Monthly Archives: October 2009

Radio on the TV

logo.homeThis week, WGCL announced a partnership with WQXI / 790 “The Zone” to provide sports coverage for the television station.  WGCL news director Steve Schwaid answered some e-mailed questions about it below.  First, this excerpt from a WGCL news release:

“This is a successful partnership for Atlanta sports fans and WGCL-TV,” said Kirk Black, Senior Vice President and General Manager of WGCL-TV.   “The experience and personality of Atlanta’s premiere sports talk radio station will add valuable resources to CBS Atlanta News.”

“For the last 13 years, 790 The Zone has been the brand for sports in Atlanta and we could not be more excited about this partnership with CBS Atlanta and their core sports properties including the NFL, S.E.C Football, March Madness and the Masters. This dynamic alliance will only stengthen our ability to connect to the Atlanta sports fan”, said Andrew Saltzman, President of Sports Radio 790 The Zone.

“This new relationship will make CBS Atlanta and Sports Radio 790 “The Zone” Atlanta’s best source for sports information,” said Steve Schwaid, News Director of WGCL-TV.  “It will allow CBS Atlanta to answer our viewers’ Tough Questions and deliver on our promise of providing the very latest news and information every night.”

-1In an e-mail to LAF, Schwaid adds the following:

We have NOT gotten rid of our sports department. We still have people who will shoot sports and we still have our sports producer who produces our specials, weekly shows and sports programming.

I started looking at this option months ago. It’s an issue of resources. If I can give  viewers a strong sports source, take the resources I put into sports and repurpose them for our news gathering then it’s truly a win-win.  Personally this was hard because I really like working with Mark [Harmon] and Gil [Tyree] and have great respect for them. But we’ve seen a decreased appetite for local sports. In fact, [that's] the reason stations place sports where they do in their newscasts, [which] is after the click.

13501366_240X180Much like ABC got rid of their sports department and now buys services from ESPN, this allows us to take a sports organization that reports on sports 24/7/365 and now have them as a resource for us. In effect we now have more folks working on sports than any TV station in the market.

And this realignment of resources means we’re adding jobs:  two reporters, two photogs, one producer, one assignment editor.

Unlike stations that have to cut people or furlough people, Meredith has given us the ok to shift the resources so we can focus on our mission: Tonight’s Top Stories, Tomorrow Morning’s Forecast in the First 5 minutes and pursuing the Tough Questions.

Speaking of questions:

LAF: How many WGCL sports employees were released?  Any thoughts about their departure?

Steve Schwaid: Mark and Gil will be leaving us. Personally this was a tough decision because I have enjoyed working with them and truly respect them.14217500_240X180

LAF: Does WGCL lose any significant identity by parting with them?

SS: Sorry to say no. Unfortunately TV stations are really not defined by their sports folks, no matter what we like to think. Every bit of research shows that local sports coverage is NOT a high priority to local viewers. ESPN, Fox Sports, the web and mobile have radically changed how people get their sports info. The majority of weekday newscasts are nothing more than locker-room sound bites or highlights – the same stuff you will see on ESPN, but with much more context and analysis.

LAF: Does this signal a diminished commitment to sports on the part of WGCL?

SS: I think this shows actually a larger commitment. We have the resources of the entire Sports Zone, 790 Team. The station lives and breathes sports. And they have been part of our Saturday Sports Line shows for years and also part of our Friday SEC show.

LAF: Does this market (or local news generally) demand local sports like it once did?

SS: Unfortunately not. There are so many places for sports fans to get their info in real time. Why wait till 11 pm for the scores when I can get it right now on the web, on sports channels and my iPhone.

LAF: Is there anything counterintuitive about using radio guys to produce TV sports?

SS: I would say it’s innovative, especially since they program for sports 24/7/365.

LAF: How will this “dynamic alliance” work on a day-to-day basis?  If you get a sports scoop, do you simply call those guys and tell them to cover it for you?  Or do they tell you what’s getting covered?

SS: We’ve worked with 790 for years. Nick has done stories for us, he appears weekly in our sports line and dawg shows and he has also filled in for Mark and Gil during vacations. I think it will be seamless to the viewer.

Honestly, I will lay odds that the sports radio guys break more stories than any of the TV sports guys in the market. They’re at more games, more events, more stories and have more contacts – they talk sports on the radio for hours and hours a day instead of the two or three minutes TV stations do on a daily basis.

