The Neal St. Trial

The four Atlanta TV stations have sent some of their most competent and experienced reporters to cover the trial of Arthur Tesler. He’s the only Atlanta cop to contest criminal charges against him as a result of the wrongful killing-by-police of 88/92-year old Kathryn Johnston on Neal St. NW. Opening statements were Monday. Some observations:

WAGA’s Aungelique Proctor made the best use of the audio played in court of 39 gunshots, the number of shots fired at Johnston. Her photog edited the courtroom audio under file video of the October 2006 scene, making a video edit with (nearly) each “pow!” It was a powerful way to tell the prosecutor’s story. Two other stations simply played the audio under wallpaper video from the courtroom.

WSB’s Diana Davis was apparently the only reporter to incorporate Markel Hutchins into the story. Hutchins became the Johnston family spokesman, and he made himself conspicuously available in the media area across from the Fulton Co. Courthouse Monday. We came to respect Hutchins, who kept his rhetoric surprisingly cool as the incendiary Neal St. story heated. But Hutchins has the whiff of a grandstander– exacerbated by the fact that he’s now running for Congress. We’re surprised Davis used his predictable news conference material in her otherwise solid coverage.

WGCL also used Hutchins. But 46 used his material in a separate anchor reader following Rebekka Schramm’s package. That made sense.  (Someday soon, we’ll figure out how to correctly spell Ms. Schramm’s first name.)

WXIA’s Kevin Rowson chose not to use Hutchins or the gunshot audio at all. Yet he still had the most interesting piece. In a story that can get bogged down with detail, Rowson’s presentation and graphics were clean, and he clearly outlined the players and the stakes in the case. Rowson also smartly led off his 7pm piece with Tesler’s defense. The prosecution’s case against the rogue cops has been made ad nauseum in the media; the details of the defense were probably the only real news to come out of the first day of the trial.

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