Daily Archives: May 29, 2008

A Glimpse at the Edge

With one-third of its programming day– eight hours out of 24– devoted to original local news content, WAGA made a remarkable decision last year: Do more. So it added a half-hour at 11pm, and decided to call it “Fox 5 News Edge.” It competes against the 11pm broadcasts of the other three Atlanta stations. It also competes against its own 10pm news, and not always favorably.

Consider Wednesday. WAGA’s desk sent Julia Harding to cover an incident billed as a home invasion in Marietta. When Harding got on scene, she learned that police didn’t know if a) anything had been taken or b) anyone had been hurt. There were no victims around; only a neighbor who spoke on-camera about how distressing it was to have– whatever it was– happen in her neighborhood. In all likelihood, Harding told her betters that it wasn’t much of a story. In all likelihood, Harding was told to make it a lead.

As a result, Fox 5 News Edge led Wednesday’s newscast with the thinnest of gruel. The Edge looked more like a precipice.

WAGA certainly employs some predictable tricks to give this show an edgy taste that one might compare to a “woo-hoo!” shot of Jager in a crowded college bar. There’s a whoosh sound effect that’s employed liberally between anchor copy and sound bites. There seems to be a dizzying emphasis on crime and disaster stories. And there’s the syrupy flavor of some snappy-sounding yet cliche-laden writing, led Wednesday by an anchor package on Scott McClellan’s book that’s “sending shock waves through Washington” and has “Democrats… foaming at the mouth.” The Edge has the loopy, lowered inhibitions of a tabloid newscast.

And then there’s Tom Haynes, the broadcast’s anchor. Haynes stays on his feet through the half-hour, tossing to live shots, erupting in a “boy, look at that!” when he sees some tornado damage, adding a solemn “terrifying stuff” after a victim describes her experience. Haynes may be Atlanta’s slickest male anchor, with made-to-order telegeneity and quickness. He may also be the most heavily powdered, the hue of which sometimes seems to too-closely match the faux wood veneer of the news set behind him.

The same night, WAGA’s 10pm news led with a somewhat-compelling a-block story on a police crackdown in a crime-ridden neighborhood. The a-block rounded out with stories on a sheriff’s candidate forum; and a piece of surveillance tape that may show the image of a still-at-large killer. If there was an internal tug-of-war between the producers of WAGA’s 10 and the 11 o’clock shows for the best material, the Edge lost on this particular night.

Best moment: Sports guy Ken Rodriguez’s tease about the Braves loss. “Sports on the edge is really cranky tonight!” he growled, employing no sound effects.