Live Apt Fire

Slightly averted hairy eyeball

Live Apartment Fire is managed and written by WXIA reporter Doug Richards, who has grandiosely entered his fourth decade in the TV news biz.  He began working in Atlanta in 1986 at WAGA-TV.  After leaving the business in 2007, he began writing this blog, which took a critical look at local TV news in Atlanta.  WXIA-TV hired him August 10, 2009.

This is Doug’s personal blog.  It has no connection whatsoever with his employer.  Its management does not screen or approve the posts herein.

The blog is named for the most incendiary cliche in Atlanta TV news. When an apartment building catches fire– especially close to news time– it doesn’t matter what good work a reporter has developed during the day. Nor does it matter if nobody is injured by the fire. The apartment fire will get top priority and will be treated like Armageddon, especially if the flames can be broadcast live during a newscast.  (This is true of most Atlanta TV stations, but thankfully not true at WXIA.)

The August 2009 hiring at WXIA allowed the writer to stop referring to himself in the third person as LAF (or the first person plural as “we”).  We’re all first-person-singular these days, thankfully.

Once, at the end of a TV news workday, my teenage son asked me: So, dad– cover any apartment fires today?

24 thoughts on “Live Apt Fire

  1. Kit Baty

    Doug,

    I learned about your blog from Rodney Ho’s tv/radio blog at AJC.com. I have always respected your work at Fox 5, and was lucky enough to get a peek “behind the curtain” several years back when you visited the “Lucky Yates Show” at Dads Garage. I have just read every post of your blog over my lunch break, and I am going to need more. Can you post more than once a day?

    Seriously, it is well written and a great observation of the media from someone who has served in the trenches and knows what they are talking about. You are all dead on (like your takes on Monica Pearson, the Hullman, Patty Pan, etc.) and are a pleasure to read. Please keep up the great work!

    I have two simple questions. 1) During the coverage of the missing Brookhaven couple in SC.. who’s fault is it when an anchor or reporter pronounces the name of a town/county incorrectly? Hilton Head is in Beaufort County, and Beaufort is pronounced BEW-furt.. not BOW-fort. Yet, I maybe have seen one anchor/reporter get it correct in the two weeks this story has been covered by the major news outlets (I think it was Fox 5).

    Speaking of Fox 5 – 2) What are your thoughts (if you have any at all) about the presentation of local newscasts? Or do you even pay attention to stuff like graphics, sets, voiceovers, etc? While I like the FOx 5 airstaff, I simply cannot watch the telecasts anymore. The garish set they are forced to inhabit twice an evening is ridiculous. 46′ news looks like ametuer hour anytime I happen to tune in. 11 is a little better, and they are in HD, but their graphics bug me to no end. That leaves me with WSB. They LOOK professional. The voiceover guy demands your attention. The set looks clean and simple. Yes, at the center of it all is usually Monica – but I can at least watch when (the great and lovely) Jovita Moore is at the helm. I cannot wait for her to take over – in 2020 or whenever Monica steps down.

    I realize 5 is your former employer, but do you ever watch the 6pm newscast and ask yourself.. “How many times must the have the words ‘Fox 5′ on the screen at one time anyway?”.

    thanks again,

    Kit Baty
    (part time local media junkie)
    Marietta

    Reply
  2. liveapartmentfire Post author

    Kit- Thanks for the post. You’re very kind. My Lucky Yates appearance was a career highlight. Which says something about my career, I’m sure. The short answers to your questions are:

    - I struggle as it is to post once a day. I don’t intend to become a full-time blogger unless somebody throws me enough ad revenue to pay my mortgage and bar tab.

    - Most broadcasters I’ve met are very meticulous about pronouncing words and locations correctly– even anchors. They almost always check. However, sometimes the folks with whom they check are plain wrong.

    Q- “Anybody know how to pronounce Beaufort?”
    A- (from newsroom secretary) “I think its Boo-fert”
    Q “You sure?”
    A- “Think so”
    Q- “Thanks.”

    - I’ve spent most of my career ignoring the graphic look of TV news. I can’t explain why, and I’ve never let a graphic look sway which newscast I like.

    Yes, they do like to splash their logo as often as possible. Last spring, 5 changed their mic flags. The new flags were so large, the reporters were unable to grasp the mics with their hands– they had to grasp the flags instead. 5 ordered smaller flags, but they’re still too large. And I think one or two of the super-sized flags make rogue appearances on TV.

    You’ve read every word of LAF? That’s breathtaking, and humbling.

    Reply
  3. EXTVTOG

    Doug,

    What ever happened to the freelance reporter, Danielle Reese? She was only on a little while then went over to 11. Do you know if she is still working in the Atlanta market?

    Reply
  4. EXTVTOG

    Thanks for the update. I worked with her at WAGT in Augusta, GA a few years ago and recently saw that she was in Atlanta for a short time. I was wondering if she got out of the biz or moved somewhere else. Since I am not longer in television, I like to keep up with former co-workers.

    Thanks for the info and keep up the good work on this site.

    Reply
  5. Saddened

    Doug,

    You totally come across as someone yearning to be back on the air. You consume your free time by watching news so you can mock it.

