When it comes to media, trainwrecks and tragedy sell. Take, for instance, the Honey Boo Boo phenomenon. This "average" family has made fortunes on crude behavior. The sight of 'Mama June,' the rough-around-the-edges (a mild evaluation at best) matriarch of the family galumphing about in tow of her outspoken daughter makes many do a double-take, and keeps many coming back for more.
Even looking into the pages of the Lake Sun, the most heavily trafficked stories usually involve crime: the recent Dairy Queen scandal involving allegations of sexual abuse was the most-read story all year. The manhunt for a wanted kidnapper also ranks near the top of the list. The recent brutal murder of a teenage girl in Miller County broke hearts, but also boosted web traffic.
We publish a fair amount of warm-and-fuzzy stories, but they rarely get the same amount of attention as something negative.
Unfortunately, it seems as though Americans prefer to see the plight and downfall of others, perhaps as an avenue to look down from a self-imposed moral pedestal.
It's what sells.
But this column is not to bash the Lake Sun's readership on a dearth of heart, but to shed some light and provide perspective on a recent story that had some cringing, some laughing and many scratching their heads: the idea of a reality show starring the officers of the Lake Ozark Police Department and the lake itself.
Last week, we reported that the city's board of aldermen entertained the possibility of a production team following the LOPD and Water Patrol officers, potentially chronicling the comings-and-goings of police life in a tourist-driven area.
Police Chief Mark Maples and the board expressed optimism about what a television show could do to bolster the image of Lake Ozark.
No doubt that could happen, if a production company was looking to produce a promotional video about the wonders of the Strip or the beauty of life on the bend.
But that's not what sells.
It's not that the board doesn't have noble intentions with this situation, but the reality is that a production company is a business, they are in the market to make a profit, not to pander to a board in the market for a tourism video.
A few of the aldermen and city attorney Roger Gibbons have the right attitude: cautious skepticism regarding the filming. They question, rightfully, the ability to control filming. I'd venture that they'd have little.
What's most disturbing to me about the proposal is the willingness to stage an event should police life at the lake prove a little more uninteresting than anticipated.
The board discussed that production could stage a car chase should police activity stagnate. This opens a can worms that could allow the production company free reign over creating crime in Lake Ozark. What's to stop them, then, of staging bare-breasted women dancing atop pontoons, drunken fights in the heart of the Strip or a dangerous boat chase.
Page 2 of 2 - A potential "reality" show would detract from the image of Lake Ozark, not display the many positive points about life on the east side of the lake.
Unless the intended market the production company targets is a religious channel — which, at a lake that actually has a place dubbed "Party Cove," isn't likely — a television show featuring Lake Ozark will damage the reputation of a city still climbing out of poor decisions from years past.
While I believe the board has honest intentions, I can't say the same for a production company whose primary interest is the bottom line.
It's time to urge the board to stick with solving problems the city currently faces instead of opening the door for more issues than a small city can handle.
Otherwise, we might see a promotional tagline of "Came on vacation, left on probation" in the not-so-distant future.