This is how you cover an apartment fire. The best story on WXIA’s 7pm news Monday was Jon Shirek’s piece about a complex that burned overnight. The story could have been a cliche, filled with phrases like “lucky to be alive” and “picking up the pieces of their broken lives.” Shirek, one of the best TV news writers in town, knows better. He found a woman who survived the fire (everybody got out alive). He revealed that the woman had also survived the March tornado. Then he revealed that she had been displaced by hurricane Katrina. Sounds not-so-compelling here. Shirek worked it.
Shirek’s storytelling was a newswriting clinic, uncovering each element as the story developed– giving the audience a small “holy smokes!” moment with each revelation. Shirek has been around a long time and has doubtless told this story countless times. He made this one memorable. Regrettably, it doesn’t appear to be on 11’s web site.
“Classic Winne” may be a fit description for the live shot Mark Winne performed to lead WSB’s 6pm news Monday. He stood in front of DeKalb’s police headquarters, holding a live taser pistol. We know the pistol was live because we saw Winne pulling the trigger, and saw the sparks emanating from it. Thankfully, Winne didn’t assume a Charlie’s Angels-style pose while doing so. But it was close enough– the buzzing from the taser, the sparks flying, while Winne delivered his material in “classic Winne” melodrama. The story? An “exclusive” interview with DeKalb’s police chief, saying he’d like to arm his cops with tasers. Not bad, not great. But the campy live shot gave the material, shall way say, an added Winne-style jolt. Would I have done the same thing? Absolutely.
Two other stories were noteworthy in WSB’s 6: Amanda Rosseter took the slow plane ride to China with Gov. Perdue on Delta’s inaugural flight to Shanghai. The guv’s people were doubtless tickled pink to have an opportunity to make their drawling, Sunday-beer-sales-opposing guy look like a jet-setter. Delta got a couple of minutes of free advertising for the airline’s newest route. Did WSB buy tickets for that flight? Take a wild guess. WSB apparently doesn’t consider its investment in this story sufficient to give it a website posting.
And deep in the show, there was a Tom Jones story about two billboards erected by Clayton Co. Sheriff Victor Hill. Hill’s election opponent complains that Hill is using Sheriff’s Office money to fund a “quality of life” billboard (“no loud music / no loitering” etc.) that looks suspiciously similar to a “re-elect Sheriff Victor Hill” billboard, funded by Hill’s campaign. Jones botched the opening live shot, trying to show a photo of one billboard while standing in front of another. The audience never got to see the photo Jones was holding. And within the package, Jones twice described the two billboards as “identical.” Similar, yes. Identical? Surely Mr. Jones knows the difference between the two words. This story isn’t on the web site either. Wonder why.