Earlier this year, members of WAGA’s I-Team made a video for a non-profit organization to be played at a banquet. The video was a public service project. The I-Team’s editor burned the video onto a DVD using a new DVD burner. When they took the DVD to the banquet early, the house machine couldn’t play the DVD.
It was the first time they’d tried to play a DVD from that burner on another machine. It turned out that DVD hadn’t been finalized, and the machine offered no prompt to do so after burning the DVD.
They fixed the problem in time for the banquet. But then the editor had a moment of horror: He’d used the same DVD burner to create the I-Team’s submissions for the 2011 Emmy Awards.
When the nominations came out in May, WAGA’s I-Team didn’t receive a single nomination. It was a historic aberration. WAGA’s investigative unit doesn’t win every year, but it always gets multiple nominations.
The Southeastern chapter of NATAS awarded its Emmys Saturday. It was a great night for investigative reporting, whatever the reason for WAGA’s absence. Click here for a complete list of nominees and winners.
At WSB, Jodie Fleischer won four Emmys for investigative stories she’d produced. WGCL’s Wendy Saltzman won one. Ross McLaughlin and Shawn Hoder, WXIA’s Center for Investigative Action, also won one. Hoder’s acceptance speech, along with Sonny Dixon’s and Harry Samler’s, was among the most amusing of the evening.
If a slew of awards helps jolt investigative reporting across Atlanta’s media landscape, then WAGA’s absence Saturday can only help the cause. Although its slide has abated somewhat, the old traditional news media is still on the ropes as a commercially viable institution. Investigative reporting tends to fill less time and newsprint space, draining resources from day-to-day operations. Too often, consumers of news view investigative reporting — as they do the rest of the news media — with suspicion, as news organizations occasionally overplay their narratives or overpromote their stories. It would be easy for news organizations to give up on time-consuming, long-form investigative reporting.
It is under such circumstances that scoundrels thrive. When a once-burly news organization like the AJC shrinks and reshapes itself, it has fewer journalistic eyeballs to spot scammers and self-dealing politicians. Likewise, when state government decides to gut the state Ethics Commission budgetarily — and voters decline to howl in protest — politicians can talk about “transparency in government” while in fact, operating in greater secrecy.
So cheers to the Atlanta TV news investigators who swiped some attention from WAGA’s I-Team Saturday. Their efforts were legitimately award-worthy, and their managers need to give them a long leash to continue to look under Georgia’s many rocks and inside other dark places.
Hopefully, the new regime at WAGA will resist any budgetary temptation it may have to misuse or reassign Atlanta TV’s strongest investigative reporting unit. No doubt, the I-Team will figure out how to use its DVD burner next year. Maybe that technological hiccup was actually a good thing for anybody who wants to see scoundrels kept in check.