A mean old SOB in Dalton builds an explosive device, loads his SUV with fuel and becomes what the ATF calls a suicide bomber. He targets a downtown law firm. The device explodes, killing the bomber and badly injuring a lawyer.
WXIA heard this, then made a remarkable decision. WXIA decided not to send a crew to Dalton.
It’s wrong in light of this: During Ted Hall’s 7:30pm hit in the “information center” (as opposed to “news room”?), Hall began his report on the bombing by exclaiming “this is really something.” He was right. Hall knew something that the managers who make assignments overlooked. It was the most interesting local news story of the day.
Hall voiced over video that appeared to have been fed from a Chattanooga station. WXIA repeated the exercise in its Saturday newscasts.
WXIA’s decision was also wrong in light of this: While WSB, WAGA and WGCL had reporters live in Dalton producing lead stories on the bombing, WXIA led at 11 with a very feature-y Keith Whitney piece on the BET hip-hop awards. At 7:30, WXIA led with a Denis O’Hayer story about teacher pensions. By comparison, the station looked dumb. Both of those guys should have been in Dalton.
Had it sent a crew to Dalton, it would have seen quite a story unfolding. It might have gotten the same chilling interview WGCL’s Renee Starzyk got with a neighbor of the bomber, who described his hard-headedness and instability. Or it might have gotten the interview WAGA’s Tony Thomas got with a woman who was working in the office when it happened.
For Atlanta TV, covering this story was a no-brainer. What was WXIA thinking?
Dalton is 80 miles away, part of the Chattanooga ADI. The bomb didn’t go off in Atlanta’s back yard. Perhaps WXIA decided it wasn’t a “local” story. But the producers of its newscasts obviously thought otherwise, giving the story high play, while relying on video from a station in the nation’s 86th largest market.
Perhaps the bombing didn’t sync with WXIA’s apparent effort to produce a somewhat brainier newscast. We’re all for that. But this was no garden-variety breaking news story. You can’t just ignore a suicide bomber in the North Georgia mountains, and hope to retain your credibility.