Too little work / pt 2

What's that smell?

What's that smell?

WGCL has produced a third piece in its crudely titled “city workers wasting time” series.   In so doing, one of the central premises of the original piece quietly disappeared, and the series became more unconvincing than ever.

Investigative reporter Wendy Saltzman originally reported that Atlanta sanitation workers racked up overtime by sitting around until the 4pm quitting time, then collecting garbage afterward.  WGCL never documented that allegation with any video of garbage trucks leaving the sanitation yard at 4pm.  Our guess:  They tried to, but never saw it.  That should have raised a big ol’ red flag internally.

In the report that aired yesterday, WGCL didn’t repeat that allegation.  Smart move.

The city of Atlanta also got smart, providing public works commissioner Joe Basista for a sit-down interview.  Basista made some points that should have occurred to WGCL from the get-go:  1) Sanitation workers are among the hardest-working people in city government and 2) garbage crews are collecting all the trash on their routes.

The “gotcha” tape in Saltzman’s stories shows her at the sanitation yard at 3:15 pm, demanding to know why workers aren’t collecting garbage.  If they’re finished with their routes— what should they be doing?  Filling potholes?  Solving crimes?

For this segment, Saltzman and a photog stalked a sanitation crew at the start of a shift.  Their video showed the crew stopping at an ATM and at a fast-food restaurant prior to beginning its route.  This, Saltzman suggested, was more evidence of “city workers wasting time.”  We’re sure no WGCL crew has ever stopped for coffee before heading out to cover a story.

If Saltzman followed the crew for an entire shift, she never said so.  Our guess:  If she did, she would have seen them collecting garbage, finishing their route, and heading back to the yard.

WGCL’s investigative unit is often a bright spot at a station that has had too few of them. But the stink rising from this story exceeded the smell of any garbage truck.  It should have been much more thoroughly vetted internally before it aired.  Hopefully, its investigative unit has better things in store for the November book, and will toss what’s left of this series into the circular file.

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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.

11 thoughts on “Too little work / pt 2

  1. Scott Hedeen

    LAF. Thanks for the folo up with this post.

    I think the piece was shot pretty well… but “put on the map” by the editor. The only reason this story has any appeal, atleast in my mind, is the presentation. nice use of clever graphics and some sweet “tres hombres” rule of threes type edit transitions off the top, made the story flow well. The time of the piece was over 3 minutes.. but it didnt seem that long. A great sign that a piece has yr attention is that you don’t get bored. I wasn’t.

    as for the story? isn’t sweeps a thing of the past in this town? this reaks of the formula I-Team news for dummies. Like the “bring in the plants before it gets cold” ideas… or my fave… “go out and do a story about how people shouldnt be out” storm coverage… This is generic news at it’s “best”.

    and honestly? i like live shots… thank god i’m not a news director… i’d want the reporter live on the back of a moving trash truck.Showing these workers how to go slow enough in their pace, is the only way to illustrate how they don’t look like they need more work.

    Reply
  2. JB

    …and is that COMIC SANS as their font?!

    anyways, worthless journalism.
    Next thing you know, we’ll learn hotel maids don’t really wash hotel room tumblers in a hot dishwashers! OMG! (sorry fox5)

    who gives a flying rats… garbage collectors?
    the only garbage collected was this story.

    Follow an elected official.. someone really wasting tax dollars, not min. wage garbage collectors.

    They work harder than any producer, reporter or news director each day.

    This is more trash, than a Restaurant Report card.

    Reply
  3. live apt fire Post author

    @JB: Yknow, I noticed the comic sans font, much despised by my two college-age kids. They despise it almost obsessively. Still not sure why, but apparently they aren’t the only ones.

    Reply
  4. Scott Hedeen

    sorry… but i love the “Peanuts” font. Maybe i sound alot like Charlie Brown’s teacher… (by the way… Charlie Brown Airport? is that next to the Linus Van Pelt Hospital?) but seriously… the font is NOT the issue. it’s the follow the leader mentallity in the news world. question? is Frank Magid still in business? this seems very magid.

    Reply
  5. TravisBickle

    If the WGCL investigative unit is a bright spot at the station then we’re talkin’ holding a Bic lighter at a Vanilla Ice concert

    Reply
  6. Don B Johnson

    You folks are being to hard on the the GCL people. Don’t you realize they are just trying to make it to 7 o’clock each night just like we USE TO….Better them than us…God I don’t miss tv news…

    Reply
  7. jimmyjohn

    at least wgcl is trying to investigate. Did you hear her interview with the commissioner? He admits they’re overtime their budget and they need to do a better job.

    easy to criticize from the outside when you were kicked out of a newsroom.

    Reply
  8. live apt fire Post author

    @ jimmyjohn: My, how thin-skinned we’ve become!

    Yes, the commish said there was too much overtime. Any agency head would have said the same thing. WGCL never came close to proving what caused any of the sanitation department’s overtime.

    You may want to re-read the post, wherein I gave WGCL credit for having an aggressive investigative unit. I’ve praised Ms. Saltzman in previous posts. This story was a mis-step. It’s not the end of the world. Please stay calm. Everything’s gonna be all right.

    And while I’ve been kicked out of country clubs, offices, hospitals. schools, shopping malls, gated communities and a bar or two, FYI I haven’t been kicked out — or escorted out — of a newsroom in the last twenty years.

    Thanks for visiting the site. Comment anytime.

    Reply
  9. TravisBickle

    I heard the commissioner defending the practices of the sanitation workers…a win for the story might have been him agreeing the story uncovered inappropriate behavior…and make changes

    DJ: isn’t it about camping time…let’s fill that culvert!

    Reply
  10. Don B Johnson

    Hey I hear a camping trip is coming up soon. I got word today that Rick had a culvert and gravel installed on the road..Hey, It only took 25 years….Wahooooooooo….

    PS… Hey Scott H. Winter is coming to Maine. Do you have a spare bedroom? Ha Ha

    Reply

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