Marc Pickard retired from WXIA in September. It was bittersweet for all of us. Pickard is a gifted storyteller, and a guy who probably never had an undignified moment in his entire career. Even when he covered breaking news, Pickard was at his best.
His retirement process paralleled my own departure from WAGA in 2007, kind of like the end of the Pittsburgh Pirates season parallels that of the New York Yankees. Both of us left voluntarily after two decades. The similarities end there.
Pickard was an elegant DiMaggio, a graceful hall of famer. I am more Ted Simmons, an affable but clunky backstop with an erratic bat and no speed.
Pickard got a champion’s sendoff, the equivalent of a parade downtown. I got the exit of a guy who spent his last seasons growing tomatoes in the bullpen at Atlanta Fulton County Stadium. In hindsight, it makes perfect sense.
Pickard: A staff meeting is called during late Spring, and his retirement is announced. Pickard is halfway-seriously told he will be able to select “any story he wants” during his final workdays.
Richards: I post a handwritten, one-line letter of resignation on my desk. Passersby may or may not notice it.
Pickard spends his final two days working with Mike Zakel, a photographer with whom he had traveled the world and developed a close relationship.
Richards is assigned to work his final shift with a photographer he’d never shot a story with previously.
Pickard’s final story is a classy retrospective of his career at WXIA.
Richards’ final story was a stakeout at a home where a murder-suicide had taken place nearly a week earlier.
Pickard completed on-air delivery of his final story, upon which the studio filled with coworkers and applauded Marc on-air.
Richards delivered a forgettable 5:30 live shot, then was told to “swing by” downtown Fayetteville and back up another reporter on another story before returning to Atlanta.
Pickard’s departure was capped with an in-house party, where a tribute piece was shown. Former colleagues were invited.
Richards’ departure was acknowledged with miniature Publix muffins and orange juice during the morning editorial meeting, a two-fer with Mike Daly, who departed the same day.
Pickard’s departure party had a large spread of food and drink, paid for by WXIA.
Richards and Daly got stuck with a $400 + bar tab at a Manuel’s Tavern sendoff that night.
Pickard was the object of an in-house tribute movie short. It was filled with ridiculous cameo appearances by current and former colleagues. The short led into a fifteen minute “this is your life” -style piece about Pickard’s career and such.
Richards became a blogger.
The tribute short below was produced by Jennifer “Jaye” Watson, shot by Kenny Hamilton and Richard Crabbe and edited by Crabbe. It’s full of insider references, including but not limited to
- the “trade” decades ago that sent Mark Winne from WXIA to WSB and Pickard from WSB to WXIA
- mix-minus audio, the absence of which creates an aggravating echo in a reporter’s earpiece
- the addled producer (WXIA EP Ben Mayer), whose show is teetering out of control, time-wise
- writing clichés easily embraced by our industry and loathed by Pickard.
The cast, in order of appearance, are Jeff Dore, Jill Becker, Watson, Richards, Jeff Hullinger, Mayer, Bill Liss, Mark Winne and — a surprise cameo. Wait for it.