“Ashley Elder says she and fellow bartender and buddy John Henderson had just closed the Standard Food and Spirits on Memorial Drive shortly before four in the early morning darkness Wednesday when four or five masked men smashed their way in.”
WSB’s Mark Winne crammed a lot of words and several thoughts into that one sentence Friday. His staccato delivery made the words emanate from the TV (actually, wsbtv.com, where we saw it) like gunfire. As broadcast writing goes, it cries out for a skilled editor. But as crime stories go, Winne whupped ’em. It’s what he does.
Friday, Atlanta police held an afternoon news conference on the murder of bartender John Henderson. It was a high-interest story because of the cold-bloodedness of the killing. The killers spared the life of another employee at the Standard, Ashley Elder. While the other TV stations were working around the police news conference, Winne was getting the exclusive interview with Elder. In fact, we suspect Winne timed the interview to coincide with the news conference, Secret Squirrel-style, knowing the other stations would be busy across town at police headquarters. The man needs a hat with two eye holes in it.
For good measure, Winne also got fedora-wearing lead detective Anthony Gentile to do something rarely seen in a fresh investigation: He gave Winne a sequential walking tour of the interior crime scene. He showed where Henderson stood when the killers burst in. He walked down the hallway where they led the victims, describing what happened. Then Gentile showed the door which the killers shot through, fatally striking Henderson after they’d robbed him.
The information also happened to be new, debunking previous APD misinformation indicating that Henderson had been shot execution style.
WAGA stuck with the news conference. The info at the news conference was also interesting enough. But Winne’s 6pm scoop obviously got the attention of his competitor. By 10pm, WAGA’s Tony Thomas had coaxed Gentile to talk to him on TV at the Standard.
But the detective (or more likely the Standard, which was serving patrons by nightfall) declined an encore performance of the walking tour. That, and the interview with Elder, belonged solely to Winne.