When a phone rings in a TV newsroom, there’s a pretty fair chance it’s a tenant calling to pitch an expose on his landlord. These calls are so common that news personnel keep their guards up about stories describing “nasty” conditions at apartment complexes. Such stories rarely appear on TV as a result.

Thankfully, the situation at Maple Creek apartments made it through the filter. WSB (and the other stations) probably got calls about this place for months. When Amanda Rosseter visited the site Wednesday, she found a complex that had been essentially abandoned by its owners and turned into a trash dump. Except, Rosseter found, some forty people “including babies” still lived there. A WSB photog captured images of a looter driving off with “hot water heaters.” And Rosseter watched an Atlanta code enforcement officer turn tail and drive off when she tried to ask questions.

Used to be, TV cared about stuff like poverty and society’s inequities. Nowadays, when TV does stories about homelessness, the stories tend to focus on the nuisance factor and not the condition itself.  Judging from the video, the Maple Creek story has been ongoing for months. Had the phone calls come from a suburb (where, say, the managers of the newsoom live), the story might have gotten legs quicker. But Maple Creek is in a fierce section of NW Atlanta. It was easy for TV to find something else to do instead.

Of greater interest, perhaps, to WSB’s audience was the story Jeff Dore produced about Atlanta Fire Station 27. Located in ritzy Buckhead, Dore ably described a building that had become “a slum”– broken showers, decaying wood, daylight visible through the roof, and “an exposed air duct (that) is a rat raceway every night over (the firefighters’) heads.” His video was eye-opening, and Dore’s storytelling is always a treat.

Dore’s conclusion: The community will raise money to fix up the fire station. There was no such ending for the Maple Creek story.

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Doug Richards is a reporter at WXIA-TV. This is his personal blog. WXIA-TV has nothing whatsoever to do with this blog, under any circumstances, in any form. For anything written herein, Doug accepts sole credit and full blame. Follow him on Twitter: @richardsdoug. All rights reserved. Thanks for visiting.

4 thoughts on “Squalor

  1. parker godwin

    There were no phone calls from maple creek. WSB’s chopper flew over it monday looking for a water main break. The chopper crew (and managers on the ground) saw all the trash and dispatched reporters the next day.

  2. Chris

    I can see Maple Creek out of my bedroom window, and I only just noticed it yesterday or the day before. I saw the piles of junk outside & initially thought it was under the wrecking ball! It’s a recent change. Channel 2’s report actually answered my question about what was going on–to give them some credit.

  3. chas

    These stories need two things to get through the filter: a slow news day and an articulate caller who has information and is willing to talk. Most of the time the scenario is a desk person or the unfortunate busy producer who answering the phone saying over and over “Yes sir, we’ll look into it.” Then gives the post-it with info to a desk person. An articulate caller with concrete info who doesn’t sound like a nut will get much farther. IMHO. A good desk person will also have that sixth sense that sees through the irate neighbor calls. Just like they have the ability to sort through 3 scanners to hear the words “shots fired.”
    It seems ch2 found the story via chopper. Good for them.


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