Street cred

Steve Schwaid, WGCL

Refreshingly curious: Steve Schwaid, WGCL

Steve Schwaid is the news director at WGCL.  After an LAF commenter mentioned that he helped cover the fatal Atlanta Botanical Garden construction accident, we wanted his impressions.  He agreed to answer some e-mailed questions:

–Word is that you actually showed up at the Botanical Garden accident and helped out / observed. Care to answer some on-the-record questions?

At every station I’ve worked I’ve always tried to go out in the field. First, it helps me get a little more sense of the market, an understanding of the gear and challenges our folks are dealing with. Plus, I get to hear how we manage our crews via the radio and such.

In Philly during my last year there I went out a few times and worked actual shifts pulling cables, etc. It helps me understand the dynamics of the field and reminds me of the pressures our folks are under.

I’ll always remember a situation in Tampa where the desk once said “on the map it’s only an inch away.” Yeah, and there’s a body of water called Tampa Bay covering most of that inch.

– what compelled you to go?

Our early reporter was up north. It was a few more minutes before the next reporter was due in.  It sounded big and I hadn’t done a breaker in Atlanta so it just seemed to make sense. If it was a big story I figured I could help gather info as the crews set up for video and live. Honestly, it was just gut and instinct when the desk shouted at 9:06 there was a bridge collapse with at least 12 injured.

Plus, I love news. It was a chance to get out in the field on a breaker.

– did anything surprise you?

Nothing really. The professionalism among all of the market’s crews in the field was note worthy. I did think that the way the police corralled everyone into a “bull pen” but allowed the public to wander in other areas seemed a little strange. The local media seemed a touch laid back for a breaker – I’m used to NY and Philly folks who are pressing hard for new info during breaking news.

I thought the folks at the initial PIO presser were a little reserved. I felt the PIO had more info and wasn’t forthcoming.

– did you solve any problems that might have arisen?

I don’t know if I solved any problems. I helped position the live truck as one of our photogs was shooting video, It did open my eyes to ways we need to handle breaking news internally. I think that was a good thing and will make us a stronger operation.

– do you think your presence intimidated your staff?

I doubt it. I don’t think I acted as a manager. I carried the sticks, asked questions, did interviews, moved the truck, etc. The one thing I’ve learned in my career is never tell a good photog what to do on the scene. They know their stuff and they know how to do three things at once and kick butt. I watched Renee [Starzyk] and Jeff Thorn in action as well as Everett [Bevelle] and Mark Melvin, I don’t think I intimidated them but I did try to stay out of their way and be there when they needed help.

what was your impression of the level of competition versus camaraderie among stations?
Keep in mind we were in a bull pen area so it impacted the competition for the best shot. I’m always impressed how well shooters work with each other. Part of that is because managers, producers and reporters come and go. But photogs become the fabric of the station and the market. I’ve told my team that if a photog raises a question about a story or challenges some info then stop the process and do a recheck of the facts. Photogs are rarely wrong.

– did you see any miracles? And that’s a serious question.

Miracles? I don’t think so, at least not for the time I was out there.

I know this sounds corny, but I am always amazed at how we make TV. Think about it.  I can say I want something on the air and it can happen in minutes or seconds. I can call the control room and have the anchors say something or go to a certain live shot and see it happen it in seconds. Where else does that happen?

– I never once saw the news director at my Atlanta station at a field assignment. Do you recommend it? Why?

I absolutely recommend it. I think it helps ground us as NDs about what happens outside the bubble of the newsroom. Why shouldn’t an ND go out in the field? I love TV news – it’s the best job in the world.  A key part of our job is managing a very complex work force – any opportunity to understand what our folks do only helps.

I think with the pressures we’re under for budgets and the changing technologies it’s really critical to go into the field, especially during breaking news. I think it gives us street cred. Plus, during budget times or the heart to heart with the GM we can cite facts and situations to talk about staffing issues.

I was also reminded of the web out there. Our Web ME called me in the midst of it all and said to send him a cell phone pic. Honestly, it wasn’t top of mind. It is now and in fact we’ve set up a process to make it easier for all of our folks to send in web pics following this.

What does surprise me is how as an industry I think we’re behind the technology curve. We all have to be able to respond faster to use the new tools and toys to make TV.

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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.

15 thoughts on “Street cred

  1. daryll

    I like this guy. He may not instantly raise their ratings but he’ll certainly raise their morale. CBS prime aids their 11p cast, but the 6p has no lead-in. There are enough paper pushers in television (news or otherwise) who have forgotten their days on the street and so the product becomes a commodity. BTW, he did a great job with NBC 11’s news presentation after their launch into the San Francisco/San Jose/Oakland market.

  2. Jill

    Could someone slip this to my ND to read? Ours has no idea what we do in the field. The managers just sit around and love to play arm chair quarterback.

    I know little about this guy. But I like the style.

  3. Jim

    Wow, just when I thought all was lost, along comes a ND who actually “gets it”.

    I can’t imagine how much better his staff felt, seeing him out there toting around a set of sticks, and actually seeing what went on.

  4. Chas

    This guy is the real deal, and what WGCL needs. I’ve got no love for the station, but this guy seems like he’s pushing the cbs46 in the right direction.

  5. Don B Johnson

    I once watched Andy Fisher pull WAGA live truck cables up ten flights of stairs in the Peachtree Plaza Hotel. WAGA had not prewired the Ballroom for political coverage and had to play catch up. Andy was the News Director of WAGA at the time. That was fun to watch….

  6. pmp

    I prefer my news director to sit in his office and only come out during fits of wild rage, where he personally attacks his employees. He calls them names, he questions their intelligence, he threatens them with violence Then wonders why his staff turns over every three years.

  7. live apt fire Post author

    I’m just picturing the 9am reporter getting this phone call from the desk: “Uh, you might want to get there on the double. Schwaid is already on scene setting the live shot.” My question is: Did Renee Starzyk spew coffee when she heard that, and did she manage to guide the spray away from her clothes?

  8. Pingback: photogs are rarely wrong | TODAY

  9. Juanita Driggs

    Rare…very rare!!! Long may Steve reign in the Big “A”. But don’t hold your breath expecting any of the other usual suspects to do it. Most wouldn’t know the front end of the truck from the back.

  10. Pingback: Doesn’t play well with others « live apartment fire

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