Your name is Aungelique Proctor. You’ve been a reporter at WAGA for, what– 15 years. You got into the news business for all the right reasons. You’re a digger. You’re a wife and mother, a native Atlantan, and you’re good at your job.
You spent much of Wednesday digging into some story, probably a story you brought to the table that morning. You spent the day shooting it. You were about to start producing it for the 5 or 6pm news (or both). Then, mid-afternoon, you get a call from the assignment desk. Four teenagers have been shot in DeKalb County. Drop whatever you’ve done all day. Go cover this.
So begins a scenario that drives good reporters to the taps at Manuel’s, or out of the TV news business.
At WSB, the same call went to Ashley Hayes. But unlike Proctor, Hayes had just walked in to the TV station to work a night shift. She hadn’t invested a day’s work in another story.
Proctor and Hayes produced live shots for their stations’ 6pm shows. Proctor’s was superior. The story had two different crime scenes. Proctor went to the one that happened to be active when her live shot came up. Proctor is smart like that. Hayes, a rookie, will learn– assuming she stays in the business.
Since she’s working a night shift, Hayes can develop the story for WSB’s 11pm news too. Meantime, Proctor is greeted by WAGA’s Tony Thomas, a nightside reporter who was not sent to cover the story for the 6pm show. Thomas is gathering material on the same story for the 10pm news.
WAGA does this as a matter of policy. Nightside reporters aren’t sent to cover breaking news in order to put it on TV on the early evening broadcasts. Instead, WAGA’s policy is to pivot dayside reporters like Proctor to do the down-and-dirty work of breaking news. In so doing, it also dropkicks their daylong investment in developing another story. It wastes good work and breaks the spirits of those who’ve actually used their journalistic training covering something worthwhile.
WAGA would explain this policy by saying it wants its nightside reporters to develop fresh or exclusive material for the later broadcast– even if they’re covering the exact same breaking story.
As TV news operations go, WAGA’s is as good as it gets in this town. But this policy is absurdly inefficient, unproductive and very dispiriting. In this instance, and most others, WAGA would have lost nothing by having the nightside reporter produce the 6pm coverage as well.
When we ended such workdays, the spouse would ask “how was work?” Our one-word answer, typically, was: “Stupid.” We haven’t spoken to Aungelique Proctor about her workday yesterday. But we know she covered the same story that another WAGA reporter should have covered– but didn’t, because of a policy that seems designed to punish good folks like Aungelique Proctor.