Daily Archives: March 27, 2008

No Comparison

LAF is not necessarily a timely blog. By mistake, we just dialed up and watched WAGA’s version of the Wednesday 6pm show. That’s the show we found so underwhelming on WSB. What a difference, at least on this particular day.

While WSB was lamely leading with the Tom Jones men’s-room “exclusive,” WAGA’s Morse Diggs broke news by revealing the DUI arrest of longtime Municipal Court Judge Andrew Mickel. Diggs had all the goods, though no interview with the judge. Mickel was always very media friendly. LAF enjoyed a beverage with him at Manuel’s on Super Tuesday. The Hon. Mr. Mickel’s mug shot is unfortunate.

WAGA then went to live chopper coverage of a shooting, and arrests therefrom, near McNair HS in DeKalb. Didn’t see that on 2 either.

After that, WAGA’s Doug Evans had an exclusive piece about another grow-house marijuana bust in Hall Co. Evans was steeped in the story, so to speak, with ample perspective from previous busts. At this point, WSB was talking about digging wells at WhiteWater.

Then Patty Pan capped WAGA’s a-block with an exclusive bit about thieves breaking into classrooms at Gwinnett schools. Pan is one of the best young TV reporters in town. Hopefully her career can flourish, probably elsewhere.

In other words, 5 packed more news into its a-block than viewers saw on 2 the entire 6pm hour.

WAGA and WSB are the two biggest local news players in town. WAGA will get its tail handed to it another day. But on this day, there was no comparison. Viewers of 5 won.

Ugly. Shameful.

WSB led its 6 o’clock news Wednesday with a story that would have been laughable, were it not so destructive and shameful. Tom Jones was live at the Clayton Co. Courthouse with “exclusive” coverage of a trial of a former FBI agent. He was charged with a misdemeanor, accused of making googly-eyes at men in a restroom at Hartsfield-Jackson. Problem was: The accused was found not guilty.

So WSB showed the defendant’s name. Showed his face. Showed absurdly long slow-motion footage of urinals in the restroom. Essentially, the station smeared this guy needlessly so that it could lead its newscast with an “exclusive.”

Yes, the defendant was on public trial. Yes, the judge allowed the camera in the courtroom (as the judge must unless the circumstances are deemed truly extraordinary). And yes, one can say, as Jones did, that such behavior in restrooms is a “major problem.”

But because WSB had this story to itself, its managers were in an extraordinary position. They had no competitive pressure. The verdict of Not Guilty gave WSB the opportunity to let this man off the hook, just as the judicial system had done.

The news biz routinely covers the sagas of accused persons, prior to ajudication. But this one-day case (apparently) had little if any pre-trial coverage. This was a horse that never got out of the barn. There was no compelling need to tell the story of a man found Not Guilty of some very embarrassing stuff.

Tom Jones had a perplexed look on his face as he delivered the story (though Jones often looks that way). Perhaps the argument was made to make the story simply go away. One can almost hear the 6 o’clock producer: “But I don’t have another lead!” So WSB couldn’t resist ballyhooing an “exclusive” that the other stations overlooked. This is one of those instances where people of conscience in the TV news biz– and there are such people– ought to have trouble sleeping at night.

The rest of WSB at 6

Do normal people actually watch an entire hour of local TV news? After the shock of watching 2’s lead story, we were too stunned to leave our seat. Maybe that’s what they intended. Observations:

Rachel Kim had a forgettable story about a killing that won’t be news for much longer. The family declined to talk on TV. Neighbors were somewhat helpful. Kim is good at developing stories, but not on this particular evening.

Ross Cavitt had a nice enterprise story about WhiteWater’s plan to dig wells to supplement its water supply. The story gained nuance when Cavitt revealed that it ain’t likely the wells will help much.

Jovita Moore– substituting for the thankfully absent Monica Pearson– had the best scoop of the show: An exclusive interview with the new, and much-criticized CEO of Grady, Pam Stephenson. It was a nice lick for Moore, who frequently spends her days in the trenches covering news prior to her nightly anchor appearances at 5.

Lori Geary had a rare emotional story from the Capitol about school bullying. She deftly removed her earpiece during her live lead-in because a technical glitch created a distracting echo. Geary didn’t miss a beat.

Ashley Hayes had what could have been the show’s most interesting story: Cops in Hilton Head talked at length about the disappearance of an Atlanta couple, and the suicide of the main suspect. But the story lacked immediacy because it was obvious Hayes was relying on material fed from other TV stations based in SC.

WSB ran an anchor reader on a captured fugitive. They must have grit their teeth as they gave a photo courtesy to America’s Most Wanted, a show on their arch-competitor WAGA.

And then there was weather with Glenn Burns:

Afterward– live in the dreaded 6:30 slot– Tom Regan produced possibly the most watchable story of the day: A trade show that opened at the storm-battered World Congress Center. Apparently, the GWCC is in better shape than most expected.

Ryan Young had the gratuitous live shot of the night: “Live in midtown” with a story about a robbery in DeKalb Co. “Live in midtown?” That’s WSB telling the world that they’re making one of their reporters stand on the lawn of the TV station on Peachtree. Why? Who knows.

Sports had the best surprise: Bill Hartman reported on new seats at Turner Field, built in front of the previous front row. The story showed rows of seats that drift absurdly close to home plate– the closest spectator view in all of MLB, according to Hartman. Local TV sports no longer exists in many markets– yielding to the hegemony of ESPN. Atlanta retains a lively and competitive local sports presence. It’s often worth watching.

Perhaps we’ll slog through the 6 o’clock show of another station next time.