Daily Archives: June 23, 2008

Fred Powers

We just cracked a beer and toasted Fred Powers, the WGCL reporter who died after a long struggle with a rare form of cancer. Powers had just begun to gain some traction in the market with a signature schtick that nobody in Atlanta had tried before or has attempted since. This is from Rodney Ho’s December 2004 AJC story:

WGCL-TV reporter Fred Powers has been set on fire, bitten by dogs and hit by a Taser —- all in the name of news. No wonder he’s being dubbed the “human pinata” by TV wags.

“He is, without a doubt, the king of stunt reporters, ” said Mike James, editor of http://www.newsblues.com, a broadcast news Web site. “What he does is cool, but it’s not news.”

Or is it?

“They’re not just stunt stories, ” Powers countered. “We’re telling stories that have impact.”

Shortly after that article, Powers learned he had cancer. He last appeared on WGCL in March. He was on disability leave, but volunteered to help with coverage of the downtown tornado. WGCL broadcast excerpts in an obit Monday.

Though he’d gained some notoriety for his ratings-period live stunts, Powers was mostly a day-to-day general assignment reporter at WGCL. He covered news with a certain amount of intensity, and was a spirited and congenial competitor. And he had guts.

From WGCL’s web site:  His memorial service is scheduled for 1 p.m. Wednesday at Saint Mark’s United Methodist Church at 781 Peachtree Street.

The AJC has more on Powers’ life and his untimely passing. We offer our condolences to his family and colleagues.

Restaurant Report Card

It is the oddest, sloppiest and most schizoid TV news franchise in town. WGCL foists its “restaurant report card” on viewers once a week, and the results are almost always at once horrifying and laughable.

The franchise promises the best and worst of Atlanta restaurants. We don’t know how Adam Murphy selects the best. Last week he chose Straits, a restaurant owned by the hip-hop star / actor known as Ludacris. Each piece begins with Murphy as TV performer, doing his best on-camera Glenn Burns / Guy Smiley impersonation.

Murphy: You’ll never believe who’s on the program! Check this out. Grammy award winning artist Chris “Ludacris” Bridges!”

Bridges: Hey. What’s going on, my man?

Murphy: What’s up my man? How ya doing?

Bridges: Doing a little supervising around here, making sure everything is clean around here. That’s the most important thing….

Murphy: Who’s this over here?

Bridges: This is my business partner, the infamous Mr. Chris Yo.

Murphy: Yo.

It’s all very amiable until Murphy abruptly sheds his “just hangin’ out with my man Ludacris” demeanor and starts busting chops.

“I want you guys to leave,” begins the section with Murphy confronting a restauranteur who scored poorly in a Health Department inspection. “It didn’t take us long to get thrown out of this Gwinnett County restaurant,” Murphy assures us. The restaurant flunked because an inspector saw an employee slicing bagels barehanded, and “an employee opened a package with their teeth,” among other affronts to good health, sanitation and grammar.

“Can we ask you about the violations?” Murphy says to the restauranteur. “No,” he answers, repeating his admonition to the camera crew to scram. Murphy walks the legal line deftly. Once he’s ordered to leave the private property, he must. But he doesn’t have to turn off the camera, and he can still ask questions as he’s moving toward the door.

It’s classic TV investigative reporting, confronting wrongdoers unwilling to be questioned. But then it hits you: Murphy is confronting small business owners about sloppy work in their restaurants, a one-time lousy score in a county inspection. We cringe as we watch.

Two weeks earlier, Murphy and photog entered an O’Charley’s during lunchtime. The manager politely and repeatedly asked Murphy to return at 2pm, after the lunch rush was over. “We’d be more than happy to take a few minutes with you,” says the surprisingly even-tempered restaurant manager. Murphy would have none of it.

“I don’t want to interrupt our guests’ lunch. We’re trying to take care of them and run our business,” the manager protests, the mic stuck under his chin in the restaurant lobby. The encounter makes Murphy look foolish.

WGCL posted the entire confrontation on its website. It only makes Murphy look worse. The restaurant manager politely asks Murphy to return six times. “Everything possible we corrected yesterday before 5 o’clock in the afternoon,” the store manager tells Murphy at the top of the confrontation. Murphy used very little of the restaurant manager’s cool-headed defense, and he apparently never accepted his offer to return at 2pm.

This kind of thing makes everybody in TV news look bad. If it packed a punch, it would give a black eye to the concept of investigative reporting. But this is so silly, it’s more like a bitch-slap.

And then– Murphy closes on-camera with the same cheery “hey, look at all this great food at this great restaurant” hucksterism that that opened the piece. It’s just weird as hell.

We gotta admit, though: Whenever WGCL delivers a “restaurant report card,” we watch. Why? Because we know we’re about to see some of the squirreliest, dopiest stuff in all of local TV news.