Daily Archives: September 11, 2008

Bunker mentality

Fred Kalil, WXIA

Not shouting: Fred Kalil, WXIA

Sports reporting is supposed to be fun, right?  Of course it is. Unless you happen to be the Georgia Tech  Sports Information department.  In that case, you view sports reporters as the enemy.

It’s been that way for years.  And it’s a sharp contrast to the University of Georgia’s sports information folks.  At UGA, they’ve figured out that sports reporters show up largely to publicize (and to a great degree, glorify) the sports programs of that particular institution.  At North Avenue, the goal seems to be to restrict and deny access.

WXIA’s Fred Kalil posted this in his blog prior to Tech’s first game.  (Kalil doesn’t seem to grasp that in the blogosphere, ALL CAPS equals screaming.  It’s OK.  Kalil is old-school.  Wire service teletypes used to print broadcast copy in all caps.  So did TV folks, surmising that the larger ALL CAPS letters are easier to read on scripts.)

IT’S THE SAME OLD STORY AT GEORGIA TECH, WE TRY TO COVER THE TEAM AND THEY FIND MORE AND MORE WAYS TO KEEP US AWAY.  COACH PAUL JOHNSON REFUSES TO HAVE PLAYERS APPEAR AT THE WEEKLY MEDIA LUNCHEON, HE ONLY ALLOWS PLAYER INTERVIEWS AFTER PRACTICE…  IT’S FUNNY THAT AT GEORGIA, THE NUMBER 1 TEAM IN THE COUNTRY SEEMS TO ALWAYS GO THE EXTRA MILE TO ACCOMODATE THE MEDIA.  THEIR LONGTIME MEDIA RELATIONS DIRECTOR, NOW ASSOCIATE ATHLETICS DIRECTOR, CLAUDE FELTON GOES OUT OF HIS WAY TO MAKE THE PRESS FEEL WELCOME. IT SEEMS GEORGIA TECH JUST DOES THE OPPOSITE. TECH FANS PLEASE KNOW THAT WE ARE TRYING TO COVER YOUR TEAM.

Aside from restricting access to newsworthy players, Kalil complains that Tech won’t accomodate TV trucks, which need accessible temporary parking in order to set up live shots.

It’s unclear why Georgia Tech has adopted a routinely adversarial stance.  It may be a “familiarity breeds contempt” relationship with the Atlanta media, which has to make a 150 mile roundtrip to visit Athens.  Yet numerous metro Atlanta police departments and government agencies manage to sustain civil relations with their hometown media.

Georgia Tech is only hurting itself.  When it treats the media like the enemy, the suspicion automatically becomes mutual.  That means this:  If something controversial happens at the University of Georgia— and with frequent player arrests, it happens often— the UGA sports information folks can use a bank of accumulated good will to try to spin the story to say something other than “hang ’em high.”  Tech’s bank is always mostly empty.

Go Jackets.  Go figure.

Advertisements

Kill the story

What's that smell?

What's that smell?

WXIA’s Kevin Rowson is an uncommonly sensible local TV reporter.  He’s level-headed, even-handed and can smell baloney from a mile away.  When the whiff emanates from his own newsroom, and that of his Atlanta competitors, he recognizes it instantly.

Recently, WXIA sent Rowson to a Cobb County home where firefighters, police and animal control officers had gathered with unusual gusto.  TV news producers often salivate at such stuff, more so if weapons are drawn or if animals have been abused.  (TV producers love animals and humans as much as anybody.  But if it’s going down, they want it on their station first.)

Rowson arrived to find an unusual situation:  A man living in filth, apparently unable to care for himself nor the five cats whose carcasses had been removed by animal control.  From Rowson’s blog:

What they found inside was horrifying and disgusting… There were feces and fleas all over the home and they removed five dead cats. They also found the homeowner lying on a couch, in obvious need of medical attention. He was taken to Kennestone Hospital for treatment. The next day, he was released from the hospital and returned to the same disgusting home.

Police filed no charges.  Rowson and his supervisors at WXIA made the right decision and killed the story.  A few folks commenting on Rowson’s blog disagreed.  But most agreed.

Rowson told readers that a state agency called Adult Protective Services (kinda like DFCS for adults) began an investigation, as did the Cobb Co. building inspector’s office.

WXIA has greater discretion than other Atlanta stations in such cases.  The station produces only an hour of news in the early evening, half the size of the “beasts” that WSB and WAGA feed at 5 and 6pm.  It can afford to let a guy like Kevin Rowson make the right decision on a personal tragedy that, at first, smells like news.