Cat and Mouse

Six Flags Over Georgia should have allowed Atlanta’s TV stations onto its property for a limited, one-time-only photo opportunity for their coverage of the accidental death of a teenager last weekend. But the amusement park apparently played hardball, banishing news cameras from the property. This left the stations to their own devices. Some played the game of cat and mouse better than others.

Six Flags’ stance should instantly raise a question among TV reporters: Any shorts-and-a-t-shirt wearing patron can buy a ticket and carry a camera onto the property. Shouldn’t a newsman be able to carry a camera anyplace the public is allowed to do so?

WAGA apparently stayed off the property, as instructed. Darryl Carver’s 6pm coverage Monday had telephoto shots of the property and file tape of the Batman roller coaster, which struck and killed the teen who climbed into a restricted area surrounding the ride.

But WSB found a way around the rules. Ross Cavitt’s 6pm piece had a nice walk-shot of the iron fence the teen apparently climbed. It showed the “restricted area” sign on the fence. It also showed a second chain-link fence the teen traversed. And Cavitt’s piece showed the Batman ride, empty, getting tested by park officials Monday. (Cavitt’s 5pm piece doesn’t show the chain-link fence.)

How did Cavitt pull it off? One easy way: Pay the parking fee and drive onto the Six Flags lot with an unmarked vehicle. Then spend ten minutes shooting video with a betacam. And in the process, get lucky by seeing the testing of the Batman ride. If security stops you, Cavitt steps in and makes apologies while the photog gets a few final shots.

Another possibility: Remove the TV necktie and WSB ID badge and walk onto the parking lot with a camcorder. The camcorder video is likely shot in a format that’s different from your standard TV video. That shouldn’t be a problem. Just go to the live truck, link up some cables and convert it.

In all likelihood, Carver would have had difficulty performing either of the cloak-and-dagger acts described above. WAGA fiercely insists that its general assignment crews roll in unmistakably marked trucks that exclaim: Here comes the media! And its trucks are notoriously ill-equipped to convert video from formats other than betacam. Apparently, it’s a money thing. (In the last couple of years, WAGA started putting inexpensive DVD players in its live trucks. That wouldn’t have helped in this instance.)

Cavitt was justified in making the effort to get the better video. It better depicted the efforts made by this teenage victim to breach security, resulting in a vivid cautionary tale at a place visited by a gazillion people every summer. Likewise, Cavitt matter-of-factly used the term “decapitated” to describe the victim’s death, a term avoided by Carver. It’s a sensational fact. It’s also an essential detail that described how quickly a walk in the amusement park can become fatally tragic.

This entry was posted in carver, cavitt, WAGA, WSB on by .

About live apt fire

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.

8 thoughts on “Cat and Mouse

  1. Austin Rhodes

    Just like with the Whitewater-ecoli tragedy of a few years ago we have a beloved amusement park hit by tragedy. That event made a temporary media star out of Dee Dee Dowdle, and showed that aggressively addressing the situation rather than hiding is best.
    Six Flags wants the TV stations on hand when the PR events are positive, but their hypocritical attitude when real news breaks is appalling.
    The park spends a LOT of money on advertising, so I doubt there will be a post-mortem pow-wow to complain about the lack of access. Damn shame too.
    By the way…I know that ride like the back of my hand, I say there is no way a decapitation occurs unless the kid was climbing on or under the track.

  2. Chas

    The PR department should have been in front of the media the whole time, using it to their advantage. While showing the Pulp Fiction-esque clean up would be bad, having Ross Cavitt climb your fences is worse. It looks like Six Flags is hiding something. A well-spoken PR person should have escorted the cameras through the park, did the typical lawyer-approved PR damage-control interview, then escorted them out. The park diffuses the situation while spending no money at all… Ross and Darryl would have their story… and the stations would still get their ad buys and invitations to media night when the new ride opens.

  3. rptrcub

    In the world of PR, there is what makes sense, and then there is what your CEO wants you to do. Unfortunately, from my experience, I can tell you that there might have been a high likelihood that the chief executive in charge of the park overruled someone and like a petulant child, wanted what he/she wanted.

  4. feelyourpain

    I feel your pain about Six Flags blocking access to the media. Last year, a teenager had her feet lopped off on a ride at the Six Flags in my market and the theme park played a game of “cat and mouse” for months, issuing terse statements that contradicted everything this little girl’s family said.

    We got around their PR block by putting our chopper up over the ride (The Tower of Power). Our photog also grabbed some vids of the dangling, frayed cable that snapped and severed her feet.

    Unlike the situation here in Kentucky, it seems like this case in Atlanta is the kid’s fault, so why not be media friendly and trot out your CEO to talk about the safety measures in place that this kid apparently ignored?

  5. Rupert Pupkin

    What a surprise! Sounds like you thought Cavitt did a better job. Why not just say that? No excuses, we all deal with hurdles covering a story.

  6. live apt fire Post author

    Ok, Rupert: Cavitt did a better job. I thought I all-but said that. As I often said in TV news, sometimes you gotta beat your audience over the head with the obvious.

  7. Rupert Pupkin

    What I’m beat over the head with is your obvious compassion for one station and envy , maybe, of another

  8. craptastic

    I thought Doug quit the station he has “compassion” for obviously too soon in his career. Methinks LAF don’t like him some WAGA as much as you think Mr. Pupkin. His icon shows his shame.


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