Daily Archives: April 11, 2008

Rarely wrong

In the TV news biz, the words “beloved” and “manager” rarely appear adjacent to each other. The exception is Bud Veazey, the WAGA assistant news director who is retiring today. Veazey was the old-school journalistic guidestone, against which the stiff winds of audience pandering often blew. At his best, he could cool the scalding-hot sensibilities of his frenzied fellow managers. He lost many arguments, but was rarely wrong. It’s a wonder he lasted as long as he did, some twenty years at WAGA.

Once, I failed to double-check a fact and got it wrong on-air. In his office, Veazey quietly dressed me down for a “rookie mistake.” It was the calmest and yet the worst ass-chewing I’d ever gotten, because it came from a guy who had earned, rather than demanded, my respect.

Veazey’s memos were always the best. It’s amazing how many news pros are confounded by the English language. Veazey wrote the “please stop using ‘literally,’ especially when you don’t mean it” memo. Veazey despised “at this hour,” a phrase I reluctantly eliminated (I thought it sounded Murrowesque and gave a fuzzy-headed local news guy gravitas) after reading his memo. To the end, reporters ignored his repeated railings against “for now,” as in “for now, I’m Jane Jones in Butts County…” Watch TV and see how many reporters say “for now,” and know that an old retired news manager is cringing.

The folks behind the scenes– as well as the folks who tune into local news each night– deserve a lot of blame for the dumbing-down of TV news. Bud Veazey’s career represented a Quixotic quest to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem. WAGA was fortunate to have him.

WAGA’s Dale Russell’s blog about Veazey is worthwhile reading.

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Good clean fun

A stylish yet squirrelly mayor deserves befitting coverage. And Lithonia’s mayor, the porkpie hat and neck brace-wearing Joyce McKibbens, got it on Thursday’s late news. WXIA’s Duffie Dixon provided the style, with a nicely shot-and-edited piece on a chaotic council meeting wherein the mayor, as McKibbens put it, “dismissed myself” and abruptly walked out. Dixon’s piece had one priceless reaction shot from a woman in the audience as she watched the proceedings disintegrate.

WSB’s Eric Philips gave the meeting a more chaotic flavor. His quickly edited evasions from uncommunicative council members gave the audience a nice sense of the squirrelliness of these public officials. But it may have also been a bit misleading. Dixon had some of the same council members speaking calmly and rationally afterward.

On WAGA, Julia Harding’s best lick came as she and a photog followed one evasive councilwoman down the street. As Harding tried to ask her what happened, the council member answered by summoning a police officer and asking him to get the pesky reporter away from her. It spoke volumes about the councilwoman.

The Lithonia story is good clean fun for reporters. It’s a story about adults behaving poorly, and doing so without killing or abusing each other. It’s perilous, though, because many of these same adults have a tendency to grandstand in the presence of TV cameras. Wednesday, it got quite ripe as police handcuffed mayoral aides, who responded with category-five hysteria.

Some of that occured last night, too, as aggrieved officials and residents held hands and spoke in dramatic tones afterward. Thankfully, TV played that down. There was plenty else to do.

(Thanks to Millie!)