    How sad! :(

    Reply
  6. skillet

    Dear Saddened-
    I know Doug personally– let me stress in all CAPS:
    DOUG IS HAPPY AS A PIG IN SHIT that he’s not having to shave and have “TV hair”, listen to management and stand in front of “cold fires” day to day. Local tv news is terrible. I can’t believe Doug was the first one to think about taking it on.

    skillet

    Reply
  7. Erik

    Doug:

    Didn’t realize you had left TV til I found your blog today. Worked with you numerous times when I was with the DA and you always seemed slightly embarrassed by what you were being asked to do and extremely bored with it. But I always welcomed your calls because I knew I could talk you out of doing a story pretty easily. :) Best of luck in your new life!

    Reply
  8. mcyaggy

    Doug – Where in your archives can I find out what happened to Cari Champion after she returned to 46 following her on-air fauz pas? Was she canned? Is she working elsewhere? Did she get out of the news business altogether? Thanks.

    Reply
  9. live apt fire Post author

    McYaggy– I would be the first to admit this blog isn’t what you’d call comprehensive. My archives, such as they are, don’t have that info. Another reader says she’s working in LA.

    Erik– Who knew I was such a pushover as a TV reporter? Actually, I kinda knew. I believed too many people. Especially the charmers, such as yourself. :) Nice to hear from ya.

    Reply
  10. bnple14

    I just wanted to write and say how much I enjoy reading your blog. I’m a recovering newsie who spent many years working in the Atlanta news market. It’s nice to know that I’m not the only one who thinks the way some of Atlanta’s local stations present/report the news is nuts!

    Reply
  11. bagwellk

    Doug – Long time no talk! I’m better known as Lisa Clark’s husband. We always loved you on TV, and Lisa and I (and our good friend and your former colleague) are really enjoying reading this. Hope all is well with you and your family!

    All the best!

    Kris Bagwell

    Reply
  12. Scott Hedeen

    “You totally come across as someone yearning to be back on the air. You consume your free time by watching news so you can mock it.

    How sad! ”

    I love this post! Sad is right! Doug needs to be toting a Mini Cam around Atlanta coming up with stories that make focus groups smile in between pizza bites and picking out free T shirts.

    Look at it like this… Trust someone who can speak from experience… not someone who speaks from the inner office memo.

    Reply
  13. dave cohen

    I’ve lived in Atlanta for 16 years and night after night, at 6 and 11, I’m amazed at how 4 news stations consistently have 4 different lead stories.

    The absence of a clear consensus seems to indicate that each station’s self interest — perceived “exclusivity” — trumps genuine news that affects the largest segment of the population.

    In the case of perennial ratings leader WSB-TV, my perception is that “minority-on-minority” crime seems to lead their 11PM newscast more frequently than any other story. More often too than Channels
    5, 11 or 46 at 11PM.

    Wondering if the news community shares any of these views?

    Reply
  14. Beth Cope

    Whenever I have media interest in a press conference I always tell my clients to cross their fingers and pray that there is not an apartment fire. That’s why they pay me the big bucks…

    Reply
  15. Melinda Boyd

    Hi Doug,

    I was surprised and pleased to learn about your blog today via the AJC. I also didn’t realize you had left TV news but then again, I left Atlanta in 2005 and when I’m back, I don’t spend much time watching the news. That being said, I LOVE your take on local news. I’ve only read one blogpost so far and it definitely had me laughing at my desk. It’s the same sort of perspective my father (who also worked at WAGA/Fox 5 News) used to share with us at the dinner table every night. I think you may remember him? David Boyd? Anyways, he LOVED all of the ridiculousness and pomp and “LIVE! APARTMENT FIRE”-type crap that surrounded the local news world and so I’m glad to see someone posting similar commentary.

    Reply
    1. live apt fire Post author

      Hi Melinda–
      Great to hear from you. Your dad, David Boyd, was a great American and one of the good guys in our business — a guy who “got it,” as your note indicates. He was a pretty damned good newsman. He was also very generous and humane. When my 18-month old daughter was diagnosed with diabetes in 1988, David wrote me a lovely, caring note that I kept and still have (somewhere). So yes, of course I remember your dad (and your mother, Mary Jane). David was an extraordinary guy who left us at way too young an age. Thanks for writing — please give my regards to your mom.
      -dr

      Reply
      1. Mary Jane Boyd

        Thank you Doug for your kind words. Yes, David was a damned good newsman. I loved how he would be telling/reciting a script he had written that day and would be typing on an imaginary keyboard at the dinner table.

        I remember your daughter’s diagnosis and the effect it had on both of us. I trust she’s doing fabuouly well – and a college graduate by now . . . we are old.

        And thank you for your lovely letter you sent me – yes, I still have.
        Love to you and yours,
        MJ

        Reply
  16. Mirtha Vaca-Wilkens

    Doug…so cool to run across your blog. It made me remember my days at WAGA. I’ve been in Seattle where I’ve worked in news and then transitioned to the non-profit world. It’s been good. I have to admit, I don’t miss the apartment fires or for that matter, bad weather stories, one bit! I’m returning to Atlanta this Fall and would love to catch up. Cheers, Mirtha Vaca-Wilkens

    Reply
  17. Rick Foley

    I dread the day a one-man-band gets injured or killed because there wasn’t a second set of eyes to watch out for the unforseen……. Mental patient with a news grudge, oh wait, that’s the Tea Party. Swerving car, tractor-trailer entering picket lined gate of labor greivence, the usual everyday stuff. GOOD LUCK to this brave young woman. She and her ilk will need it.

    Reply
  18. daleatfox5

    Melinda and Mary Jane, great to hear from you both. Glad you found Doug. We still miss David and his love for all things Tar Heel!

    Reply

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