LAF: Is there another major market TV station in America that’s using a sports radio station to handle its TV sports?

SS: I believe Kansas City. But more importantly there are more and more stations dropping or cutting back sports.

Three reasons to love the Atlanta media

I find “the Real Housewives of Atlanta” to be mostly annoying.   Yet when the missus puts it on TV, it becomes a distraction because the locale is so familiar.  Just as I’m averting my eyes from the irritating dialogue and the concocted plot lines, I’ll spot a landmark.  As I’m rolling my eyes at the catty drama, I’ll see a face I know from the news business.  When I learn that “celebrity stylist” Dwight Eubanks, one of the only appealing characters on the show, lives in a modest house near mine, I’m somewhat intrigued.

Among other TV viewers, the show is wildly popular.  With that background, here’s reason number one to love the Atlanta media.

370

The "housewife": Kandi Burruss

When I covered a V103 mayoral debate Tuesday, I noted the presence of Kandi Burruss in the audience.  She’s a “Housewife.”  She was also engaged to a man who was killed in a bar fight a few weeks ago.  The man had appeared in the show.  It was a big story locally because of the TV show.  Burruss, best I could recall, had never spoken to the media about the killing.

“Oh, swell,” I’m thinking.  The mayoral debate hadn’t begun.  Yet I’m picturing the assembled TV folk bum-rushing Burruss for the “get” that has mostly eluded us since the killing.  Because I was the first TV reporter to show up, I saw Burruss take a seat in the “celeb” section of the debate audience. Maybe my competitors wouldn’t notice her, I was hoping.  I wanted to cover the debate, not Burruss.

But they noticed.  Burruss was called upon to ask a question during the debate.  Yet when it ended two hours later, the TV folk rushed the stage to question the candidates and not Burruss.

This was a beautiful thing.  Best I can tell, no TV reporters colluded to ignore Burruss afterward.  We just did it — probably because we like covering politics and hardly anybody liked covering the Burruss murder story.

mary norwood

The frontrunner: Mary Norwood

Reason two: During the debate, a questioner asked the candidates about whether they’d ever paid for an endorsement.  All six candidates answered “no,” including frontrunner Mary Norwood.   Days earlier, Norwood had been endorsed by career pol “Able” Mabel Thomas.  When asked if she’d been paid or hired by the Norwood campaign, Thomas dodged the question.  So talk of Thomas’s endorsement, and the Norwood campaign’s alleged willingness to pay for it, has been a minor campaign issue.

Following that question, the debate took a break (for weather, traffic and commercials, presumably.  It aired live on V103 during morning drive).

During the break, a man wearing a Lisa Borders shirt stood and began shouting at the stage.  The room was already noisy, so it was less disruptive than it sounds; but he was persistent, finger-pointing and accusatory.  He was calling BS on Norwood’s answer to the “paid endorsement” question.  Norwood and the other candidates ignored the man, spending the commercial break onstage checking their Blackberrys and such.

Two police officers entered the room.  The first pointed to the man and waved him toward the exit.  The man immediately started walking as directed.  A second officer approached him and escorted him.  The man continued his loud chatter, but cooperated fully with the cops.

The TV cameras ignored it.  This, too, was a beautiful thing.

Debate hecklers have a long and glorious history of becoming the “lead” of a debate story.  It happened frequently during the 2008 presidential election.  I always found it annoying.  Why give an attention-seeking gadfly the spotlight for being a jerk?  It was a pleasure to pretend this incident never happened.

doug richards, alan hand

The blogger with Alan Hand, WSB

Reason number three: WSB photog Alan Hand, who has been covering the Mayor’s race for WSB.  He hypothesizes that my presence at WXIA foretells a Shuleresque employment tour through Atlanta TV shops.   He offered a try-it-on-for-size prop.  I accepted only for self-amusement.  Hand is a great American.  But I sneer at his employer, because I’m competitive like that.

The reporter accompanying him was horrified that Hand’s antics might result in a mention of her name in this blog.

Almost.  But not quite.

Bonus: Click here for  one reason to love the Sacramento media, a KXTV reporter named Dave Marquis, and a photog named Damian Espinoza.  (It’s embeddable, but for some reason it wouldn’t wait for the reader to click “play.”  Thanks to PK for pointing this out).

