The voice of Portland State reaches our community in print through this and several other campus newspapers, and over the airwaves through the KPSU radio station. One field we don’t have covered, though, is what is arguably the most addictive and hypnotic of all the mass mediums: television. There’s just something about transmitting your message both visually and verbally at the same time. It makes people’s normally discerning minds turn to putty that molds whatever way the magic box is telling it to. That is, if the opportunity is used properly. I’ve seen it seriously mismanaged before. When I was a freshman at Oregon State, the Beavs had a channel that was basically on the same level as bad public access. With all of the creative minds to be found in a college environment, a lot more could be done with the concept. Ideally, a PSU TV station could provide Portland’s couch potatoes with a new and unique take on entertainment and education.
Obviously, some part of the programming would have to be devoted to news, if the budgeting powers-that-be were to be convinced that a constructive service was being provided. No need to turn it into a local version of C-Span, of course, with round-the-clock coverage of student senate meetings, but with enough hard news to be decently comprehensive. It would make an excellent forum for when elections come around, and would also be an opportunity to witness a common political tactic make its way down to student-body president elections: vicious campaign attack ads.
“My opponent printed more than his quota of pages at the library computer lab last term.”
“My opponent is in favor of viral meningitis.”
“My opponent is spearheading a grass-roots movement to bring back Preacher Dan.”
And so on. This kind of exposure could really help the turnout in student elections. Turnout has traditionally been awfully low, down there with the recent People’s Utility District referendum where pretty much the only people who bothered to send in their ballots were PGE lobbyists.
Another kind of turnout that could receive a boost from a PSU TV station would be the attendance at football games. The student section is usually pretty packed, but the rest of the stands (where it actually costs money to sit) tend to have a lot of vacancies. Televised football games, along with the schedules for upcoming games, would help get the word out. Naturally, this applies to all other athletics as well.
Even with all this quality programming, there would still be plenty of airtime for lots of ratings-boosting mindless entertainment. The hot trend as far as that goes is still in the niche of reality TV, as it’s always more fun and less stressful to watch the drama involved in someone else’s reality than it is to deal with your own. At this point, though, the concept needs a new twist. Intentionally mismatching some roommates in college housing and seeing how long it takes for them to strangle each other is way too obvious and has been done before. A Campus Safety Rent-a-C.O.P.S. show would also be following a tried and true formula, but could provide a riveting look at jaywalkers and unruly cause-of-the-week protesters being brought to justice, all from the vantage point of the Handlebar Cam.
Something totally original would still be needed, though. What I have in mind is a whole new adventure in cinema verit퀌�, something that would make everyone from Barbara Walters to Jerry Springer eat their hearts out wishing they’d thought of it first: the Century Club Interview. For those unfamiliar with the concept, the century club involves taking 100 shots of beer in 100 minutes. A shot of beer doesn’t seem like that much, but apparently it adds up pretty quickly. From what I’m told, making it all the way to the finish is very difficult to do.
So here’s the concept. Put the (21+, of course) subject of the interview at a table in front of the camera and, as they get started, ask them to tell you about their college experience and their views on life in general. Their statements would probably be unremarkable interview fodder at first, but would become increasingly revealing as time went on, to the point where the person would be letting the audience at home know way more about themselves than they ever intended to. That is, until they became completely incoherent, but then you would have the added benefit of demonstrating the pitfalls of excessive substance use. The overall goal here, after all, is educational, constructive programming.
I realize that at this time, a PSU television station is about as financially feasible as a new Corvette for every incoming freshman, now that the state of Oregon has gone all Kevorkian on higher education. But whenever better economic times do arrive, it’s a compelling enough idea to be worth revisiting. The Corvettes, too.