Armageddon

Click here to view the “Icy Crash in Roswell” link that was previously embedded here.)

There are many reasons why I don’t run a TV newsroom.  Most have to do with an absence of talent.  Some of it is due to an aversion to the high-wire act that news directors perform career-wise, knowing that their shelf life is historically very short.

Crow: The other white meat

Last week provided a very specific reason:  I lack the foresight to treat a forecast of an inch of snow like the coming of Armageddon.  “Weather ‘event’?!” I snorted at one point during an editorial meeting, 36 hours in advance of Thursday’s night’s snow/ice.

I was skeptically certain that there’d be only a dusting of snow; that TV would overreact to it; and that audiences would watch (because threats of weird weather drive up the numbers of Households Using Television, measurable by ratings services), mostly laugh and everybody would get on with their lives within a day or so.

Shows what I know.

WXIA photog David Brooks shot the above video on Willeo Rd. in Roswell.  For the lady in the pickup truck who slid convincingly into a tree, there was an unmistakable moment of weather-related Armageddon.

Same with the folks who found themselves in the four-car pileup outside Woody’s Cheesesteaks at Virginia and Monroe.  Click here to see video previously embedded below.

The drama photog JoJo Johnson documented (below) on I-20 Thursday night was similar.  Those who made it home unscratched that night probably spent the next 24 hours watching TV coverage of the “weather event.”

Did any other Atlanta station get this kind of material?  Feel free to comment and include a link.

The bosslady stocked the Thursday night / Friday morning schedule with extra staff, and just about all of ‘em had legit stories to tell.  Her competitors did the same thing.

Good call.  Two / three days later, the polar chill and persistent ice are still a pain in Atlanta’s neck, and still a story.

So I’ll stick to blogging.   And my next “yes ma’am” will be especially deferential.

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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.

21 thoughts on “Armageddon

  1. Funkmeister

    The Virginia and Monroe video came into The Weather Channel via an internet-streaming, broadcast system. Serendipity: we had it on, live, when that multiple collision happened.

    Doug, back when I worked at WAGA and lived in Lilburn I used to be tasked with driving out to Snellville to pick-up Budd when winter weather resulted in poor driving conditions. Do you happen to know if this responsibility has been assumed by someone else?

    Reply
  2. wagwar

    Image how cool it would have been if the reporters/photogs had done everything in their power to warn people of those icy patches.
    Wow! They would have been Determined! Dependable! Dedicated!
    I could have trusted them. I could have counted on them.

    Hmmm – that’s a hard question, no?

    Reply
  3. Mitch

    I’d love to hear some discussion from folks in the newsrooms about wagwar’s comments. I wont be so d-bagish about it, but it seems to me that instead of planting a camera and catching all these folks smashing into each other it would have been better to get to the top of the hill and tell people to go the other way. Or at least call the po-po and tell them what’s happening so they could close the road.
    What do you guys think?

    Reply
    1. Jimbo

      Did you have a scanner on? I did, and was out in it. I tried to call about on particuarly icy spot, and was basically told that it was every man for himself, and they would get to it “when they can”.

      As far as I’m concerned, had we been trying to warn people about specific icy spots, we would have run the risk of giving the impression that the rest of the roads were fine, which they most assurely were not. To me, the best approach was to do what we did. Go observe, and see what we saw, then communicate the fact that you just don’t need to be out there to our listener/reader/viewers.

      As for warning specific drivers, about the only shot where that might have been possible is the “four car pileup” at the shopping center entrance. Then again, there’s also video of people driving past road closed barricades.

      Somehow I don’t think the ND would appreciate it if you came back with a bunch of stationary footage of you waving cars off the icy spot. Yeah, maybe once, so you can show how you’re solving the “tough problems” (how long before they move onto that) but more than that, and they’ll tell you to go get a HERO truck and go to work.

