."

Or perhaps you're a 6-year-old boy. You love your puppy and your Tonka trucks. But do you remember that day in the checkout line when you stuffed a bag of Skittles into your pocket? Well, the security camera remembers. You're going to be on the 11 o'clock news, kiddo. Tom Meyer does not feel sorry for you. He does not think you're cute. He eats little boys like you for breakfast.

Nobody is safe. Not children, not the elderly, and definitely not you. So let Scene be your media friend. Below is a guide to surviving sweeps month. Study it. Memorize it. Because when TV reporters attack, it may be your only weapon:

Another approach is to fake as if you're going to slug him. When the reporter flinches, laugh like a maniac. You can bet the schmuck's going to bury that video!

Tip No. 4: Nice guys finish first

Act contrite, flash a big sheepish grin, and confess that you made a mistake. Suddenly, running over the school mascot with a riding lawn mower while drunk looks like something that could happen to anyone. Better yet, start praying, and offer to forgive the guys persecuting you. It worked for Jesus.

Tip No. 5: Don't swear

Anything with a bleep is guaranteed to air. If you absolutely must let fly some profanity, force them to bleep the whole sentence out, so that it's impossible to detect what you said. Studies have shown that "Eat-shit-cocksucker-motherfucker," when pronounced as one syllable, is impossible to bleep.

Tip No. 6: Violence is not the answer

Community activist James Box learned this the hard way. Tom Meyer accosted Box outside the Justice Center (a classic danger zone) to ask him about an old child-molestation charge. Box ripped the microphone out of Meyer's hand and hurled it onto a nearby roof, then challenged Meyer to a fight. Channel 19 was so proud, it included the clip in station promos. Remember: TV people are pacifists. Brawling smudges their makeup.

Tip No. 7: Make your emotions work for you

Crying is usually an admission of guilt. But if you feel tears coming on, go with it. Hold your arms out to Channel 8's Tom Merriman in that "I need a hug" way. If he goes for it, you just made him look like a big softy. If he snubs you, he looks heartless. Either way, he's a sucker, and he's torching the tape when he gets back.

Tip No. 8: You can't beat the classics

Just because they're unoriginal doesn't mean they've lost their utility. If you're a drug dealer, a pimp, or a 'ho, greet your hard-charging TV reporter with the old "Here comes my favorite customer." Another time-tested method: the fake heart attack. It's not as if they'll get on the air and say, "Asked to comment on his case, Jones staged a phony cardiac arrest."

Tip No. 9: Get a human shield

George Bush doesn't have to face down reporters demanding to know why he bombed the shit out of a country because of a bad tip. His lackeys do it. If you can't afford a yes-man, give the job to your kids. It's crap work, but because they love you, they make willing pawns. Besides, they're infinitely more sympathetic, because they're innocent. If you can teach your four-year-old daughter to look into a camera and say, "You make Mommy cry," you're golden.

More by Thomas Francis

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