Why WSB makes me puke

What follows is petty, childish and very likely, unfair.  It reflects chatter I’ve overheard in the last few years among colleagues and competitors — the ones who don’t work at WSB, of course.  It fails to fully reflect my respect and affection for many of the hard-working men and women who work at WSB  — including the individual whose Twitter bio is described below.

cox-wirelessI root for media companies that produce local newspapers, host local television stations and pay people to produce quality journalism.

Cox Enterprises does all those things.  But Cox disgusts me.  In particular, its Atlanta properties make me want to puke.

I write this as a competitor and as a consumer of its product.  I have sunk many of my American dollars into its coffers.  I have subscribed non-stop to the Cox-owned Atlanta newspaper since 1986 and still fetch a copy of the AJC from my driveway seven days a week.  (I still prefer “Covers Dixie Like the Dew” to “Credible. Compelling. Complete.”  Barf.)

So I’ve been a small-scale stakeholder in the many rises and falls of the AJC.  When the economy (and Craigslist) sent it into the crapper in 2008, I grieved.  I rooted for the newspaper to stay relevant and profitable.  I don’t know how profitable it is, but I like what I read many mornings.  It does more with less, yet it has re-emerged as the best government watchdog in town.

So why the nausea?wsb013

Very simply, it’s the chest-beating.  Every single time the newspaper produces a story about the Atlanta Public Schools scandal, it includes a box that informs the reader that the AJC broke the story and has followed the story at every step.  Every word is true.  The AJC did great work sizing up the test scores and bringing the scandal to light.

And I’m OK with some chest-beating.  All news organizations do it.  But the AJC never passes up an opportunity to do it on countless stories.  Its putrid feedback loop of endless self-congratulation and self-promotion makes me want to hurl.  Lord knows how bad it would be if the AJC had won the Pulitzer it undoubtedly craved for APS story.

This is in stark comparison to the pre-2008 AJC that carefully and almost painfully separated its marketing from its editorial content.  We’ll let local TV sully itself with that, you could almost hear them saying on Marietta St.  How things have changed.  Even its Sunday editorial page column by Kevin Riley or whomever, wherein the boss purports to bring transparency to the newsgathering process, ends up being a predictable exercise in chest-beating.  Barf.

Maybe WSB-TV is as self-congratulatory as its “partner” in Cox crime, the AJC.  However, self-promotion has been part of the TV news game since forever.  TV is competitive.  The AJC is the only game in town, newspaper-wise.  So TV chest-beating is more defensible than the AJC’s.

But has there ever been a TV news promo more putrid than this one?

When a gunman burst into a local school, he forced an administrator to call our newsroom! “He said he wants me to give a message to channel two.”  Channel two Action News heard his demands — and the gunshots.  We broke the news!

First of all, let SpaceyG shed a little light on this:  The gunman “told me to call one of the news stations. But I asked him which one, it was so many. And he said, ‘I don’t care. Just call one!’” according to WSB’s own interview with the administrator, Antoinette Tuff, who indicated WSB’s number popped up on a Google search of Atlanta TV stations.

But aside from that, here’s WSB’s message:  Hostage-holding, school-invading gunmen love them some channel two action news!  And so should you.

All together now:  Barf.

WSB’s putridness is frequently personified nowadays by its crews in the field.

The only station that matters

The only station that matters

Used to be, WSB’s field hands shat stinky shit like the rest of us.  For many years, they toiled in a flawed, thankless business like everybody else grinding out local TV news, working small miracles on ridiculous deadlines.  I’m sure they still do that.  They have a 4pm deadline, for crissakes.

But many of their crews are now believing their own press, the one that begins with a banner in their newsroom that says “#1 News Team in America.”  Too many of them bring an air of laughable pomposity to the field, like the best athlete at a crappy college who forgets he’s not playing in the NFL.  Hey WSB:  You’re still covering traffic wrecks and apartment fires for the local friggin news.

One need look no further than everybody’s favorite WSB reporter, Mark Winne.  Go to his Twitter page, and he describes himself, in part:  “…TV reporter at #1 major market station in America. Priorities: God, Family, Truth for our viewers…”  Barf.

Even their interns make me puke.  Who was that heavily made-up blonde driving a baby-blue Hummer to assignments this summer?  Barf.