      Reply
  4. mogfxdesign

    Doug, would be interested as well on your thoughts about warning drivers. Yes, I know and expect TV stations to show the cars skidding on ice and warning viewers about dangerous conditions. But the impression all the stations gave was, we’ll sit here, watch and roll on every car that comes down this hill. I saw several comments from people on FB referring to TV stations as being evil for doing this. As a viewer this turned me off. I switched between all the stations and all of them did this. At least that’s the perception I got and I don’t think I’m the only one. There was one instance that Ross Cavitt helped a motorist push his truck. I remember Ross doing a similar thing at a previous weather event. He gets points for that in my book. Some may argue that it was self serving. Maybe, maybe not, but he projected an image of being involved and willing to help out.

    I saw WXIA’s coverage of Monroe & 10th and WSB’s coverage of Northside & Deering in particular and someone could have severely been injured or killed. At what point do you say, this is dangerous and we need to help block traffic before things get worse? Is that an option? Or is this a situation that would also place you in physical danger?

    How do you balance between doing your job (a job your ND expects you to do) and just being a witness to an event that you may help prevent. I’d really like to know what goes through you mind during a situation like this.

    I turned on the news this morning (Sunday) and saw the same video(WSB) of crashes from Friday morning. I was turned off again. I wanted to hear from officials why it took so long to close down roads or get the proper maintenance to keep roads safe. Maybe the stations did cover this angle, but since I turned away, I never got that answer.

    Reply
  5. live apt fire Post author

    If you are suggesting that the photographers who shot this video should have stopped shooting, stowed their gear, walked a couple hundred yards toward oncoming traffic, stood alongside the street and waved their arms / gestured to warn motorists that the road was icy, then my answer is an emphatic “no.”

    TV photographers are in the business of mass communications. When this video aired, it gave countless thousands of people reality checks about the dangerous conditions on these and many, many other roads. I’m certain this video caused them to drive more carefully, slow down and be aware of the potential for similar situations in their communities.

    By putting this material on TV quickly, they effectively communicated the situation to many, many more people than they would have done by stowing their gear and waving their arms at a handful of motorists.

    After shooting the material, should the photog have stowed his gear and waved his arms at traffic? No. His obligation was to get the material on the air asap, quickly communicating the grave conditions to viewers.

    Nobody would be surprised to learn that Ross Cavitt personally assisted motorists. I’m sure many other TV types did the same thing. Julie Wolfe phoned DOT repeatedly to point out trouble spots. But their first obligation was the business of mass communication.

    Two other points: Suggesting the photogs were “obligated” to wave their arms at traffic also implies that any other motorist who successfully made it through these icy patches and saw the danger was similarly obligated. I saw no other motorists stop their vehicles, get out and wave warning gestures at traffic. Could be those motorists had other obligations — like, to their employers.

    If you watch the video carefully, most of the accidents were the result of poor driving skills / poor judgment: Folks driving too fast for conditions, and/or slamming on brakes when hitting ice. People who drove carefully negotiated those icy patches successfully. The photographers aren’t to blame for these accidents. And they certainly aren’t “evil” for shooting the video and showing it to the public. This was an instance where TV news performed a genuine public service.

    Good question. Thanks for putting it out there.

    Reply
  6. Tvshooter

    Actually the photographer that shot the Monroe and Virginia video…me…was trying to wave off the cars after the jeep hit the white car that was stopped.
    Not only did she ignore my waving my arm to go the other way, she was going too fast. Same with the red car– he was going as if it was an average day in Atlanta.
    one woman came up and berated me and Richard Crabbe, who was at the bottom of the hill about not warning people. Crabbe asked he if she’d seen on tv the last 2 days that this was going to happen…she replied “we don’t watch tv”.
    There you go…warnings were out there.
    That crash was live on Weather Channel. I was there from 8:30am till noon. About 75 cars came thru that intersection. ONLY THE 3 CARS IN THAT VIDEO HIT ANYTHING! What does that say? That 3 of 75 crashed, while about 72 didn’t.
    Public service? Not really….but had these 3 paid attention, drove a little slower, and had some idea of what to do on ice, they’d have all made it.
    You’d be stunned to see how many were on their cell phones while coming thru there.