Why “I don’t watch”

LAF w/ Mrs. LAF, 10.24.09

LAF w/ Mrs. LAF, 10.24.09

At a party last weekend, I met a young lawyer who works as a public defender in metro Atlanta.  Politely, she asked if I had an occupation.  I gave her the shorthand:  “Local TV news guy.”  (She was dressed as a zombie; I was dressed as the Ghost of Americana.  You kinda had to be there…)

“Oh, like you’re on TV or something?”   Yeah, something like that.

“I don’t think I’ve ever watched the local news in Atlanta.”

I’m gonna stick my neck out — again — and say with certainty that everybody working in Atlanta TV news has had this conversation with numbing regularity.  In my case, the “I don’t watch TV news” conversations far exceed the frequency of the opposite “omigosh I watch Brenda / Monica / Amanda / Stephany every night!” conversations.

The “I don’t watch local news” conversations typically include a short critique of what they see as a nightly drumbeat of murder and mayhem.  There’s a bit of an elitist quality to the critiques.  The conversant is frequently educated and somewhat sophisticated.  Like the lawyer at the party, these folks are well-informed.  But they sidestep the local stories that aren’t relevant to them, and ignore the broadcasts that traffic in them.

Stories, such as — oh, say — the coverage of the guy who caused the grisly traffic accident on the Stone Mountain Freeway, who turned himself in and uttered an apology at the jail.  In a post on this site last week, I suggested that it would be reasonable for local TV to find something else to cover instead of that story.

This caused a bit of an uproar in my little corner of the blogosphere, particularly among people who apparently work in local TV news.

Based on the numerous comments that were very critical of that post, I would conclude that local TV news has almost zero chance of convincing that lawyer that their product is worth sampling.

The sad thing is this:  Atlanta TV news actually produces plenty of quality material.  But because local newscasts devote so many resources — and so much A-block time — to the mayhem (and the follow-ups to mayhem), many desirable viewers choose not to wade through that stuff in the hope that something worthwhile will follow.

The audience for local TV news is shrinking.  Do we try to expand it?  Do we try to find a niche that goes outside the murder-and-mayhem formula?  Or do we assume that the remaining audience watches for the tried-and-true formula, and climb all over each other to fight for the bleary eyeballs who haven’t abandoned us yet?

Thankfully, I lack the smarts, talent and chutzpah it takes to run a major market TV newsroom.  Because if I did, I think I’d be contorting myself to try to produce a product that would get the young zombie lawyer to watch — and re-thinking the stuff that has driven her away.  And apparently my tradition-minded troops would be very, very annoyed.

Thanks to “longgone” for asking the essential question in a “sport of TV news” comment.

Thanks to all the other commenters for the abuse.

Thanks to the late Screamin’ Jay Hawkins just for being who he was.

The sport of breaking news

dekalb jailTuesday, Atlanta TV crews gathered at the DeKalb County jail to witness a man submitting himself for arrest for causing a fatal accident.  The accident, days earlier, was horrific.  It killed three people and injured six more in a van pool during rush hour on the Stone Mountain freeway.  The TV crews had been waiting for this moment since Monday night.

The reason is obvious to those who adhere to traditional local news sensibilities.  This was a one-time chance to photograph a guy who was behind a breaking news story that had led several newscasts.  But the likelihood was this:  The guy would scamper from his car to the jail intake, with cameras giving chase, mic-wielding reporters firing questions as he clammed up on the advice of his attorney.

WXIA absented itself from this scrum, as it frequently does.  I come before you to defend and, yes, praise this practice by my employer.

TV news is competitive on two levels.  TV stations compete for viewers.  TV reporters, assignment desks  and crews compete for scoops.  Sometimes they compete to tell the best stories.  But the competition is fiercest to attain elements of coverage.  Who has the interview with the victim’s family?  Who has the photo of the dead guy?  Who has the “get”– the elusive interview, typically with a tragic figure.

Some of this certainly represents the best of journalism.  Jackie Kennedy never talked to reporters about JFK’s killing.  The mothers of the Columbine killers have never have never answered questions from the press.  Those are story elements that any newsroom would want.james miles waga

But mostly, they are fragmentary and forgettable.  Yet they are the essence of the scorecards kept in the sport of breaking news.

Are there more than a handful of people in the TV audience chomping at the bit to hear the words of a guy who caused a traffic accident?  Or to watch him get chased into the jail by TV cameras?

