It was one of the most memorable lines in the 1987 film “Broadcast News,” when the alliteratively-named network newser Aaron Altman mocked his new nightly news nemesis and his penchant for peppy prose: “A lot of alliteration from anxious anchors placed in powerful posts!”
Well, anybody who’s watched either of Ed Ansin’s “7 News” stations, WSVN/Miami or the layoff-laden WHDH/Boston, knows alliteration’s just the way they roll, with every routine rainstorm loudly labeled “wicked weather!”
It’s just the formula. Or is it? In Boston, a remarkable reduction in ratings recently, resulting in the removal of Randy Price as main anchor, has those in powerful posts pondering pulling the plug on all the alliteration in the station’s snappy scripts: “Alliteration was used no less than seven times during Monday’s 11 p.m. news., and fewer times the following night – although the ‘cash and crash’ graphic used to describe the Medford bank robbery was cringe-worthy,” wrote the Herald’s Jessica Heslam.
The focus on fewer flashy lines in the station’s newscasts may have something to do with the sharp criticism coming from recently-released main anchor Randy Price, who called the incessant alliteration “mind-numbing” in a recent radio interview. Price said sometimes producers would stretch so far to find a clever graphic, it would no longer serve the story, such as “Plane Plunge.” As Price told WRKO radio, “I would have to turn around and say, ‘What does that graphic mean?’”
Boston’s always been a bit more highbrow than Miami, where “Triple Trouble in the Tropics” and hurricanes “Packing a Powerful Punch” is still standard fare. Would station owner Ed Ansin really respond to ridicule by issuing an alliteration reduction order, ditching the distinctive 7 style just like he cut ties to Randy Price? Well, that would be a Major Milestone.
Sorry. I’m done now.