“Black Friday” is a term only recently introduced into the media lexicon. The busiest-shopping-day ever phenomenon is generations old. But the term — and the tendency of stores to encourage pre-dawn shopping — are 21st century developments. Can’t say that either of them advances the human condition one iota.
Likewise, this increasingly insidious phenomenon keeps legions of high-seniority TV reporters at work during what should be a laid-back holiday. Sadly for them, the retailers of America are now governing their schedules. Now, the best Black Friday stories are the ones you probably aren’t watching — the ones that appear on morning or noon newscasts.
It’s a good story to cover. It’s mostly a one-stop shop. The story subjects are usually in good humor and willing to be interviewed. The competitive threshold is low. The challenge is delivering a story that isn’t completely predictable. Half the battle is finding interviewees who are interesting. One oddball character can often make the difference between a ho-hum piece and a memorable Black Friday story.
Geeked up on mimosas and tryptophan, we choked down ten Black Friday stories– a fraction of the content delivered by the four Atlanta TV stations. Noteworthy:
Justin Gray’s piece on WAGA at noon Friday was the best of the bunch. Sharply written and edited, its narrative included the overnight buildup through the moment that a NW Atlanta Wal-Mart opened its doors and beyond. Gray’s piece was the most thoughtfully produced that we saw. Plus, he lucked into a shopper who was hilariously obsessed with buying a 32″ flat screen TV. Grade: B+
Tony McNary’s story on WGCL Wednesday night had a couple of not-so-predictable moments. He was with a line full of folks awaiting the opening of a Best Buy store. One of them admitted to showing up at 4am Wednesday to form the queue. It took 14 hours for another shopper to join her. D’oh! McNary also found a shopper who was amusingly incredulous that all those folks would waste their time in a line for a store to open. Grade: B
At WXIA, Julie Wolfe pulled an overnight shift and for her effort, delivered a vo/sot at Discover Mills at 6:30am or so. Wolfe is a talented package producer, but we could only find this vo/sot on WXIA’s website. It concluded with an amusing and awkward encounter with Santa, who strolled into her shot as she concluded, apparently expecting to be interviewed. Wolfe had to explain to the Old Elf that she was out of time, but would get around to it later. Grade: Incomplete.
WSB’s Tiffany Reynolds produced a piece shot at the outlet mall in Dawsonville, an above-and-beyond distance to travel for a Black Friday story. It was a worthwhile locale; the video gave the story a more energetic feel than we saw in most other pieces. Too bad there were no interesting characters in it. Grade: B-
With WXIA’s newscast-deadening obsession with live vo/sots, Valerie Hoff took advantage of the lighter workload by procuring a hard-to-find toy for her son, and displaying it in a live shot at noon Friday. Hoff played it straight, but anchor Jill Becker called her out on it. Hopefully, Hoff is among the many TV newsies who don’t allow their young children to watch their product. Grade: Busted.