While I've been in Leipzig, my news has come mostly from BBC and CNN Europe. On Sundays I sometimes go to the central railway station and pick up the International Herald Tribune, but it's thin compared to the New York Times, and I don't like reading on-line. So CNN Europe has been my source of information -- and of an interest that goes beyond the actual news stories. There are a lot of differences between these CNN newscasters and those back home on ABC, CBS, and NBC.
First of all, here they don't look like actors. Some of the women are heavy. Some of the men are funny-looking. Nobody's hair looks sprayed into rigidity. Their suits can seem wrinkled. And their voices are not standard-mid-Atlantic, either -- Richard Quest of CNN sounds as if he's permanently caught in mid-gargle.
Americans are supposed to be the most informal people in the world ("Hiya! How ya doing?"), but these CNN reporters give out the news far more informally than Tom Brokaw or Brian Williams ever would. One said, during a series of technical glitches while trying to broadcast from the G-20 summit: "I know it sounds as if we're trying to bring you this with two tin cans and a piece of string, but just bear with us a sec." Another said, "Well, I've rambled on about that long enough, let's move on..." Election night coverage included this: "I'd tell you what's going to happen, but how the hell would I know?" Refreshing!
Finally, there is much more coverage of Asia and Africa than in U.S. news. The commercials, however, are just as simplistic and repeat just as often. I think I have now seen 4,396 times the tourist-bait commercial for "Incredible India," in which a beautiful, red-sari-ed woman floats alone through various India attractions (the Taj Mahal, a mountain precipice, temple steps, a desert), giving the impression that all of India is inhabited only by her and a clutch of camels.
Some inanities are universal.