Humbler times:  Ray Moore, WSB

Humbler times: Ray Moore, WSB

One evening at a local watering hole, I made unexpected smalltalk with a WSB manager.  I casually remarked about “worrying about ratings.”  The retort:  “We don’t worry about ratings anymore,” the manager sniffed. “Except by comparison with other stations across the country.  Nowadays, we consider WPVI (a wildly popular Philadelphia station) our competitor.”  But not the Atlanta stations.

Barf.

Every word was true, I’m sure.  WSB’s ratings are titanic.  And I will admit:  They do a good job of blanketing metro Atlanta.  They have more crews in the field than the rest of us. Their field hands work hard.  They doggedly uncover fresh elements to ongoing stories.  They’re enterprising and they’re tough.

Except for WGCL, all the Atlanta TV stations started in the same place.  WSB has covered news well and marketed themselves well.  They have ascended to the top of the Atlanta market through hard work and skill and a bit of help from ABC. I admire that about them.

I remain a huge fan of many of the individuals I see working at WSB.  Fortunately, there remains a strong contingent of their staff who take the station’s success with an appropriate measure of humility.

I would even admit to a bit of envy when I see their ability to deploy resources and technology that I may lack when trying to cover the same story.cow-face

But you’re still covering the same story as me.  And your shit smells no better now than it did twenty years ago.

WSB’s stock in trade is still covering meatball news, the grinding metro mayhem that makes local news unwatchable except as spectacle.  (Whenever the AJC needs a mayhem quote, the newspaper nearly always references its source as “channel 2 action news.”)   And they process it with little storytelling nuance, laced with much grab-the-audience-by-the-throat hype.

WSB has the subtlety of a sledgehammer.  Yet it’s that blunt force that makes them who they are.

And like a cow gobbling up her placenta after birthing a calf, the TV audience eats it up.   So yeah — it’s y’all’s damn fault.

Barf.

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

34 thoughts on “Why WSB makes me puke

  1. Turd

    Bravo! I’m not in the ATL, but it’s that same sledgehammer approach that is killing local news. The emperor has no clothes and the audience knows it!

    Reply
  2. Dave

    Doug-
    Many people do not realize that WSB has morphed as an acronym of “Welcome South Brother” to “We Show Bodies.” I share your disdain of the chest-beating. If he were alive today, even Willie B. would say, “Give it a rest!” By the way, in the promo, the announcer intones —”until everyone went home safe”. Uh, wouldn’t that be “safely?”

    Reply
  3. SpaceyG on Twitter

    Slightly off-topic, but keeping in the spirit of your Cox Plantation Is Shamelessly Off The Chain topic, the other day (but a day before I gave-up cable TV for post-Lent) I tuned-in Mark Winne by accident, probably during their school shooting promotional festival, and I swear I thought someone was going to have to call Milledgeville on the dude. He was frantically waving his hands around, clutching some piece of paper as if it was a drowning child he was trying to rescue, all the while yelling, barely coherently, into our viewing space. Honestly, I couldn’t make heads nor tails out of whatever editorial he was attempting to impart into our faces, he was so jacked-up. It just did not make sense. Nothing computed to us out here, the audience. Neither did the lead in or lead out of the package. Not that he EVER inserts any Who, What, Why, Where into his screaming fest about whatever it is he’s stumbled into that day, but this time it really was… 100% incomprehensible.

    Reply
    1. Al Dale

      Ummm…you been readin’ my mail. Winne’s reporting (mainly his manic presentation) is to clarity as a mud hole is to a pristine mountain stream.

      Reply
  4. Christopher Calandro

    I worked part time at WSB-TV/WSB-AM for a while during the early ’00s, until some chucklenut got it into his head that I was somehow stealing “proprietary information” from The Beat and giving it to All The Hits Q100. Which was Nonsense on Stilts. I was fired unceremoniously from a great gig. What makes me want to puke was the fecklessness of some Beta Males in the programming and news departments. I’ve met toddlers with bigger balls.

    Reply
  5. Anonymous

    Your (quite valid) point on the tastelessness of the news promo around the school gunman would be more well received if you a) didn’t sound so damn bitter and b) didn’t use the word barf so much.

