That sound you heard Sunday night was the tornadic fury of WGCL’s news judgment imploding. On a day when tornadoes caused states-of-emergency in a half dozen Georgia counties, WGCL led its 11pm news with a Ryan Deal “exclusive” on a Craigs list scam that misled a couple of metro families, who were too embarrassed to show their faces in Deal’s story.
There was no question the pre-dawn storms were the story of the day– likely the story of the week. Following Deal’s piece, WGCL gave the storms a too-brief mention– then moved on to Jenna Bush’s wedding. Then came another exclusive: A Wendy Saltzman “investigation” on illegal spyware that can trace cellphone calls. Saltzman’s piece wasn’t bad, though it had no victims of this threat.
Meantime, WAGA led its 10pm news with solid tornado pieces by Julia Harding, George Franco and Darryl Carver. Even WXIA/WATL was sensible with its 10pm lead by Catherine Kim, whose on-air reaction to a technical difficulty will end up in this year’s Gorilla Ball. Kim’s flub was a human mistake. WGCL’s ineptitude was premeditated.
Viewers of WGCL had to wait six minutes before the station finally threw to Christopher King, whose sole package represented WGCL’s tornado coverage. Now we’ll just pile on.
As part of the team coverage the storm deserved, King’s piece might have been acceptable. As WGCL’s sole entry, it was lame. His best interview was with a woman who wasn’t even there when the storm hit. His writing tilted dangerously close to cliche territory, with its references to the “path of devastation” and its “battering homes into piles of sticks.” Granted, tornadoes automatically bring cliches with them, like exposed nails in splintered lumber. The trick is to step around them.
(WAGA also deserves a finger wag for leading into its coverage with its “literally picking up the pieces” line and matching graphic.)
Saltzman and Deal’s stories weren’t bad. As stand-alone pieces of enterprise, they actually worked. But they weren’t more important than the storms. WGCL is apparently obsessed with the notion that it must lead each newscast with a story seen “only on CBS-46.” Sometimes, you gotta throw away the formula just to keep from embarrassing yourself. Sunday was such a day.