In Orlando, if it bleeds, it leads

How much do I love Orlando, Florida’s Local 6 News Station’s website? I discovered it a couple years back through several Matt Drudge links (he’s also big on British rags). Local 6 is one of the most sensational sites on the web, and I find it a little shocking that it shares its home with The Most Magical Place on Earth. Talk about fodder for fiction. Here are just a few recent “Local and Regional” headlines:

Man Loses Hand Opening Firework
Woman Ambushed After Knock At Door
Man Falls Into Cement Mixer
Neighbors Pull Man From Burning Home
‘Demolition Derby’ On Busy Central Florida Road Damages 7 Cars
‘Nonchalant’ Bandit Robbing 7-Eleven Stores
Police: Man Kept Girlfriend, Kids In ‘Witness Protection Program’
Complaints Of Loud Music Lead To Arrest Of Man Wanted In Slaying

While there are at least eight short stories here, I think that the “Man Kept Girlfriend, Kids in ‘Witness Protection Program’” story could be a full-length novel. Though it would be tough to get a fiction reader to buy that a woman could be naïve enough to believe that the man who imprisons her and her kids in a house for two months is actually acting as a government agent from Homeland Security. Especially if she only tumbles to the ruse when he disconnects all the lights in the house and pulls a knife on her. I’m thinking it would be more plausible if told from the POV of one of the children.

Wait! There’s more! One of the handy sidebars offers the other most-emailed story: “Wheelchair-Bound Woman Dies After Being Shocked With Taser 10 Times.” Now, my Virginia deputy friend, Kermit, has told me some astonishing Taser stories. Most involve drug-addled miscreants who are so out of their heads that they don’t even realize that they’re attacking the attending police—and said miscreants often have violent, super-human strength. But we’re talking a 56 year-old WHEELCHAIR BOUND woman here. Yes, she was armed with two knives and a hammer and was attacking friends and relations, but, really, she was a documented schizophrenic and was IN A WHEELCHAIR.

These stories are, of course, tragedies in the greatest sense. People are injured, people die, lives are ruined. But what I admire about the Local 6 folks’ approach is that it is more P.T. Barnum than Edgar R. Murrow, more National Enquirer than NYTimes. It fits, strangely, with the contemporary commercial image of Florida itself. It mimics the over-the-top hard sell that comes from the Disney and Busch Gardens companies, Universal and Nickelodeon studio theme parks and even CSI Miami. It tells us that life is bigger there, more intense than in our little back-home burgs.

Obscured is the Florida of my youth, the tame pleasures of my parents’ 1960 Gulf-side honeymoon, the sipping of orange juice from plastic souvenir oranges, the gentle, glass-bottomed boat rides at Cypress Gardens and Silver Springs, the tales of star-crossed Indian lovers, the costumed, taxidermied alligator hatchling my grandparents brought me from there in 1968 (okay, that’s a little creepy). But I bet most of it is still there (except for the illegal alligator souvenirs), just as there are hints of sunshine on the Local 6 website: “Rare Whale Spotted Off Brevard Beach,” “Man Pinned Under FedEx Truck Rescued,” and “Man Sends Christmas Cards from ‘Heaven’.” Let’s just call it subtext.

4 thoughts on “In Orlando, if it bleeds, it leads”

  1. God, I loved your post! It made me nostalgic for Florida, and when I lived near Tallahassee in the second grade, I didn’t care for it much. But the way you lyrically describe Orlando–I wish I’d seen it.

    Thanks, Laura–plenty of chuckles along with the always salient and piquant observations, too! 🙂

    Kelli

  2. I sometimes watch the show Forensic Files, and I’m surprised how many of the crimes take place in Florida…a magical place in many ways, but also a state where so many dreams seem to go bad…

    Happy new year to you, Laura!

  3. Tia Nevitt says:

    I grew up in Orlando in the 70s. I remember it well. I was driving down Highway 50 just yesterday and the only thing that was familiar was the Maryland Fried Chicken. Man, oh, man.

    Truth is truly stranger than fiction. I don’t know if that Witness Protection Program story would work as fiction, for the very reasons you cited.

  4. Tia Nevitt says:

    Oh, and Happy New Year!

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