The answer, clearly, is no.  The exception is among folks in the TV audience who’ve watched coverage of buildup to the moment:  “Jack is at the jail, where the suspect is expected to turn himself in.  Jack?”  “That’s right Jill.  He’s not here yet….”

It then becomes more sport than story.  The competitive feedback loop requires each station to be there, because the other stations will be there.  It’s like the arms race.  Your finger is on the button because you’re afraid of the other guy, afraid he’ll get something you won’t.

The sport, then, becomes the adrenaline-rush moments for the crews on scene, and their cheerleaders / tormentors managing their respective newsrooms.  The competitors are on the field.  They stake out favorable position.  They devise some small-scale strategy.  And the play begins.

The object of your story becomes a part of the game.  In this case, the suspect showed up in time for the noon news, and was clearly unnerved.  Is he scared shitless because he’s checking into the jail?  Or is it because he’s surrounded by TV cameras?   Regardless, it gives the story a jolt of emotion, always a welcome element.

In this case, he stopped and chatted briefly.  He expressed remorse.  He got peppered with tough questions, mostly sidestepped by his lawyer.  It lasted only a few seconds.  They moved on.james miles wsb1

As such, it’s about the competition, not the storytelling.  The elements are gathered.  The story is a by-the-numbers bore, told a thousand times on local TV news with interchangable names and circumstances that vary too little to distinguish them.

WXIA’s desk knows about these scrums.  WXIA simply chooses to skip them.  The station knows it may miss the accident-causer’s on-camera utterances before entering jail, and has made a decision that it would rather devote its resources t0 cover something else.  (In this case, the suspect’s attorney called a news conference after he bonded out of jail.  I believe WXIA attended.)

One may quibble with whatever the “something else” is.  WXIA’s bosslady would probably be among the first to say that the station has many hurdles to overcome before it can become competitive with WSB and WAGA, ratings-wise.

WXIA seems to be seeking an audience that views news as something useful and even helpful, rather than merely another episode in a nightly, local reality show that has little bearing on the lives of real people.  Like the premise or not, getting video of the guy who caused a fatal traffic accident helps nobody.  As information goes, it isn’t significant enough to lodge into the consciousness of the viewer for longer than an eyeblink.

But happily for the crews on scene, and their producers looking for something “hard” for their A-blocks, the guy talked a little bit.  They could fold in file video of the accident.  There was a story.  But was it better than the other stuff that those crews could have been doing instead?

It was an easy, safe lead story for the newscasts that begin at noon, four, five and 6pm.  And it fills the traditional expectations that TV news personnel have for themselves and their nightly product.

For WAGA’s coverage at 5pm, click here.

For WSB’s coverage at 5pm, click here.

For WGCL’s coverage at noon, click here.

Cartoon by Bill Richards, the Red & Black 10.22.09

Cartoon by Bill Richards, the Red and Black 10.22.09

WAGAzine

In November 1981, six-year-old John Anthony Gillis had begun to play instruments (he later became known as Jack White of the White Stripes).  Barack Obama was midway into his undergraduate degree at Columbia.  Valerie Bertinelli was on the cover of People.  Ronald Reagan was on the cover of Time.  Michael Jackson was on the cover of Jet.

And a handsome young bloke named Jeff Jeffares was on the cover of the WAGAzine.  Jeffares left WAGA five years later.  He still lurks around Atlanta media.  He’s currently producing video podcasts for the PAGE Foundation.  He’s directing shows for Tyler Perry, troubleshooting graphics for TomorrowVision Media and shooting and directing with Broadcast Solutions.

WAGAzine

The WAGAzine dates back to a time when corporations used reams of paper to communicate with employees, cramming their mailboxes full of must-see memos and trivialities.   Through the mid-1990s, WAGA actually had a print shop in its basement, run by the always cheery, apron-clad Herb Adams.

Jeffares e-mailed these images, which he apparently dug out of a closet a few days ago.  The second one is the more amusing of the two, photo and content-wise.

  • News anchor Jacque Maddox is photographed with actor Telly Savalas, but not named.
  • Leroy Powell, Don Smith and George Gentry actually produced a local programming special.
  • WAGA had a senior citizens day.  To depict it, Ken Cook is photographed with an Ice Follies skater.   Mr. Cook has always been a smooth performer.

sc0053d114

Jeffares reports that Barbara Benoit left television shortly after her hiring at WAGA to pursue a career in the financial industry, and still lives in metro Atlanta.

