Monthly Archives: March 2008

Chasing the AJC

Give the AJC credit for a nice scoop Sunday. After Gary Hilton pleaded guilty to the murder of hiker Meredith Emerson, it was inevitable that the court records of the case would become public. Most news organizations would have kept abreast of that release on a daily basis. But the AJC somehow got it first, and put it on the front of its Metro section Sunday. TV had to wait until Monday to chase the story– which included details of Hilton’s confession, and the extent to which the victim fought her killer before finally succumbing.

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Sneaky

In a column Saturday, the AJC admitted that the Jeremiah Wright story “did sneak up on us.” Supporters of Barack Obama are worried that Wright’s pulpit pronouncements could derail Obama’s campaign. The AJC’s decision to downplay this significant development at its inception fuels conspiracy theorists who see “the media” as a liberal monolith.

The controversy provided an opportunity for local news to view it through the prism of Atlanta’s rich culture of black churches. Only WAGA used that opportunity. But Darryl Carver’s think-piece on the issue came off as a bit one-sided, using much material from the pastor at Ebenezer Baptist, who defended Wright. Carver’s a good reporter. The story at least needed to show Carver asking Rev. Raphael Warnock some tough questions about why it might be appropriate for Rev. Wright to say “God damn America” from the pulpit. And the story ended with a “huh?” as Carver added a useless soundbite from Bishop Eddie Long of New Birth, apparently pulled from a feed. My guess is somebody told Carver to stick it on there.

(By the way– it may seem gratuitous and grandstanding for a reporter to be shown on-camera asking questions. But it serves a purpose. It balances a story that may feel one-sided.  And it shows the audience that the right questions were asked– even if they don’t like the answers. Richard Belcher at WSB is a master at this.)

What’s amazing is that Carver’s piece aired at all. With two late-night shootings, WAGA’s newsroom normally wouldn’t have hesitated to drop-kick the Wright piece so that Carver could stand in front of a crime scene with a “breaking news” banner under his chin.

Secret Squirrel

Close your eyes and listen, as the reporter tags his story: “We were told the suspect, through the sheriff, declined to be interviewed by us.” The passive tense, the fractured syntax, and the sheer audacity that any freshly-arrested suspect would consider being “interviewed by us” signals the presence of one man: WSB’s Mark Winne. This particular bit of copy aired Thursday at 11pm.

Winne breaks news for WSB. He has great sources in hard-to-reach places. He’s got a secret-squirrel quality about him in the field. It suits him well and keeps his competitors guessing. He also writes, shall we say, very dense copy. One WSB reporter loves to recount the story of a producer, tasked to re-write a Winne story, viewed the story three times. Afterward, she announced that she had no idea what the story was about. If there are copy editors at WSB, they need to be on their guard around Mr. Winne.

But when Winne shows up in the a-block of WSB’s news, the bossfolk at competing TV stations turn down the audio of their own newscasts and watch Winne. Frequently– they’ll shake their heads afterward and say “huh?” But often enough, they’ll send their own staff out to chase a Winne scoop.

I was this guy, once

This is my shout-out to an Atlanta-based blog called Mostly Media, which mentioned Live Apt Fire this week. Edited by Spacey G, she does media stuff on her blog too– more “new media” eg. blogging, social networking and such– and screwball news vignettes such as this:

As long as I’m doing blog shout-outs: Thanks also to Drifting Through the Grift for giving us some ink this week. And if you want to check out the real-life adventures of my business partner in TomorrowVision Media, go to the Daly Briefing on your right. His arrival in Iraq this month means our company has gone worldwide. I guess that’s what it means.

Comparing coverage

All four Atlanta TV stations covered an official bus tour of the city’s tornado damaged areas.  They focused on Vine City, whose residents are less protected by insurance.   What we saw:

Richard Elliott on WSB provided a very by-the-numbers look at the tour, with nothing especially memorable.  He identified tourgoer Millard Fuller,  founder of Habitat for Humanity, as an afterthought.

Clarence Reynolds on WXIA inexplicably focused on the city council members who toured the affected neighborhoods, giving them time to grandstand on camera. The audience learned little from his report.

Joanna Massee on WGCL, by far, told the best story.  With lots of “oh my gosh”-type natural sound, crisp editing and nice writing– she gave a much needed human touch to a story that was stilted and uninteresting elsewhere.  But WGCL needs to be slapped, too:  What’s the point of having Massee do a live shot after midnight (late because of basketball) in a dark neighborhood, many hours after the tour ended?   Same with Jennifer Mayerle, who was live in East Atlanta at 12:15am, fronting a story that had been shot in daylight.  Is it just me, or do most viewers cringe a little when they see such stuff?