Daily Archives: July 17, 2008

Primary Night Scorecard

By Trevor Pettiford

If the news coverage of the July Primary serves as a sneak preview of how the four local news stations will cover the general election come November, then I’d keep my eye on 11Alive if I were you.  WXIA’s coverage won by a landslide.  Reporters and producers kept at least two if not three steps ahead of the competition, being the first to go live at all the key races right as the candidates were speaking. It was as if each camp had a printout of 11Alive’s rundown and a field producer to make sure the candidates didn’t miss deadline.  XIA rounded out its coverage with Dennis O’Hayer and some politicos’ commentary at the Democratic think/drink tank, Manuel’s Tavern.

Meanwhile, next door at WSB-TV, Lori Geary was forced to do a tap dance show as senate candidate Vernon Jones delayed his podium appearance for almost two minutes doing Lord knows what, only to get to the podium and leave again to gladhand supporters for another minute. (note to Vernon Jones: speak first, shake hands later). But Channel 2’s lackluster coverage could be summed up in a liveshot by Eric Phillips.  When they finally got around to his shot at senate candidate Jim Martin’s camp, Phillips tossed to Martin at the podium just as he was saying good night.  Talk about your Live, Local, LATE-breaking coverage.  Although WSB extended its newscast to an hour for more coverage, they were playing more catch up than they were covering anything I hadn’t seen 30 minutes earlier.

Over at Fox 5,  the newsroom could only sit and watch the game from the bleachers.  While the other stations were counting votes, WAGA was counting strike outs in extra innings of the MLB All-Star Game that went on past midnight.

And then there was CBS 46. I guess two security guards getting shot at an apartment complex in Stone Mountain earlier in the day had more news relevance and lead the newscast instead of how the public voted.  Maybe on the night of November 4th there’ll be an afternoon house fire for WGCL to lead off its late evening news.

Pettiford formerly worked as a reporter at WAGA.

Wanna be a ND?

It was always striking to hear employees of WXIA’s news room refer to Cal Callaway in rather affectionate terms.   Such terms rarely came from the mouths of employees of other newsrooms while speaking of their managers.  Callaway, by all accounts, is a reasonably sane man.  Inside his chest, there reportedly beats an actual human heart.

Perhaps those two qualities made him ill-suited to be a news director in a major TV market.

WXIA’s news department needs help.  The crushing dullness of its newscasts has hindered its effort to win an audience.  But its newscasts do have an element of humanity that one doesn’t see at the other stations.  Brenda Wood may be responsible for much of that, as well as its literate and thoughtful reporting staff.   Callaway may be responsible for it as well.

One cannot envy Callaway’s replacement.  WXIA is now asking reporters to shoot their own stories.  In October, WXIA will insist that photographers no longer drive their station cars home.  Both moves will inhibit WXIA from getting timely video and solid information into its newscasts.

Compare that to the new guy at WGCL.  Whose job would you rather have?  At least WGCL is trying to become competitive.  WXIA is throwing in the towel.