Satellite shot

Dead center:  The Richard B. Russell Federal Building

Dead center: The Richard B. Russell Federal Building. To the left: Elliott St. Pub.

Once, while sitting in a live truck at the Douglas County Courthouse in Douglasville Georgia, I overheard a woman approaching with her child.  The woman was showing the child the logo on the truck, indicating the presence of local television.  In reverent tones, she explained to the youngster that they were on-scene covering a news story of some sort.  Then she directed her gaze at the microwave mast, which extended forty feet into the air.

“See that?” she said in a near-whisper.  “That’s called a ‘news pole.'”  She was dead serious.

This story came to mind as I was conducting a Google maps search of a bar called the Elliott St. Pub.  I was meeting a friend there for lunch.  It’s in the Castleberry Hill neighborhood, west of downtown Atlanta.

Upon finding the map, I noticed the presence of the nearby rail yards, and instantly recognized the Richard B. Russell Federal Building.  The Russell building is the site of many interesting court cases, and TV stations regularly show up there in spite of the fact that cameras aren’t allowed inside the federal courthouse.  That’s because the damned US Supreme Court won’t allow TV cameras into federal courtrooms.  The rule ensures the ongoing value of sketch artist Richard Miller, who draws for the AJC and all four Atlanta TV stations.  The affable Mr. Miller is a rare cat, a genuine breaking-news artist.  But I digress.

Russell bldg TV truck tightOn the map, I noticed a familiar shadow on Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive.   It was the shadow of a mast sticking up from a large white vehicle parked on the street.  It is easy to spot.   With long shadows arcing westward, it appears the satellite photo was taken about mid-morning.

Based on the image of the shadow, and the apparent personnel and equipment spilling out onto the sidewalk, I conclude this is a local TV live truck — an image captured from a satellite 420 miles up.  Not surprising, I would say.  It makes perfect sense that Google Earth would record such an image at the Russell Building.

Sheer numbers suggest the truck belongs to WSB, which has more live trucks than any of the other three Atlanta TV stations.  On the other hand, to me the truck looks like that boxy, squarish model owned by WGCL.

Whomever it belonged to, they would have done well to walk to the Elliot St. Pub for lunch.  They serve a hell of a sandwich.

After, of course, stowing their news pole.

Find the truck yourself by clicking on the Elliott St. Pub link above.  Then click on “location.”  It’ll take you to Google earth.

Big in Japan

bruce mason wxia 4“We’ll just strap a safety harness on the photographer, and put him out on the skid of the helicopter with a camera.”  This remarkable and seemingly unthinkable stroke of genius, probably uttered over drinks shared by a TV photographer and a helicopter pilot, jump-started a TV news niche that ultimately formed the career of WXIA photographer Bruce Mason.

Mason’s niche made him the faceless figure of numerous WXIA promos, a cameraman seen clinging precariously to an aircraft flying a thousand feet above the Atlanta skyline.  It also gave him a moment of international notoriety.

As Chris Sweigart first outlined in his blog, Mason was the object of a quiz on a Japanese TV show called “Show by Shobai.”  The segment translates roughly into “World’s Super Master Quiz.”  The segment aired in 1995.   The video (uploaded to Youtube by Sweigart, courtesy of Mason) is embedded below.  Below that are some translation highlights.

0:07 – Segment title roughly translates: World’s Super Master Quiz
0:09 – Question: This cameraman stands on (blank) to film.
1:19 – “Elephant”
1:36 – “Hint: What vehicle does he ride on top of?”

1:48 -“Airplane” “On top of an airplane”
2:00 – “Helicopter step” “Step . . . s-t-e-p”

bruce mason wxiaThe segment is notable for its graphic clutter, its use of snap-zooms, and the curious absence of 1990s era Skycam pilot / reporter Bruce Erion.  The staged “look — up in the sky!” reaction shots are priceless.

As noted in this space earlier, WXIA now shares helicopter services with WAGA.  Aeriel video is now shot from a camera mounted on the belly of the aircraft, remotely operated from the cockpit.  Bruce Mason has a new niche:  He does community-outreach show-and-tell programs, typically coupled with remote weather live shots at schools on 11 Alive news at noon.

