Heads rolling

Not the founder of "Mad":  Bill Gaines

Not the founder of "Mad" magazine: Bill Gaines

There’s a sense of tumult at WGCL now.  We can’t condemn the thinking behind it.  Although the station’s 11pm news no longer falls into the asterisk category ratings-wise, its daytime newscasts are still a tough sell.  WGCL’s news director, Philly-native Steve Schwaid, has built the station into a competitive news organization.  But the viewers haven’t picked it up yet.  Hence, an unsettling purge.

Weeknight anchor Bill Gaines “retired” abruptly last week.  He anchored a 4pm newscast Wednesday — the last day of sweeps — then recorded a tease, and was gone by 6pm.  Most folks “retire” with great fanfare.  Gaines retired with the hounds at his heels.  Though he rarely flexed any real journalistic muscle, he was an easy-to-watch news anchor — and one of the few high-profile people of color on WGCL’s news.

Backup weather anchor Laura Huckabee will depart before the end of June.  Unlike weeknight weather anchor / heartthrob Dagmar Midcap, who apparently isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, Huckabee is an actual meteorologist.  And Huckabee  is smart and — we’ll say it — adorable, at least on TV.  During a noon newscast last year, she got the hiccups and some smart-aleck posted it on Youtube.  It’s gone semi-viral.  Maybe it’ll help Huckabee get a weeknight gig at a station that appreciates her.

Sarah Parker, WGCL

Sarah Parker, WGCL

Reporter Sarah Parker’s departure may be the most lamentable of the purge thus far. Parker was a pretty good general assignment reporter who got roped into working on WGCL’s “Better Mornings Atlanta” show, from 5-7am.  Parker got a lot of leeway on that show to do a lot of screwball stuff, apparently with the blessing of management.  But her antics got very little promotion, and she only got to do it for a few months — not enough time to solidify her identity with the show or bolster its ratings as a result.

Parker’s stuff had the potential to transcend the typical, predictable, tiresome local news formula.  She showed it expertly on a day last winter when the temperatures dropped into the teens.  While her competitors were producing omigod-its-armageddon live shots, Parker produced this absurd bit of whimsy.  No, it wasn’t “news,” but neither is a cold snap in mid-winter.  We found it quite refreshing.

If that image cost Parker her job — the BMA show is still barely watched –  then it’s management’s fault, not Parker’s.  If this isn’t her choice, it should be.

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Doug Richards is a reporter at WXIA-TV. This is his personal blog. WXIA-TV has nothing whatsoever to do with this blog, under any circumstances, in any form. For anything written herein, Doug accepts sole credit and full blame. Follow him on Twitter: @richardsdoug. All rights reserved. Thanks for visiting.

15 thoughts on “Heads rolling

  1. jimmyjohn

    come on. it’s time for all of these folks to move on.

    Bill retired. It was his time.

    Laura, she was having a tough time with breaking weather coverage. She couldn’t do forecasts and missed several storms. The word was she was actually offered a new contract but her agent turned it down.

    And sarah? She’s got problems and it’s time for her to move on.

    WGCL eastablished itself in May by trouncing WXIA in People Demos and tying Fox in the female numbers.

    And I’ll be the purge is not over, but the station will be better for it.

    Reply
    1. 84vette

      “has built the station into a competitive news organization.” You must be joking. Have you actually watched this mess. How old is the “free money” crawl? “All the news and weather in the first five minutes. “5 Million people in this town and they can do it all in five minutes! Look at Schwaid’s track record. Pull out the gimmick bag, throw it against the wall for 18 months and sneak out of town. Puuuulllease. The AJC will be web only in a year, what will the CH 46 desk do then? Or for that matter any of the local desks.

      Reply
      1. Element

        The AJC really? Come on. Been a long time since anybody’s desk gave a damn what they were running with. Hell, its been a long time since anybody at the AJC gave a damn about what they were running! Most local news desks are self-sufficient in generating story ideas these days.

        Reply
    2. Juanita Driggs

      Trust me “jimmyjohn”. There’s probably a lot more to Bill simply retiring and leaving town. And he did a nice turn on the air while he was here…maybe more than 46 deserved.

      Reply
  2. Kara

    Really sad that Sarah Parker is gone. Sure, she was funny with the fluff pieces, but she made Chief Pennington squirm with some tough questions about crime in Atlanta when the rest of the local news outlets were lobbing him softballs.

    Hopefully another local media outlet will recognize her pitbull tendencies and give her a job with a little more bite.

    East Atlanta <3s you Sarah!

    Reply
  3. Element

    “…easy-to-watch news anchor…”(?) Bill seemed to be good person but there was nothing at all easy to watch about him stumbling through story, after story every day. Nothing at all easy about that. And his “retirement” was, at best, him reading the writing on the wall.

    I think Laura did a great job but was just never (for whatever reason) a part of Steve’s plan. I will be sad to see her go. And I for one have never seen her do a bad job in any situation on air.

    As for Sarah, I cannot recall seeing her on television for better than a year. But I wish her well. And I am sure this will work out for the best for all parties involved.

    But the real issue at WGCL has yet to be addressed. He claims that they are a “producer shop” but he still refuses to address the fact that his producer pod is full of uninterested, uninformed and unengaged producers who never, ever contribute story ideas, or ideas on anything else for that matter. But that’s okay with him? To the point of protecting and defending, their ignorance? Come on.

    Reply
  4. LBJ

    There are few weathercasters that have given me the impression that they would be fun to have a beer with, but Huckabee is one. Johnny Beckman and John Wetherbee would be the others.

    Reply
  5. Laura

    My only concern is the loss of Sarah Parker. She got moved to the morning news spot but I much preferred her when she was doing more important stories in our community. She was the first reporter that reported the increase in home invasions/home breakins in the intown neighborhoods and should be commended for that. We will miss her being on the air. We wish her all the best finding bigger and better things than CBS 46.

    Reply
    1. kathy rickert

      Laura Huckabee was the best. What is she doing now. We are not impressed with Dagmar at all, nor are we
      impressed with the overly bubbly heavy set girl.

      Reply
  6. Dave

    Sarah Parker was a cutie who was actually good at her job. I quit watching after she was let go. She was a lot better than Corrina Allen who seems full of herself.

    Reply

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