    Buy a thesaurus and try to ask yourself, honestly, do you think any other local TV station would have resisted a similar promo had they gotten the call?

    As somebody wiser than said, “Don’t hate the player, hate the game.”

    Reply
    1. live apt fire Post author

      Funny you would say that. There are many synonyms for “barf” and I started to use them. I went back to the repetition of the single word, choosing to use “barf” as kind of a rhetorical drumbeat. Granted, it’s a rancid word, and perhaps its repeated use undermines my otherwise understated and circumspect analysis. Likewise, I don’t intend to sound bitter. There was actually a fair amount of joy in my heart as I wrote this — especially after a friend pointed out the presence on Youtube of the WSB promos.

      Lastly, I know all local TV stations have their flaws. But WSB is a special station, as they would be the first to tell you.

      Reply
      1. Anonymous

        Because your station is so different — with its incessant Help Desk, and letting me know “I’m Home.” I barf every time I hear the theme music.

        This screams of bitterness and jealousy. And it’s the same tired tactic of TV stations that languish near last place — and you guys REALLY languish. Sorry your nine points of focus, Project Jump, color-coordinated graphics and reliance on cell phone, delay-ridden backpacks aren’t working out.

        Reply
  6. BP

    I remember a certain WSB-Radio personality plugging this particular site years back. I do agree with the shameful self-promotion, and I quote Dennis Miller: “If national news is crap, then local news is crap concentrate.”

    Reply
  7. ATLnative

    I made the wise decision to avoid all Cox products a year ago. There is no WSB TV, WSB 750, no AJC or AJC.com in my household. I couldn’t take their insulting and lowest common denominator approach to news. The only time anything Cox enters my sphere is when some friend on Facebook shares a story from one of the Cox properties and then I hide the story and consider that ‘friend’ to not be a very savvy consumer of information. If I can’t learn about a news story from the other media outlets in Atlanta then I don’t know need to know about it. The Cox approach to news forever turned this view off so I did the same to them.

    Reply
  8. Kenny

    I love you Doug Richards. F@$# them and their arrogant attitude. Been that way since I arrived in the ATL in’95. Viewers will tell you they don’t want blood and guts news…but they lie.

    Reply
  9. English Major

    The self-promotion question aside, it’s not only tasteless, but weird, that they would choose to promote themselves as the top choice of an alleged criminal. Not exactly a desirably kind of endorsement.

    Reply
  10. Og Ogglby

    When I want to know if something important is happening, I don’ t tune to WSB first. As sad as it is, there is a shooting every day, and when it becomes that common, it isn’t news. In fact, it hasn’t been news since Monica was sent off to TV charm school back in the 70’s.

    Reply
  11. Anonymous

    WSB Radio, the AJC and WSB are all peddlers in crap. But, so are WXIA and WAGA etc… Until Atlantans get smart and start to care, real news and information hasn’t a prayer.

    Reply
    1. CSpotNews

      What’s wrong with the analogy? If you ever answered the phone at a local TV news station you’d learn very quickly that the above analogy (cows to viewers) is indeed an insult… to cows.

      Reply
  12. CB Hackworth

    You do realize that if you were a high school cheerleader in Texas, your mom would be hiring a hit man to kill the more popular girl, right? And, no, I’m not saying you’re not better than she is. I’m not saying that at all. It really isn’t fair.

    Dude. Brutal. An extremely well written piece… that makes me want to puke.

    (Mostly, I’m just so incredibly glad I quit watching and reading local “news” a couple years ago. You’ve now reassured me that was the right choice, and the sooner the mainstream media finishes its death throes and sinks into the muck like dinosaurs, the better the world is going to be.)

    Reply
    1. geoffingeorgia

      I couldn’t agree with you more (and as a fan of modern fiction, I applaud your “chorusing” of the word barf.
      However, I wouldn’t hesitate to include ALL local news outlets in the criticism.

      Undoubtedly WSB is the most proud of the muck they rake and their ability to rake it like no other, but the cash cow of news (particularly local news) is shock. Anyone who retained a high school education has known that for decades. The news is a slave to advertisers, and so must shovel spectacle to their audiences, whom gladly consume the “news” along with the advertising and beg for more.

