Too little work

Wendy Saltzman, WGCL

Checking her watch: Wendy Saltzman, WGCL

Today’s question is this:  Whose work is more slipshod — the Atlanta sanitation department, or the TV station investigating the department’s allegedly slipshod work habits?

The “lazy government employees” story is a local TV perennial.  WGCL’s latest version of this bit of investigative schtick is a classic example of why viewers should watch these stories with a healthy dose of skepticism.

Wendy Saltzman reports that a whistleblower inside Atlanta’s sanitation department has griped to city officials that sanitation workers spend countless hours hangin’ out and not picking up garbage.  The whistleblower, his voice and face cloaked, specifically told Saltzman that sanitation workers chill out at the office until the 4pm quitting time.  Then, they go out and collect garbage, racking up overtime.

That allegation seems easy enough to document:  Go to the sanitation yard, and shoot pictures of garbage trucks rolling out after 4pm.  But Saltzman never shows it.

Instead, she takes the too-easy approach:  She goes to the sanitation yard at 3:15pm, and demands to know why workers lingering there aren’t collecting garbage.  To us, there’s an entirely plausible answer:  They’ve completed their routes! All the garbage sitting in cans by the curb has been collected.

WGCL also sent a hidden camera to the yard.  It shows sanitation workers chilling out in a lounge and playing checkers.  But there’s nothing to suggest that they aren’t on a legitimate break.  Lord knows, sanitation workers — of all people — are deserving of reasonable breaks during the workday.

If there’s a legit explanation, the city of Atlanta is doing a mighty poor job of providing it.  The city provided a statement to Saltzman suggesting that she had photographed workers during their lunch hours.  The city declined to provide an interview, and tossed Saltzman from the property.  The city’s evasions are giving Saltzman legitimate reason to continue her pursuit of the story, despite the editorial red flags in WGCL’s reporting.

To do this story right, WGCL would have to stalk sanitation crews for an entire workday, observing their work and break habits.  There’s no evidence that the station did this.  Maybe there’s a reason:  WGCL’s  investigative unit was taking a long, leisurely lunch.

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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.

20 thoughts on “Too little work

  1. TravisBickle

    LAF: finally something we can agree on. I had the same reaction to this piece. My understanding is it was rushed to air…

    Where is the surveillance to substantiate the claims made by the whistleblower!
    Investigative 101: document the slackers day after day after day then get their timesheets.
    Did this pass their attorney’s approval? Did they show it to their attorney? Do they have an attorney?

    The reporter also saturates the piece with “confrontations”. This does not make a piece investigative. It’s easy and cheapens every thorough investigative reporters’ tactic when the bad guy won’t sit down for an interview. What do you think the workers would do when a group of them sees a camera coming??? Hey, but it makes great tv!!

    Also, they really sandbagged their whistleblower. It’s impossible to show that much video of someone (even with a puny “blur” over his face)and not have them indentified by a) the people that can soon “let him go” or b) the people that he has to be around all day that can make his life hell. Poor guy

    Please stop

    Reply
  2. Pingback: Atlanta blogs today | Fresh Loaf

  3. Scott Hedeen

    Don’t ever mess with garbagemen.

    A pal of mine from DC has a story from the 80’s. He and another friend are dropped off after a punk show in the Shaw neighborhood of the District . If you know DC you know that it’s not a good place to be at 2:00 in the morning if yr a kid from the suburbs…without a ride home.

    Walking up 14th street…a big car pulls over to the curb with 4 huge older tough looking men inside.The driver hollers out my pal’s first name. He asks them if they need a ride. Henry goes over to the car,not reconizing the man, but needing a ride to Bethesda, Henry and his friend get in the car.

    As the car peels off ,they try to tell the driver where they take them. He yells back at them to “Shut the F*ck up! I know where you live!”. Scared to death… they are silent as they cower in the back seat next to each other between two of the other passengers. Nobody speaks… other than the driver who asks “why they are out so late?”…and “do their parents know where they are?”. Henry tries to respond… but are silenced with more profanity and intimidating gestures. After about 2 hours of driving around the city wondering if they are about to be killed in some weird abduction sceanrio… the car pulls up in front of Henry’s house.

    Surprised, Henry asks…”How did you know where I lived?”

    The driver smiles…”We’re your garbagemen… We know everything about you! Now get the f*ck out!”

    LESSON of the STORY?

    garbage men are the wrong people to screw with. jsut be happy they take yr trash…and not decide to use what they see in yr garbage against you.

    Reply
  4. Mrs. LAF

    Garbage “PEOPLE”, people. Actually, one of our garbage people is an attractive female. I’m always like “you go girl.. with that trash..?”

    Reply
  5. live apt fire Post author

    Hadeen: I’ll be the first to admit I lack your punk cred. Perhaps you would have preferred this: “By gosh, Scott! I quite near split my sides whilst absorbing your compelling lesson on garbagemen folk. Hey ho!”

    Reply
  6. scott hedeen

    excuse me… garbage people it is. here’s to the holder uppers! people who do the jobs that have to be done… but are not in the top 5 of any high school guidance councelor’s list. kinda like news photog.

    Reply
  7. scott hedeen

    speaking of punk cred…. Earl Hudson. Drummer for the Bad Brains is a Atlanta City garbage person! no joke!

    Reply
  8. travisBickle

    Aww man, I feel like you talked right over me.
    Let me try.

    Even better, David Yow former lead singer for the Jesus Lizard is now a graphic artist at Emory

    Reply
  9. Scott Hedeen

    i knew mo tucker was a southern recluse… but coffee county?

    i thought david yow was in Qui and in LA… Decatur? are you sure that isnt just a homeless man? (Yow often is mistaken for homeless… esp during the scratch acid days)

    as for respect for garbagemen vs tv news, i’m not kidding…. garbagemen actually understand what their job is.

    Reply
  10. Mrs.LAF

    My favorite “where are they now” is Rob DelBueno of Man or Astro-Man? He’s the owner of a tiny Biodiesel station downtown. Made from grease that metro ATL restaurants trash. TRASH: Back full circle.

    Reply
  11. scott "punk cred" hedeen

    ha. i wanna ask him if the reason he’s into bio diesel mercedes is the time his band’s van broke down in fell’s point in baltimore. i jumped their battery off my news van…. who says the news can’t be helpful.

    i’m really officially goofing off now on this blog. sorry.

    Reply
  12. Insite

    Your assumption of laziness is simply dead wrong. So please don’t begin to think, even for a minute, that what you see in the upcoming weeks has anything to do with your little unemployment project here Doug.

    Reply
  13. scott "punk cred" hedeen

    *snarl* the nasties are out tonight. Richards… you know they knocked Tesla as a Edison wanna be. (see THE PRESTIGE… Bowie is so aptly miscast as the outsider Nikolai Tesla… Bowie is a bigger spotlight hound than most news anchors!)

    Keep the Apt Fire burning. People read this… in fact alot of people do. People who write comments dissing you…i’ve read quite a few here… are only jealous of the freedom you have here to say what you do.

    The real “fire” is the newsroom vacuum sound…a flashover in the minds of people scrambling for a reality check.

    it’s hilarious!

    PS.. i love this thread.

    Reply
  14. Pingback: On the clock « live apartment fire

  15. Pingback: A tale of two garbagemen « live apartment fire

  16. Pingback: Atlanta blogs today | Fresh Loaf

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