The PopCulteer
May 12, 2023

We don’t have any new radio today, so join me for a few short items and one STUFF TO DO graphic that showed up too late for inclusion in yesterday’s post.

Cookies Vs. Beer

Crumbl Cookie showed up in Charleston a couple of weeks ago, and the initial response was very strong. There were lines out the door and down the strip mall where they’re located, and at its peak, there was more than a two-hour wait to get in.

Much of this is due to the clever marketing and designed “event” of Crumbl Cookie, and much of it is because the cookies are really good and word of mouth is strong.

Mel and I had tried them earlier this year on a trip to Lexington, and if you get the right cookie for you, they definitely live up to the hype. Your PopCulteer is on a diet, so I haven’t indulged much, but what I’ve tried has definitely been great (but not “stand in line for two hours” great).

Part of the hype is that they only offer six different cookies a week, and they rotate them, so that if you find what you consider to be the best cookie you’ve ever had in your life, you have one week to buy it before they replace it with something that you might barely consider food.

This has built up a mystique and a cult-like following, and it’s also created a backlash. Recently the NY Times (paywalled) wrote about online groups that actively hate and despise Crumbl Cookie.

I guess it takes all kinds. Some folks get their kicks out of hating cookies. Go figure.

More puzzling to me, however, was the reaction of local food blogger, Steven J. Keith.

Keith is “The Food Guy,” and his work is informative and entertaining, and it’s a great way to keep up with the local restaurant scene, especially for those of us who have yet to return to dining out because of the pandemic. You can read Keith’s blog HERE.

When Crumbl Cookie opened, Keith wrote the following: “I’ll definitely check it out once the crowds die down, but I honestly don’t get the hype. I mean, there are lots of places around town – including a handful of locally owned businesses – that have been baking incredible cookies for years. I get that there’s a shiny new place in town that many folks can’t wait to try, but I don’t get waiting in long lines for … cookies.”

Taken out of context there, Keith’s statement seems perfectly reasonable. However, if you read his work regularly, you know that Keith instantly vaults into orgasmic cartwheels any time somebody opens a “shiny new” micro-brewery in Charleston (which seems to happen two or three times a week).

Half the country doesn’t drink beer at all, but I’ll bet way more than half the county eats cookies. We get one national cookie chain in Charleston, and Keith goes out of his way to diminish it, but he never seems to go for a single column without raving about some new beer place, or the beer selection at a new restaurant.

Charleston doesn’t need any more freaking breweries. We’re in a boom period for beer now, but there’s going to be an inevitable bust, and then we’ll have empty storefronts all over town…again.

Crumbl Cookie is the first national cookie chain to locate in Charleston since Great American Cookie deserted the Charleston Town Center many years ago. I agree that we have lots of great local bakeries, but none of them make the kind of atomic calorie bombs that roll out of Crumbl Cookie’s factories six days a week.

Count me firmly in the “More cookies, less beer” camp. For the record, I’m not a beer drinker…in case you couldn’t tell. You guys can divvy up my share. I’ll be over here enjoying my one-fourth of a cookie.

News About News

I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with the WCHS/Fox-11 News programs.

I like the people who work there. I have friends on the crew, and the on-air talent, especially on their morning show, is a collection of very likable, competent, hard-working people. It’s a nice mix of experienced veteran newscasters and promising young talents who will likely be snapped up by a station in a larger market once they get a little more airtime under their belt.

But the stations are owned by Sinclair Broadcasting, a far, far right propaganda media organization that makes FOX News look like MSNBC in comparison.

Sinclair is so extreme that, years ago when ABC aired the Steven Speilberg movie, Saving Private Ryan, Sinclair forbade their ABC stations from running it, because they felt it was too “anti-war.”

So while it’s nice to have the Eyewitness News morning crew covering the weather, giving the traffic reports and talking about local stories, they devote an inordinate amount of time to highly-slanted and questionable coverage of national stories. They either get these stories from FOX News, or from Sinclair’s own “The National Desk.”

For instance, every day this week the lead story on our local newscast was about the “crisis at the border” because Title 42 was expiring. This is a manufactured non-story that will evaporate just like all the imaginary caravans of migrants that never showed up in previous years.

Keep in mind that the border is over a thousand miles away from West Virginia, and we have the lowest immigrant population of any state in the union. Alaska and Hawaii get more immigrants than we do.

While shoving that non-story down their viewers throats every half-hour, news about the former president being found guilty of sexual abuse and defamation and a Republican Congressman being charged with over a dozen criminal counts was relegated to a crawl at the bottom of the screen.

So it was interesting to learn this week that Sinclair Broadcasting is having severe financial issues stemming from their purchase of the former Fox Regional Sports Network. Reportedly they lost billions of dollars on it last year before filing chapter 11 bankruptcy for the newly-named “Diamond Sports Group” just a couple of months ago. These are the cable and satellite stations currently operating under the name, “Bally’s.”

This has put Sinclair in serious cost-cutting mode, and they have eliminated local newrooms entirely in five cities, WNWO Toledo, Ohio; KTVL Medford, Ore.; KPTM Omaha, Neb.; WGFL Gainesville, Fla.; and KPTH Sioux City, Iowa. All of these stations had all their local news replaced by The National Desk, which Sinclair launched a few years ago in an attempt to create a FOX News-like channel for their over-the-air digital subchannels.

The entire news departments at those stations were laid off. At five additional stations, the local newscasts in mornings and at noon were replaced with The National Desk, with many staffers losing their jobs.

I fear that, if Sinclair continues tightening their belts, we may lose our local Charleston news. WSAZ and WOWK do decent enough jobs, but their coverage includes huge swaths of stuff about Ohio and Kentucky, and that isn’t quite as useful when you just want to know how bad traffic is in the capital city.

My fear may be unfounded. We do have a few things going for us locally. West Virginia has legalized online sports betting, and as annoying as those commercials are, they seem to be subsidizing all our local news programs. We’re also a state that has lots of dark money from Super PACs flowing into it, and we have as many TV commercial lawyers as Charleston has new breweries opening next month.

If Sinclair drops the local news here, the ratings will plummet and those advertisers will flee. The fact that we have three vibrant local TV news organizations probably means that Sinclair couldn’t afford to desert this market. If they put the zombie-like anchors of The National Desk on instead of local news, people will just flip the channel.

But, if Sinclair is forced to cut costs further…say if their bankruptcy plan doesn’t fix their nearly nine billion dollar debt, they may decide to lay off a lot of dedicated broadcasters in an effort to stay afloat.

And that is one more reason why media consolidation sucks, and the FCC should reinstate the ownership limits that were abolished in 1981.

For more on Sinclair Broadcasting, watch this…

One More Show

This graphic didn’t show up until late Thursday. Here’s another cool show with some folks I’ve played on RFC…

And that is this week’s PopCulteer. Check back for fresh content every damn day.