Daily Archives: August 24, 2008

WSB’s film archive

It seems that the University of Georgia has uploaded much of WSB’s vintage news film library onto the web, and anybody can watch. Talk about a eureka moment. Some of it is spine tingling. All of it is raw, especially compared to the HD world of the 21st century. But if you’re a news buff, a film buff, a history buff and / or an Atlantaphile, you can kill hours on this site. However, it’s a little convoluted to navigate. Start here:


When you get there, you’ll find 89 thumbnails– clips of film no longer than 15 seconds or so, with no written explanation. Click on the thumbnail showing Lester Maddox in 1961, for example, and you’ll see this eleven second clip:

When the clip finishes, you’ll go to the Youtube site. (To get there from LAF, double click the window above.)

In the grey box to the right, you’ll see “Please see full film @ …” and it’ll send you to a UGA website. Go there, and a full four and a half minute clip will play– excerpts of a debate between mayoral candidates Maddox and Ivan Allen, with Maddox sarcastically beating the drum for segregation.

The clip plays as it aired in the film chain at the TV station. You hear sound, then the film goes silent as the reporter or anchor read narration (you don’t hear the narration). Then you hear sound again. In the Allen-Maddox clip, the best sound is at the end. In it, Maddox says, if elected, he would “say Ralph, go on back to Forsyth St. with all deliberate speed, boy.” Presumably, he’s talking about Ralph Abernathy.

One can somewhat browse the UGA site here. It’s not terribly user-friendly, though.

But it’s a rich find. Click here, and you’ll see a 1966 protest at the Capitol after the House refused to seat Julian Bond. Martin Luther King Jr. gives a stirring speech near the Tom Watson statue, with dozens of jacked-up state troopers standing in the wings.

For camp value, click here. A reporter named Joel Abrams delivers a 1968 report on a UGA protest encampment called “persecution city.” Abrams appears to be a little embarrassed by the whole thing. It seems WSB covered numerous protests back in the day, when an assignment editor would hand 100 feet of film to a news crew and tell them to return in time for film processing and hot-splice editing.

WSB was the only Atlanta TV station to save its film stock, handing it over to UGA for archiving and safekeeping. UGA makes copies of the film readily available, including to WSB’s Atlanta competitors.

The web site says the WSB archive covers material from 1949 to 1981. Eureka.