Japanese / English notes courtesy of Sara Wellman, a Spanish teacher / linguistics freak at Peachtree Elementary in Gwinnett.  Wellman taught English in Japan for a year. Arigato! どうもありがとう

Bench player

Judge Jim Oxendine - AJC photo

Judge Jim Oxendine - AJC photo

It started with a tip in my inbox.  The writer was a longtime denizen of the Gwinnett County Courthouse.  The tip directed me to check the status of Jim Oxendine, Senior Superior Court Judge.  The tip said that I would find that he’d been told by the other judges to take a hike because he’d been linked to a land deal scandal.

Oxendine is the father of John Oxendine, a longtime Capitol fixture now running for the Republican gubernatorial nomination.  But the senior Oxendine has his own bona fides, a judge of varying sorts for decades.

This presented a problem:  Nobody wanted to talk, on the record, about the demise of the Honorable Jim Oxendine.  But it wasn’t difficult to get ample off-the-record verification of the tip.  John Oxendine is arguably the frontrunner in the race for the nomination.  Gwinnett is controlled by Republicans, many with horses in the race with names other than Oxendine.

It was helpful that many of the same characters with whom I’d developed relationships in the news biz prior to my two-year hiatus were still around.  It was as if zero time had passed.

But I didn’t know the Gwinnett County Court Administrator, and he was among the least talkative.  It seemed like a simple question for a guy managing a public body:  Is Judge Oxendine in, or is he out?  Phil Boudewyns laid low during my numerous calls to his office Monday.

I called again Tuesday.  The silent treatment continued.  I paid a visit to his office, where a secretary said he was in a meeting.  I left.  Down the hall, there was a counter beneath a sign that said “Superior Court.”  I approached, and cheerfully asked the two ladies at the counter if I could speak to Judge Oxendine.

They looked nervously at each other. “I was wondering how we’d answer that if somebody asked,” one said to the other.  I asked if Oxendine had an office there.  One lady said “not anymore.”   She’d recognized me as a TV reporter guy, and said she’d get a message to her boss, the elusive Mr. Boudewyns.  I asked her for her name, which she politely gave me.

Not Art Fleming.

Not Art Fleming.

She suggested I try Boudewyns by e-mail.  I wrote a bland note.  I told him we’d be airing a story at six regarding Judge Oxendine’s forced departure.  I asked him to return the call, please.   Meantime, the off-the-record confirmations continued stacking up.

He e-mailed back.  He said the court would have no comment.

On my Blackberry, I wrote back:  “I’ll have to attribute my info to [the woman at the window] then.  I’m sure we’d both prefer that I get it from you.  Even to say ‘no comment,’ please call.  This is the sixth time I’ve asked you to call since yesterday.”  I’d played nice long enough.

Boudewyns called back within minutes.  He confirmed that Oxendine no longer had an office at Gwinnett Superior Court.  He verified that his office was vacated Friday.  He would not confirm the reason.

We stopped by Judge Oxendine’s home.  His wife answered and politely told me he was out.

Not the bosslady

Not the bosslady

That evening, the bosslady suddenly hit me up:  “So, what’s the lead gonna be?”  I answered:  “Has a Gwinnett County land deal investigation claimed the job of a longtime judge?”  Apparently, I thought I was on Jeopardy, not 11 Alive news.

“What!?!?!” she answered in bold italics, with at least three exclamation marks.  Imagine Sandy Duncan feigning code orange indignation.  The bosslady couldn’t hide a smile.  She knew she’d nailed me.  “I was just trying to give you the strongest lead,” I said, trying to retain my rapidly-draining old-guy gravitas.

“You can’t lead the story with a question!” she went on.  “You can’t prove that the land deal caused his departure.  You have to keep those facts separate in the story.  Let the viewers connect the dots.”

She was right, of course.  Silently, I blamed the pockets of rust that had formed over the previous two years of news biz inaction.  We aired the story at eleven.

Busy guy:  John Oxendine

Busy guy: John Oxendine

The next day, John Oxendine phoned me.   He was in South Georgia that day.  We asked WMAZ, the Gannett station in Macon, to catch him at an event.  The WMAZ reporter asked him if he knew about his father’s involvement in the land deal.  “Not really familiar with it.  Been a little busy, you know.  Running for Governor, being Insurance Commissioner, Fire Commissioner.”  We based a follow-up story on this material.

