BOB GARFIELD: Heard about Jennifer Mee, the Florida 15-year-old who's had the hiccups for a month solid? Here she was this week on morning TV. [TV CLIP:] MEREDITH VIEIRA: Good morning to you all. MAN: Good morning, everybody. MEREDITH VIEIRA: I feel so bad for you. JENNIFER MEE: Good morning. MEREDITH VIEIRA: Jennifer, I know this started January 23rd - [JENNIFER MEE HICCUPING INTERMITTENTLY DURING INTERVIEW] - first period, science class, out of nowhere. JENNIFER MEE: Yeah. MEREDITH VIEIRA: First it's kind of funny. It's not funny, is it? JENNIFER MEE: Not anymore, it's not. MEREDITH VIEIRA: No. JENNIFER MEE: Not at all. [HICCUPS] [END TV CLIP] BOB GARFIELD: That was Meredith Vieira of NBC's Today Show. Good Morning America desperately wanted "Hiccup Girl," too, but failed to snag her, albeit not for want of trying. According to Jennifer's father, GMA bookers called 57 times, trying to coax the kid onto ABC.
The episode has brought the latest stain of disrepute on the soft news industry, this right after the death of basket case pin-up girl Anna Nicole Smith consumed 50 percent of all cable news airtime over two days, plus Britney sheared and other earth-shaking developments that trumped, for instance, President Bush's saber-rattling towards Iran. Doesn't this prove that the media have surrendered and that society is doomed?
No, it doesn't mean that. Oh, sure, GMA needs to learn the difference between persistence and harassment, and yeah, there are more important things than hiccupping teenagers. But hold on just one second. Aren't you curious about what it's like to deal with this? [CLIP]: CORRESPONDENT: You've been to a pediatrician – [JENNIFER MEE HICCUPS] - a cardiologist, a neurologist, blood tests, a CT scan, an MRI. No idea what – [END OF CLIP] BOB GARFIELD: Oh, yeah. In fact, 15 years or so ago, for All Things Considered, I interviewed a fellow named John Crosland who had the hiccups for three decades. The story served no journalistic purpose beyond what they used to call "human interest." But see, the thing about human interest is that humans are interested in it. Sound editorial judgment doesn't mean never slaking the public's thirst for the trivial. Sometimes producers and editors are compared to doctors who are supposed to prescribe what's healthy, not what the patient necessarily wants. A good analogy, up to a point, but editors are also like bartenders, who must served up what's ordered provided they know when to say, sorry, bub, you've had enough.
As for the idea we've somehow, in 2007, reached news fluff rock bottom, well, here's another Today Show clip. [CLIP]: DAVE GARROWAY: That's a great little toy though for a toy. I wouldn't exactly even call it a toy. It's a- [BELL RINGS] You've brought me a bell? [BELL RINGS][END TV CLIP] BOB GARFIELD: That was Today host Dave Garroway talking to his sidekick, J. Fred Muggs. This was in 1953. Muggs-- was a chimpanzee. [MUSIC UP AND UNDER] BOB GARFIELD: That's it for this week's show. On the Media was produced by Megan Ryan, Tony Field, Jamie York and Mike Vuolo, and edited – by Brooke. Dylan Keefe is our technical director and Jennifer Munson our engineer. We had help from Peter Garner and Chris Worth. Our webmaster is Amy Pearl. BROOKE GLADSTONE: Katya Rogers is our senior producer and John Keefe our executive producer. Bassist/composer Ben Allison wrote our theme. This is On the Media from WNYC. I'm Brooke Gladstone. BOB GARFIELD: And I'm Bob Garfield. [MUSIC TAG](FUNDING CREDITS)