The occasion was important enough to send two of its well-paid anchorpersons to Washington DC for a couple of nights to cover it. So when WXIA previewed last week’s inauguration Monday night, what could possibly explain the shoddiness of its coverage? The picture on the left tells much of the story and illustrates how WXIA, once Atlanta’s best video shop, has tumbled to sometimes embarrassing depths.
Brenda Wood and Karyn Greer spent much of Monday’s 7pm newscast on camera, live from Washington. Wood managed to produce a rather predictable taped interview with Martin King III. Wood also produced a serviceable feature on a Georgia horsewoman riding in the inaugural parade, a piece shot prior to Wood’s departure for DC.
But when it came time to interview plain folks who may or may not have come to DC from Georgia — and there were thousands of visitors to choose from Monday — WXIA / Gannett pooled resources and came up with nothing short of crap: Three horribly shot soundbites, apparently delivered by a Washington-based one-man-band, armed with a WXIA / Gannett mic flag. The material appeared to have been produced by a high school student.
Adding to the foolishness, WXIA’s coverage began with a series of still photos taken by a WXIA producer. The photos showed crowds of people. Nothing wrong with the photos. But since television has the capability of broadcasting motion pictures, it seems reasonable that one might have expected an actual TV story about the crowds of people arriving for the inaugural.
Based on this newscast it appeared the conversation with Wood and Greer went like this: Ladies, good news: We’re sending you to cover the inaugural. Send back some cell phone photos. Use whatever photographer they can spare at our sister station, WUSA. Or just hand a mic flag and a camcorder to a passing high school student. If they produce crap, don’t worry. We’ll air it anyway. And hey — have fun. It’s a huge story!
The above material doesn’t appear on the inauguration page of WXIA’s web site. There are other stories on the site, but they don’t doesn’t redeem it much. Thank goodness they sent Jon Shirek, who produced the least predictable pieces. Unfortunately, his most interesting story — about the choking lines that ultimately denied entry to thousands of people — appears on the site only as a vo/sot. We say it again: If you’ve got a guy with Shirek’s storytelling skills, let him really tell the story.