“My house is alive and breathing…”

Jennifer Leslie and David Ries, WXIA

Here’s a helpful tip for fans of local TV news:  Want to get the attention of a human being working in a newsroom?  Call at 3am.

TV stations in major markets staff their newsrooms overnight whenever they’ve scheduled an early morning newscast.  At WXIA, that’s every night.  When you call a newsroom at 3am, the only competition you have is the stifling boredom that sometimes dulls the senses to even the most incessant ringing.  But odds are, somebody will answer.

At WXIA, that someone may be a guy named David Ries, who produces some of those early newscasts.   Ries reports that he took such a call Saturday morning:  “You know it’s going to be good when the phone call starts with ‘I’m not on amphetamines.’”

The caller informed Ries that he had a story that would “put your station on the map.”

“My house is alive and breathing and I can prove it.”

When I heard it, it brought to mind a classic Star Trek (TOS) episode, where an alien steals the brain of Mr. Spock.  She installed Spock’s brain into a “controller” to provide life support for an underground city.  When reached via communicator by the Enterprise crew, “Spock reports that… his medulla oblongata seems to be breathing, pumping blood, and maintaining temperature,” as described by memoryalpha.org “the Star Trek Wiki.”

Perhaps the caller’s home had indoor plumbing that was actually part of a living circulatory system, and an HVAC that was part of a pulmonary system.  If so, it would represent a significant bio-technological breakthrough.  Or, perhaps, something scary and horrible,  Either way, it had undeniable TV news potential if true.

(To my despair, Spock’s Brain is derided as one of the worst-ever episodes of Star Trek, “as hollow and nonsensical as any given episode of Lost In Space,” according to one reviewer.   Yet, I love Spock’s Brain. I love the premise; love the tension as they search for the disembodied brain; love the footwear on the aliens.  Love Leonard Nimoy’s performance as a brainless robo-Vulcan, and DeForrest Kelley as the performance-enhanced surgeon trying to restore it.)

But I digress.

Perhaps the home of the 3am caller really was alive and breathing.  It would be the story of the day, certainly, and maybe more.  Ries had dutifully recorded the caller’s phone number.  Presumably, we were invited to swing by anytime.

“I think we should check it out,” said photog Dan Reilly, straight-faced.

It makes perfect sense that anybody realizing at 3am that their house is “alive” and “breathing” would immediately look up the phone number of their favorite TV station and make the call.  We thrive on such tips, which regularly yield solid news.

And you overlook them at your peril.  The amphetamine-free guy in the breathing house could be on the phone with your competitor the next day — giving them the hottest news tip of the year, at 3am.

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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, 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.

10 thoughts on ““My house is alive and breathing…”

  1. Mild Mannered Reporter

    I’ve taken one of those calls overnight before. The phone rings in the middle of the night and on the other end was a guy who told me this long story…he worked in construction and he and his crew were up on some scaffolding when it collapsed. Several of the crew were hospitalized, except for the guy speaking, who was miraculously uninjured. He then informed me that later that same night, God came to him in a dream and told him that because of his escape from harm, he would go on to be the 2nd most powerful man in America, behind then-President Bush (W). With a dramatic flourish he asked if my station was interested in “breaking the story” because no other station would listen to him. I simply told him that it wasn’ t my job to decide what stories we broke (and it wasn’t), which made him yell “YOU’RE THE STUPIDEST MAN ALIVE!” before hanging up on me.

    For the rest of my time at the station I only answered the private hotline when it rang.

    Reply
  2. Ben Garrett

    While working overnight at the old UPI Atlanta bureau, I once had a caller tell me Jesus Christ was going to walk across Lake Lanier at high noon the next day. I referred him to the AJC’s religion editor. Never got scooped on the story, though.

    Reply
  3. Mr. Bear

    I’m not proud of this, but back in the 1970′s, several associates and I, under the influence of drugs, both licit and illicit, took to calling local TV stations during a lunar eclipse. Mind you, we didn’t pick on the radio stations or the print media, just the TV folks. Putting on our best rural Georgia voices, we would exclaim that Georgia Power had turned the moon blood red because they hadn’t been granted their recent rate increase.

    Of course, the poor individual at the other end of the phone would try to reason with us. As if that were possible when we were sober, much less in our state that evening.

    There, I’ve said it. Another example of things from my 20′s which will be used against me at any possible senate confirmation hearing.

    Reply
  4. Mary Huff

    LOL! Doug, as a PR person (I’d say PR professional, but that sounds sooo pompous), I’ve pitched stories to the assignment desk at midnight, 6AM – but never thought about 3AM before! Love LAF and have Tweeted this post to my PR colleagues – hope that will add to your fan base. Thanks for all you do to make the news even more interesting.

    Reply
  5. Ex-Photog

    Well, I guess those calls are not limited to local TV stations. Just this past Sunday morning while working the overnight desk at CNN I took a call from a man in Puerto claiming the army had embedded a micro chip under his skin back in the 70′s that still had control over his body. I let the guy talk for about a minute before I hung-up.

    Reply
  6. common sense

    The moon is no longer blood red because Georgia Power have been granted all of their rate increases since the 1970′s. Therefore, my air conditioning bill is too high and I want a house that is alive and breathing so I will not need air conditioning!

    In today’s recession, we all need a way to save money. I am shocked that to station did not visit the house and report on it… or at least refer the caller to Clark Howard.

    Reply
  7. Pingback: clark howard cnn – Latest clark howard cnn news – “My house is alive and breathing…” « live apartment fire

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