Sick

Dale Russell, WAGA

You’re now seeing insane jealousy, the greenest, ugliest and sickest sort imaginable.

There was no chance in hell Susan Richardson would talk to any reporter.  As a political wife recently divorced from one of Georgia’s most media-unfriendly politicians, Mrs. Richardson should have retained her ex-husband’s stonewalling nature. Her ex-, only weeks earlier, had publicly revealed a suicide attempt.

Political wives don’t talk on the record about their shifty husbands.  At least, not while the wounds are still fresh.  Hardly ever.

And yet, Susan Richardson did so.   Why?  Two reasons.  It suited her purposes, because she was desperate to get her scheming, manipulative ex-husband out of her life for good.  And, because Dale Russell of WAGA presumably had the audacity to actually ask her to do it.

(That’s an assumption.  It’s possible Mrs. Richardson initiated contact with Russell directly or through an intermediary.  Russell may not be able to say, though.  The details of those early communications probably involve the give-and-take of negotiating the interview.  I’m hoping Russell will enlighten us with a post on this site in the next few days, but I don’t expect him to tell everything…)

There are several reasons why this story is a pretty amazing feather in Russell’s cap.

The enormity.  Glenn Richardson just announced his resignation from the House of Representatives.  The House will have to choose another speaker.  Call it seismic, cataclysmic, apocalyptic — the story is the biggest talker in town.  It’s bigger than the mayor’s race.  It’s huge because Richardson was a huge force in state government, undone by his own arrogance, his willingness to transpose his brain and his boy-parts, and his inability to let his poor ex-wife get on with her life.

Richardson was forced to resign from his position of power because of this story.

The exclusivity.  Because Susan Richardson talked to nobody else, any other media reporting the story had to either cite WAGA as the source of the bombshell info (as the AJC did), or give vague (and wimpy) credit to “a TV interview” or “broadcast reports.”  Russell owned the story.

And yes, other media made efforts to play catchup.  WSB had a live truck parked outside Mrs. Richardson’s house all day Tuesday, we’re told.   She was unwilling to tell her story again.  She didn’t have to.  She didn’t tell the story as a public service.  She told the story to get her ex-husband off her back.  If she’d become a large-scale media presence, it could have turned Glenn Richardson into a victim, giving him ammunition he now lacks.

Once was enough.  Boy, was it ever.

Tight-lipped: Susan and Glenn Richardson

The storytelling. Sure, he had plenty of excellent raw material from the scorned woman.  But watch the story.    It starts off with her take on his suicide attempt, an effort to manipulate her, she says.  Then Russell goes into the back story.    He weaves  Richardson’s suicide drama with events in their estranged relationship.  (Turns out he’d threatened suicide previously, after she discovered he was having an affair with a lobbyist.)

Then we learn Richardson had threatened to use his political power to help his mistress and harm his estranged wife.   This is the stuff that cost Richardson his job as Speaker of the House.

It caps with the image of her unhappily holding a Bible for his swearing-in.   Now we know it was a climactic, abusive moment in a marriage that had already unraveled.

The story was expertly told, and WAGA gave Russell enough time (seven minutes, plus) to let Mrs. Richardson say her piece, devastatingly so.

Jealous?  Absolutely.  Dale Russell makes me sick with envy.  Others may not admit it.  I just did.

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About live apt fire

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, zero, zilch, nada. For anything written herein, Doug accepts sole credit and full blame. Follow him on Twitter: @richardsdoug. All rights reserved. Thanks for visiting.

24 thoughts on “Sick

  1. tvnewsgirl

    Russell seldom acknowledges Michael Carlin. Dale is an old school gloryhound who has a powerful and well funded group behind him in the I-Team. I have heard him speak in public and he is self congratulatory. A better story Doug, would be the power and influence of Carlin,Fox 5 ‘s force of investigative chase.

    Reply
  2. live apt fire Post author

    @ tvnewsgirl: Russell has swagger, yes. There’s nothing wrong with that. Most TV reporters have it to some degree. (If you don’t, the boss wonders what’s wrong with you.) Russell has certainly earned it. The man has a Peabody for chrissakes.

    I can assure you that he’s thankful for Carlin’s help and mostly, Carlin’s protection of the I-team from budgetary and daily deadline pressures. Carlin and McEntee recognize that such insulation allows the I-team to pack more punch than anybody else in town, investigation-wise. Without them, WAGA becomes pretty indistinguishable.

    @ Me-team: Thanks for confirming that my jealousy is a widespread sickness.

    Reply
  3. DagmarFan

    So WAGA does three or four Investigations a book…yet they had their butts kicked in the Nov book. How long can WAGA keep funding an I-Team?
    Not a very good return on investment. You could buy a bunch of reporters with the money spent on an I-team.

    Reply
  4. Beeyotch

    Three or four Investigations a book? I believe they were down a reporter during this sweeps period and still were on the air upwards of 15 times with no less than 6 investigations.

    And back in ’99 he won a peabody for a story about racial profiling at the airport I believe.

    Reply
  5. Dellperyell

    Take the majority of experienced tv reporters who know Atlanta.. give them the necessary on and off air time to do a story …..team them with Michael Carlin and a staff of experienced Fox 5 I-teamers and they will equal if not surpass Russell every week. His performing skills are modest at best, his self promotion skills are big time. Terrific Fox 5 reporting and producing from those who never appear on camera.

    Reply
  6. Dana Fowle

    Wow. I’m really sorry there aren’t more folks congratulating a fellow reporter on a good story when they see it.