One hour before airtime, the campaign e-mailed a statement from Jim Oxendine, verifying that he had “accelerated” his planned retirement “because of questions that have arisen regarding my executing certain documents with a power of attorney.” We had shown those documents in our story the previous day.

The next morning, the story was on the front page of the AJC.  The newspaper had done the original reporting — the heavy lifting — on the questionable land deals, resulting in the DA’s investigation.  Tim Eberly of the AJC wrote an extensive follow-up September 20.  Based on that material, and public records, the judges told Oxendine to hit the road.

I just happened to get a timely tip advancing the AJC story.

Clarification / Zombiefication

Oops.

The women of Brenau University beseech the blogger to "get it right."

Gainesville GA, May 2009. The women of Brenau University beseech the blogger to "get it right."

While covering the Jimmy Carter museum event September 30, I somehow overlooked the on-scene presence of veteran TV photog Everett Bevelle.  Bevelle is (pretty sure) the only remaining newsman at WGCL who dates back to its founding newscast, back in the WGNX / “News at 10″ days of the early 90s.

This means that I was mistaken when I wrote that WGCL was absent at the event.  Not only did I see Bevelle, but we shook hands and spoke.  Before he started at WGNX / WGCL, Bevelle and I worked together at WAGA.

So that was a major brain fart.  I regret the error, and apologize to Everett.  I’ve corrected the post and noted the error there.

WGCL news director Steve Schwaid reminded me of the encounter in an e-mail.  It’s worth noting that Schwaid made a comment in that post suggesting WGCL was able to interview the Carters that day on any subject, without the “museum only” restrictions that caused me so much hand-wringing.  At my request, Schwaid sent me the clips from WGCL’s coverage (they aren’t online).  They show the former President speaking only about the museum.

Schwaid was very helpful, and I appreciate his cooperation.

Of perhaps greater importance, below is the Zombieland commercial that I was unable to do.  I saw this movie Friday.  I’m not a fan of horror movies, but Zombieland is hilarious.  The only downside is sitting through the trailers beforehand, which are geared toward horror / fantasy movies that I avoid.

The celebrated Mr. Armstrong

The celebrated Mr. Armstrong

It’s worth noting that ex-WAGA production guy / Netherworld founder Ben Armstrong was a “zombie consultant” in this Georgia-made movie, as documented by the AJC and WXIA.   Anybody familiar with the downtown areas of Atlanta and Newnan will dig them in post-apocalyptic zombiefication.  Well done, Ben.

Multitasking multimedia multiplatformer

Chris Sweigart, WXIA (with his eggplant-cam)

Chris Sweigart, WXIA (with his eggplant-cam)

Last weekend, I had occasion to introduce a young man named Chris Sweigart to a bunch of old, grizzled TV goons.  “Sweigart is a reporter and director of social media at WXIA.”  The introduction was repeatedly good for a guffaw or a snort.  I suspect only a handful of other news folk in America, if any, have that title.

Despite our reputation as stuck-in-the-20th-century Mainstream Media throwbacks, most TV news folk are aware that their careers will be dependent on their presence on the web, and the monetization thereof.  They are still grappling with the business of how blogging, tweeting and Facebooking will fit into it.

Forward-looking readers of this blog ought to consider making regular visits to Sweigart’s blog as well.   Sweigart is a new-school jack-of-all-trades.  He’s a one-man-band “multimedia journalist.”  As WXIA’s social media director, he is also continually updating the station’s Twitter and Facebook sites (and his own), and riding herd on WXIA’s web presence.

Multiplatform:  Julie Wolfe, WXIA

Dressed to tweet: Julie Wolfe, WXIA

Recently, he noted the multiplatform presence of our colleague Julie Wolfe.  Wolfe produced a moving story about a child who’d waited for months for a donated kidney, then got it.

Days before the story aired, Wolfe promoted it on Twitter and Facebook by sending updates from the operating room where the transplant took place.  On-air, Wolfe said the preview updates helped build an audience for the TV version of the story.  Sweigart argues that Wolfe’s performance is evidence that a TV reporter can thrive as a one-man-band, concurrently producing timely information for the web.

I would add that Wolfe’s TV story was very well done, actually bringing a tear to the eye of an old, grizzled TV goon.

Wolfe’s story is below.  You can find Chris Sweigart’s blog under “Atlanta TV blogs” on the right toolbar of this site.

more about “DELIVERED! Dear Santa, I Need a Kidne…“, posted with vodpod