Watching the local news during sweeps can be entertaining and frustrating at the same time.

The local tv stations’ advertising rates are determined during these prime months, so they set out to get as many eyeballs glued to their screens as possible. Consequently, they’re big on stories designed to exploit fear and anxiety (a boogieman may be outside your house), faux health studies (eating chocolate may improve your IQ), and how kids are at risk (going on the internet leads to illegal drug dependency).

But this year, local stations were handed manna from heaven. We had Anna Nicole Smith, whose notoriety seems to have been based on a willingness to show off her botox and silicone improvements, keeling over in Florida, followed by the fight over where to bury her. Then we had men lining up to claim they had fathered her million-dollar baby. Added to this was the drawn out cratering of Britney Spears, who partied without her panties, shaved her head, checked in and out of rehab, and then battled a car with an umbrella.

I kept wondering what a death in Florida and a celebrity freak-out in California had to do with local news. But the more local tv news I watched during the past month, the more I realized that very little of what goes by that name is truly local. In most newscasts, the only reports about things actually happening in North Texas had to do with car wrecks, fires, and exaggerated versions of weather events.

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