Daily Archives: May 6, 2008

WXIA’s malaise

What world does WXIA occupy, exactly? Is it the same one as the rest of us? A look at its news begs that question night after night. It promotes itself as telling “the stories that matter,” if we’re not mistaken. Translated: If it comes from a crime scene or from something scheduled, like a meeting, we’re on it. Time to rag on WXIA’s 7pm news Tuesday:

  • Meeting: Angry laid off workers at city hall, sounding off at the city council. Keith Whitney reports they are “hurt, some of them emotionally, some of them quite literally.”
  • News Conference: Gov. Perdue talks about the gun bill he hasn’t signed yet. Give Denis O’Hayer a bit of credit for fleshing this story out and making it into something decent. It’s the best piece in the show.
  • Meeting: Jennifer Leslie covers the DNR board, talking about the drought.
  • Crime Scene: Kevin Rowson at the scene of a non-fatal shooting at a DeKalb Health center.

Even Marc Pickard’s Earthwatch story featured a high school class that scheduled a meeting at a creek to clean up and plant stuff. “First, they will save Allen Park. Then, they will save the world!” he concludes.  We like Pickard’s wry touch. It adds a buttery coat to an all-things-green franchise that still tastes like brussel sprouts.

Meantime, in the real world: WSB’s A-block has an exclusive about alleged steroid abuse at Henry Co. PD. WAGA has an exclusive piece on “the ZZ Top Bandit,” who looks as you might expect and is super-aggressively robbing banks in west Georgia. Both stations have killer investigative stories by Jim Strickland (at WSB) and Dana Fowle (at WAGA). Even WAGA’s head-scratching lead, about wedding rings missing from a corpse, still shows more enterprise in two minutes than WXIA can muster all day.

The weird thing is this: WXIA presents fewer minutes of news each evening than any other station. Its staff, all smart folk, can barely wedge its way into its two half-hour shows (compared with two hours each for WAGA and WSB). WXIA has the resources to come up with cool, one-of-a-kind stories every night. So, why doesn’t it?

Rock video

There are things TV news can do better than any other news medium. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of knowing where to be with a camera. Last night, WGCL showed that Broad St. in downtown Atlanta is such a place. Harry Samler produced a terrific piece on drug use and drug dealing there– just blocks away from the Federal buildings, City Hall and the state Capitol.

Samler used an old-school hidden camera technique. His photog simply went into a Broad St. business, and shot video out the window. The camera captured street folks transacting drug deals, lighting one-hit pipes, even dropping rocks of crack to the ground and picking them up again. He watched a cop handcuff a guy, then release him. Best of all, Samler somehow convinced a drug dealer to empty his pockets and show him his stash– with the camera in plain sight, and the CBS-46 truck in the background.

The story would have been better if Samler had done an on-camera interview with a Zone 5 cop. But we won’t quibble. This was very nicely done, giving WGCL’s paltry viewership a good reason to keep watching.