    Reply
  7. mogfxdesign

    Doug & Tvshooter, thanks for your insight and response. There’s a lot that happens behind the scenes that viewers don’t see. It’s one of the reasons I read this blog. As I mentioned in my post, I didn’t see anything about crews trying to warn drivers. Maybe because I switched off. If it was done, then I think it was an element that added to this story. If it wasn’t, maybe it’s something worth considering in the future. Are photographers obligated to do so, I agree with you that they are not. I also don’t think that you should be berated for not warning people. I just wanted to know what the thought process is in a situation like this and to hear the other side to this story. I’m not at all surprised by people on their cell phones. I see it everyday.

    Reply
  8. Sammy

    LAF states “This was an instance where TV news performed a genuine public service.”

    You got to be kidding LAF. Your sole objective in being there was to get tape of idiot drivers and cars sliding and crashing, rather then just mentioning the locations of known problem areas. You were probably told where to go for the “good” shots.

    You’ll tape 4 hours of a NASCAR race to show the 20 seconds of crashes on the “snewz.”

    Reply
  9. Sammy

    TVshooter says “I was there from 8:30am till noon. About 75 cars came thru that intersection. ONLY THE 3 CARS IN THAT VIDEO HIT ANYTHING!”

    Yea, what a bust that you had to wait over 3 hours in the cold to get some footage you wanted. Diapponted a pedestrian wasn’t hit by a sliding car? Why did you go to that specific location?

    Reply
  10. arky

    Here’s a blanket “warning” for motorists driving on a subfreezing day: If you’re driving downhill and see four local TV cameras at the bottom all pointing up at you, you should probably be able to put 2+2 together about why they’re choosing to be in that particular location, and maybe turn around.

    Reply
  11. Tvshooter

    Why was I there? Because I was asked to find an area of icy road and set up a camera and do a live shot. That’s what I get paid to do. Would me not being there have made a difference? Doubt it…the cars would have done exactly the same thing…driving too fast for conditions, not paying attention and reacting to the situation as if they’d had no idea bad weather had hit.

    Was I performing a “public service” for people? Of course not…tv does absolutely nothing of the sort. Television is a for profit industry.

    Again…not being there would not have changed anything. Even people that saw myself and WAGA’s Mark Teichner (spelling?) waving them off, still ignored the warning and drove on down. Mark also called Atlanta PD.

    The 3 cars involved were all in that wreck of their own accord. I wasn’t driving their cars, they were. They made a decision to go out knowing the roads were awful.

    It’s as much their fault I slipped on the ice and got a busted lip as it is I had anything to do with their wrecks. And that voice yelling “look Out!” was me…so yes they were warned about the oncoming cars.

    Pedestrians were told before trying to cross that it was very slick….yet time and time again, people kept crossing. Thanks to the lady that crossed over, went to Starbucks and brought me a coffee. :)

    Why not ask the same question of those drivers….why were you there? There’s plenty of roads available that were clear. Why did these people venture out, knowing the roads had ice, and then drive as if it was July? Hey-all I did was stand there…they did the crashing.

    Do I feel bad? Nope…it’s no different than any of the other 40-50 people walking by and standing around watching. I just had a camera. My job is to document what happens in the world, not fix it. And why are you so holier than thou? After all…..you watched it. So you had an obvious interest in seeing it. Bet you watched it more than once too.

    Reply
    1. wagwar

      “Was I performing a “public service” for people? Of course not…tv does absolutely nothing of the sort. Television is a for profit industry.”

      Thanks for that. Now in my perfect world :), that would be the marketing tag instead of “Dedicated, determined, dependable”.

      I think the most happy with TV (and media in general) are the average for they are the ones to which TV is targeted.

      Reply
  12. Brian Allen

    Watching the coverage on TV (because I sure as hell was not getting out in that mess) I would have to say WXIA had the best pictures of the stations in Atlanta. The shot with the car sliding into the abandoned car and the truck hitting the tree was unbelievable, as was Julie Wolfe’s piece on Ellis Bridge. It’s like they were there at the right place when the money shots took place. One criticism though, who was in charge of the station news promo? The woman’s voice sounded drab and almost drowned out by the other audio. Very amateurish production on that promo.

