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Howie Carr: Boston TV news so boring not even a sexual harassment scandal generates buzz

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Once it would have been a huge news story in Boston — a hot blonde female ex-TV reporter suing her old network-owned station, accusing an older on-air talent (also female) of engaging in “unwelcome sexual harassment in the workplace.”

In fact, just such a lawsuit was filed earlier this month in federal court here, by Karen Hensel, against her former employer Channel 10, its corporate owner NBC Universal, and the ex-news director of the ratings-challenged station.

But the story vanished quickly. What once would have been the talk of the town for days, a staple of tabloid headlines — “Dream Team Turns Nightmare News!” — generated zero buzz, anywhere.

Nobody cared. Oh sure, it was tawdry stuff, but it might as well have unfolded at a local Payless shoe store, or maybe the Orange Julius at the mall. Because the local-news “talent” who were once celebrities are now almost as anonymous and interchangeable as the commuter ahead of you in the drive-through lane at Dunkin.

Television, especially local television news, is so over.

Chet and Nat are not coming through that door. Neither is Liz Walker nor Bob Lobel, or even Bob Bleepin’ Gamere. Tom Ellis and Tony Pepper, we hardly knew ye.

They used to be household names. Now there are no more than two or three anchors in Boston that anybody outside of the Marian Manor nursing home could pick out of a lineup.

The lawsuit is not actually as prurient as the headlines suggested, with all the references to sexual harassment. Essentially it involved two female workplace rivals — Hensel and a woman identified only as “Jane Doe.”

Both were assigned to what the station called its “investigative unit.”

This 2017-19 soap opera was ongoing at the station known as NBC10-Boston. They have Sunday night NFL football, and, er, that’s about it.

The newscast has reportedly been on since January 2017 and the next time I tune in will be the first. Put another way, I catch NBC10 about as often as I watch all the other local “newscasts.”

According to the lawsuit, Hensel was harassed by Jane Doe because of the older female reporter’s jealousy about, well, you can figure it out.

“Ms. Doe’s conduct and actions were designed and intended to interfere with plaintiff’s work performance and career success in an effort to make Ms. Doe out as that the leading female investigative reporter at the station.”

Remember, this pitiful also-ran outlet is owned by NBC — longtime employer of such crusading journalists as Brian Williams, the Rev. Al Sharpton, Matt Lauer, Tiffany Cross, Mike Barnicle, Joy Reid, Chuck Todd and of course the truck-demolition unit at Dateline NBC.

Remember when NBC “News” faked the Treyvon Martin 911 call? Or when they led their clownish nightly newscast with the totally bogus Julie Swetnick rape charges against Brett Cavanaugh? Or when they breathlessly reported that the FBI had been running “wiretaps” on Michael Cohen’s phones?

I could go on for days….

But you get the picture. And this was NBC’s local version of one of their vaunted “investigative” units.

Karen Hensel is, well, not bad. I had no idea who “Jane Doe” might be, but my listeners came up with a name. And when I saw Jane Doe’s publicity shot, I understood exactly why the lawsuit said she had been so obsessed with Karen.

It’s a story as old as time. Key word: old.

Anyway, amidst all the back-stabbing in the newsroom, Hensel was told by a producer to “deal with (Ms. Doe) the best you can. You know how she is.”

According to the filing, Jane Doe found out that Karen had started going out with a small-town police chief in Worcester County, and dimed her out to management. Eventually, in November 2019, Karen was fired. (She now works in Miami for the sister station of Ch. 7.)

Hensel is seeking unspecified damages for wrongful termination etc. You don’t have to be Jeffrey Toobin to know that this one will be settled out of court. The corporate suits never want any discovery in cases like this.

To make the filing even juicier, Hensel threw in another spicy R-rated tale from the dismal outlet, involving an unnamed “male assistant news director” who was allegedly tagging still another female reporter.

Just like in an old country song, this third-rate romance, low-rent rendezvous led to “a reported confrontation at the station involving the male assistant and the spouse of the on-air journalist.”

As Moe Bandy used to sing, “It’s a cheatin’ situation….”

If any of this had happened in, say, 1985, wow! Back then, both newspapers had at least one, sometimes two reporters, assigned to Boston television, not to mention different scribes just covering local TV sports news. Plus, at least on this sheet, there was also a daily gossip column that had spies in all the newsrooms.

In those days, when a second-tier TV cupcake got busted for shoplifting at Filene’s Basement, it got more ink than when an SJC justice got lugged for the exact same thing. An early-morning stabbing of a flamboyant local sports anchor in the Fens after a long booze cruise in the harbor — stop the presses!

Being in local TV news in Boston used to be like the Cheers Bar — everybody knew your name. Now, it’s like signing up for the Witness Protection Program. You’re snatched off the street, never to be seen again.

In those long-ago days when local TV news meant something in Boston, we used to joke about slogans for the stations we worked for:

“When the news breaks, we fix it.”

“If it’s news to you, it’s news to us.”

But now, nobody cares. Just ask “Jane Doe.” And it’s probably just as well.

Local TV news was always way overrated as a commodity, more by the popinjays and mountebanks in the live vans and the makeup rooms than by the bored viewers who were just looking for an up-to-date weather report and the latest scores in those halcyon pre-Internet days.

And that’s the way it is, November 25, 2022.

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