    Dale is my co-worker and I personally like him a lot. But even if I didn’t, this story was a great lick. There are plenty of fine investigative reporters at WSB, CBS 46 and WXIA who do stand-out stories. Dale just happened to do this one.

    With dwindling resources and increasing pressures in covering the news we should all be patting each other on the back when one of us does well, not taking pot shots at each other. If a story hasn’t risen to the journalism community’s standards we should fairly critique one another, but this is not that case.

    WAGA is fortunate, that is true. News Director Budd McEntee and Executive Producer Michael Carlin are the driving forces behind the I-Team, but it doesn’t work without individual reporters, like Dale Russell, who work sources. Nobody handed him this story; Dale found it.

    This blog post isn’t about ratings or who is ahead but about one of us breaking an incredible story and telling it well.

    If one of us shows the community we can affect change, we all win, don’t we?

    Reply
    1. juanita driggs

      I’m with Dana on this one. Time for the Russell’s to start carving out space on the living room mantle for Dale’s next Emmy and for the wannabe’s taking up the rear to pound a little more sand.

      Reply
  7. Mitch

    Dana, I agree with everything you wrote, except for the part about the story not being handed to Dale.
    It isnt hard to figure out how he got the story.

    Reply
  8. Dana Fowle

    A reporter is rarely just handed a story. Tips come to you because of your reputation or because you work a victim or source. You don’t just sit in your cubicle and wait for a high profile person to call you up out of the blue. Doesn’t work that way. It’s earned. Yep, sometimes there is dumb luck, but not very often.

    Reply
  9. Element

    Nobody can deny what a great get this is. And I’d assume if it wins an award, all the names associated with it will be noted. However, it is a shame they don’t have the photo-staff to compliment this, and other, work. The lighting/shooting on her was pedestrian, at best. Otherwise, a solid piece of journalism!

    Reply
  10. Rockfish

    I’ve known the guy since 1st grade and he has been a shameless “gloryhound” since then. However, I know that he writes his own scripts and puts the story lines together on his own. It was one of the best stories that I’ve seen from a minor local TV personality in the Atlanta market for some time. I don’t watch Fox 5 religiously, but I can honestly say I can’t name any of the investigative reporters from the other Atlanta channels(except Belcher who’s part-time) – Guess that says it all

    Reply
  11. formernewsaddict

    The posters taking potshots at Dale confirm LAF”s “sick with envy” comment. Doesn’t matter how you feel about Dale as a person or reporter, he got a great story that led to the downfall of the “second most powerful person in Georgia government”. The rest is just sour grapes.
    As for the lack of on-air credit to behind the scenes people – that goes with job. Those of us who toil off camera know that (or should know that). Our satisfaction comes from a job well done and the very occasional attaboy or attagirl from higher ups. If you want on-air credit, become an on-air person. It ain’t as easy as it looks. BTW, well-done, Dale.

    Reply
  12. Lynn Harasin Johnson

    I have known Dale since his reporting days with WGST radio. He has always been a great reporter and kinder to people than he is being treated here.
    The secret to being a great interviewer is not in asking the best question, but to get the subject to give amazing answers. That is what Dale did here. As good as Carlin is and he’s great, he wasn’t sitting across from that woman and he didn’t get those sound bites.
    Another great job, Dale!
    Lynn Harasin Johnson

    Reply
  13. Jim

    Got to agree with the folks supporting Dale Russell. Given that credit is almost never given to the “behind the scenes” folks, at least not publicly, why would it be expected here? Bottom line, he got something that more than a few other reporters would have sold their firstborn for.

    One note on the Sunday 11 show-Steve should explain the difference between a “fighter jet” and a coast guard rescue helicopter to his people. Somehow I don’t think that people having photos of a fellow passenger getting plucked off the deck in a rescue basket should have rated a live shot at the airport either. Also, the gx was incorrect, the ship was not evacuated, just the deck…much different.

    Reply
  14. Dawg98

    Can we move on from Russell and his personality/work?
    He is a polarizing person for many of us who aren’t old school with 30 years on the job.

    Reply
  15. Deanna

    tvb, thanks for caring so much about my profession. No, I’m not a reporter; nor am I even in the industry. But thanks for taking a little shot at me while you answered my question. Stay classy!

    Reply
  16. scott hedeen

    You know… Dale and the rest of the WAGA I Team have kept their franchise alive here in Atlanta. The way things have been for the last 10 years in the ol’ “biz” … that’s worth something. huh?

    I like this blog… but let’s not all think TV news is NOT about ratings. I’ve seen the end of a lot of wonderful ideas based on focus groups… and the mighty bottom line. Sad but true. I’m just glad someone is still watching.

    Reply
  17. Dale Russell

    Sorry I am late to respond. I’ve been swamped. You asked me – via e-mail – many great questions about our interview with Susan Richardson. I can’t answer any of them.

    I can tell you we talked to her after the first interview when Glenn stepped down and she gave us a quote saying essentially: “I hope he gets treatment.”

    I appreciate your post, as do all the people here in the I-team who worked on this story.

    A couple of points of clarification. We have to be very careful, because of complex legal issues, about identifying I-team members in public. So, we try not to do it. But M and T and M and R and our boss Budd all understand and appreciate the collaborative effort from a fantastic group of journalists that go into every I-team story.

    They are the best in the business and I’m glad to work with them all.

    As for tvnewsgirl, a word of warning to all anonymous posters – be careful. Words and phrases can be traced. And we did. And we’re pretty damn certain who “she” is. And, we all got a good laugh out of it.

    Reply
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