    Reply
  13. big tommy

    i think one of the obvious answers to this question is…when tasked to shoot situations like this i tend to position myself in a safe spot, where i am not going to get plowed over by one of these poor souls, who can’t drive..are you suggesting that i leave my safe spot and put myself in danger to save someone an insurance claim?

    if you can’t figure out, on your own, that you should slow down on icy roads…then a photographer waiving madly at you isn’t going to matter!

    Reply
  14. LBJ

    One benefit exists for showing stupid drivers crashing, and that is to demonstrate to all of the businesses, schools and colleges that the roads really are slick and that asking your employees to risk their lives to get there at 9:00 is STUPID when there’s a coating of ice on the road. There are lots of bosses and college presidents out there that somehow don’t understand that risking your life is not in the job description.

    Reply
  15. Lady Jane

    So, this past summer I was driving at night down a well-trafficked neighborhood street in Decatur. That’s when I rounded a bend and nearly ran head on into one hell of a massive fallen tree. The police had apparently been there earlier because yellow police tape was torn and waving in the breeze just out of the view of my headlights. Yeah, it had been a stormy afternoon. Yeah, I had ridden out the storm at work per the advice of the infamous “they.” Did “they” warn trees were down around town? Indeed they did. But, you know, I had to get home. And the storm had passed.

    Had my job been to report in, I would have set up in that very spot and let it roll. I definitely would have done so. No question.

    Yet it wasn’t “my job,” so I turned around and started driving away… until I saw headlights moving in my direction. Just another idiot going home like me who didn’t listen to his or her 6 p.m. news of others hittin’ trees. And not being a seasoned hill photog, I didn’t know that all I had to do was simply wave my arms in that infamous “they” alert and mock the idiocy approaching me. Damn. Instead I threw my car in reverse, parked far enough away to not get hit but close enough to do what I could. As cars approached I blasted my horn and flashed my bright lights to get the attention of probably what ended up being 15 or so drivers in the hour or more that I waited for the police to show up. The one that took my breath was the SUV with a kid in the backseat. The father backed up and stared at me with a shocked look of thanksgiving. Yeah, I recognized his face — it was mine from 30 minutes earlier. I called 911 two or three times over an hour, irritated at the slow response. (They couldn’t find my location, and, to be fair, trees were down all over.) Now true enough, I bet that most of those folks would have hit the brakes just in time with or without the head’s up. But knowing how close it was for me — one glance at the radio or, I hate to say, distraction from my cell would have surely landed me in a world of hurt.

    Yeah, I watched that lady in the red truck, and I agree that the visual image definitely emphasized the point that I wasn’t going to drive that day. I get that, and I do appreciate it. On the other hand, she could have been killed. A collision with a tree can do that.

    When your job is to identify “the” hill or hills, let’s face it odds are you’ve got more experience with weather driving than the everyday Joe or Jane. Let’s face it, if that’s your job you are fully immersed in, if not addicted to, all things weather Armageddon, while the rest us may perhaps view a snow day as an opportunity to rent a movie or whatever… And for those who do venture out, who’s to say that Jane may have been told she’d be fired if she didn’t get in for work? A lot of Janes and Joes in the medical profession and hourly workers know the pressure of that story. As such, just maybe another life saving angle would have been to venture off the hill and report on how hospitals and line companies were facilitating a safe ride in for such employees… or not facilitating it.

    I think you make a point from a business perspective, and no one would argue it’s “your job” to bring attention to the hills in all their slip sliding color. But from a human perspective… its cold, man, just like the weather. Carry a flare or something to warn the folks. If you knew your loved one was headed toward one of those hills and you had a few minutes to position something to warn them… would you have done it? Yeah, you would have. You might have talked about said relative and/or friend later and their stupidity for not listening to you on the noon news… “Ma, were you watching your E! again??” but you’d have gotten your arse up that hill, lit a flair and/or done whatever you could to warn your loved one. Yeah, you would have.

    I appreciate you hill documenters and all that you do to warn and entertain the rest of us (I do love my NASCAR), but I also find myself a tad more cynical because of you too. “Lovey?” “Yes, Thurston?” “Lovey, do tell them it’s not my job…”

    Reply
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