      When these terrible tragedies happen how many people start streaming it on their computers, playing their radios and teevees non stop until the news can no longer hype the public horror?

      ANY news corporation worth it’s salt at telling the actual news should be leading the charge to stop advertising during news broadcasts (I’m not sure, but I think it was once illegal to do so, and it’s undeniably unethical)
      Our society is woefully uninformed and willfully ignorant of most important news issues, and rather than attempting to educate the public, our news providers would rather pander to the lowest kinds of desires, to see the death, dismemberment, pain, suffering and anguish of others on the screen in our homes.

      I honestly think that soon we’ll see news sources that have NO advertising, perhaps some underwriting, and that will be a rotating list of benefactors, whom understand that they will not be above criticism, simply because of their generosity;

      This style of funding is already starting to power the best sources of news on the internet, and it’s televisions only hope of not becoming a complete joke.

      Let your wallet be your voice to the world. Whenever you see soft news or fluff stories, muck, slander, and even completely made up stories, when you hear or read weasel-words, lies and propaganda, PAY SPECIAL ATTENTION to the advertisers who serve you this slop and write them an email, letting them know you won’t continue to watch such drivel, and will no longer be buying their product, unless it supports real, illuminating, in-depth, (actually in-depth, not just saying “in-depth” as a slogan) and important news stories, that seek to enlighten the viewers, and edify them so they can take an informed position.

      It shocks me when I (rarely) watch the evening news anymore, how similar it is (often overlapping stories) with the “entertainment news programs” that come on after the “real news” and it should shock me, but I should never have the chance to be shocked. I almost cried a few weeks ago when I watched Diane Sawyer do a segment about a celebrity couple, I felt absolutely insulted and have not tuned in since.

      Reply
  13. John

    When it comes to television news, I’ve always said that viewers get what they deserve. Don’t be mad at WSB. Be mad at Atlanta viewers. Atlanta viewers CLEARLY like the sledgehammer, and everyone else would be wise to follow suit.

    Reply
  14. Anonymous1

    It must be a Cox thing. I work at a station in Orlando and Cox-owned WFTV has the most arrogant bunch of crews out in the field. Oh sure, some, if not most, of them are easy enough to work with, but there’s a few that walk around thinking they are God’s gift to local TV news.
    But before WSB goes off bragging about their wonderful coverage of the school gunman they should look to sister station KTVU in Oakland-San Francisco. In the days after the Asiana Airlines crash they publicly proclaimed how superior their coverage was to their competitors. And then kharma bit them in the butt with that fake list of pilot names.

    Reply
  15. CB Hackworth

    I applaude the courage of the many contributors to this conversation who voice strong opinions while hiding behind pseudonyms.

    Reply
  16. Jimmy John

    Say what you will about WSB and Cox, they are providing the audience and advertisers what they want and pay for. All stations cover the same crappy local news that everyone knows is crappy but watch anyway.

    Yeah, I agree that the self promotion gets tiresome. I never thought proof of performance spots were worth their weight, but I’m not a promotions guy either. “With our super duper doppler 9000 radar, we were able to save lives during the recent storm.” Well, what about the lives the radar didn’t save? How about you just shut up about it? I don’t think any station needs to constantly showcase how well they cover news.

    On average, WSB holds 65% of the news market share, wins 22 hours of the broadcast day, and gobbles up most of the ad dollars spent in Atlanta, (according to Cox owned AJC.) When they say that they don’t really compete with other stations in the market, with these numbers, you kinda have to agree. I say keep doing what made you number one unless, of course, there’s sum ting wong.

    Reply
  17. Fred

    I love one reporter trying to accuse other reporters of being scumbags. Here’s a flash for your 6 o’clock broadcast: you are all bottom-feeding scum who would sell out your mother for ratings. No one thinks any of you are clever. Whether you work for Channel 2, 5, or 11, you are all local TV hacks who can only hope to aspire to become national TV hacks. Enjoy your miserable life, vultures.

    Reply
    1. live apt fire Post author

      Pretty sure nobody here has called any reporter a “scumbag” or any other nasty name. What are the odds you’re one of those folks always jumping up and down about the media’s failure to report accurately? The whole premise of your comment is crap. (The remainder is your opinion, which I’m happy to post. Welcome to the site, Fred.)

      Reply

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