Flunking history

WXIA, 1.19.09

Man interviews mic flag: WXIA, 1.19.09

The occasion was important enough to send two of its well-paid anchorpersons to Washington DC for a couple of nights to cover it.  So when WXIA previewed last week’s inauguration Monday night, what could possibly explain the shoddiness of its coverage?  The picture on the left tells much of the story and illustrates how WXIA, once Atlanta’s best video shop, has tumbled to sometimes embarrassing depths.

Brenda Wood and Karyn Greer spent much of Monday’s 7pm newscast on camera, live from Washington.  Wood managed to produce a rather predictable taped interview with Martin King III.  Wood also produced a serviceable feature on a Georgia horsewoman riding in the inaugural parade, a piece shot prior to Wood’s departure for DC.

But when it came time to interview plain folks who may or may not have come to DC from Georgia — and there were thousands of visitors to choose from Monday — WXIA / Gannett pooled resources and came up with nothing short of crap:  Three horribly shot soundbites, apparently delivered by a Washington-based one-man-band, armed with a WXIA / Gannett mic flag.  The material appeared to have been produced by a high school student.

Adding to the foolishness, WXIA’s coverage began with a series of still photos taken by a WXIA producer.  The photos showed crowds of people.  Nothing wrong with the photos.  But since television has the capability of broadcasting motion pictures, it seems reasonable that one might have expected an actual TV story about the crowds of people arriving for the inaugural.

Based on this newscast it appeared the conversation with Wood and Greer went like this:  Ladies, good news:  We’re sending you to cover the inaugural.  Send back some cell phone photos.  Use whatever photographer they can spare at our sister station, WUSA.  Or just hand a mic flag and a camcorder to a passing high school student.  If they produce crap, don’t worry.  We’ll air it anyway.  And hey — have fun.  It’s a huge story!

The above material doesn’t appear on the inauguration page of WXIA’s web site.  There are other stories on the site, but they don’t doesn’t redeem it much.  Thank goodness they sent Jon Shirek, who produced the least predictable pieces.  Unfortunately, his most interesting story — about the choking lines that ultimately denied entry to thousands of people — appears on the site only as a vo/sot.  We say it again:  If you’ve got a guy with Shirek’s storytelling skills, let him really tell the story.

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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.

8 thoughts on “Flunking history

  1. john

    5 people went to dc from wxia. 4 of them were woods, greer, shirek and photojournalist david brooks. the fifth was wxia’s assignment manager, whom they outfitted with a camera and that ever present stick mic. the one thing they obviously forgot to do was to train her in how to frame a shot. that is who shot the interviews shown above.

    it is truly sad that a station, once regarded as having one of the top rated photography staffs in the country, can put garbage like this on the air and not see a problem with it.

    Reply
  2. Phosphorus

    I couldn’t agree with you more on this one. WXIA, what has become of you? You used to be THE shop to look to for quality in photojournalism and you sent your AE to Washington to go shoot? Well, it showed and you & Gannett ought to be ashamed! I’d like to say these were the only hiccups, but this trip was a failure, from every aspect. I only hope this will move you to get this ship heading back in the right, photojournalistic, direction. But, sadly, I know it will not and the worst may well be yet to come.

    Reply
  3. WXIA employee

    Sadly, this is something I knew was coming for a long time. Since I work at WXIA, in the Big Gray Room (I refuse to call it a newsroom anymore), I was privy to some of these discussions about how the inauguration was going to be covered. They sent two anchors who are unbelievably recalcitrant about getting content to anywhere other than their faces, our best reporter (it used to be open to discussion, but then Denis O’Hayer departed), one of our best photographers (still and video), and the assignment manager (and John, who commented above, covered exactly what the problem was there).

    I particularly liked your “rather predictable” line about Wood’s interview with MLK3.

    Oh, and that whole “pooled resources” thing? If you go through the Gannett Blog (gannettblog.blogspot.com) and look for articles about ContentOne, you’ll see that it was every Gannett employee’s job to somehow send content to the national provider, at the expense of the local property.

    Reply
  4. Scott Hedeen

    I have to disagree with the statement “Once Atlanta’s Best Video Shop” …. The talent is still there. I can name about 10 awesome photographers of the top of my head that are still head and shoulders above any shooter in the city.

    I’ve spent some time in the last 2 years watching the newscasts in this city from a removed point…and I have been less than thrilled by anything I’ve seen. Bad lighting on live shots…bad lighting in interviews.. undone effects… boring shooting are some of the major issues from all stations. Last week on WAGA… i think I saw one of the worst shot stories i’ve ever viewed. (trust me… i’ve seen alot)

    Point being… the talent is at WXIA… it’s the decision to put that skill in a live truck operating position or on stories without visuals or meaning.

    This is also a staff that is operating about 3 years behind every crew in the city ..gear wise. The lack of TRUE HD field capture via P2 or other chip based rigs is a major stumbling point for WXIA’s photographer. It’s a changing digital landscape…and they are still shooting DV25 tape. I know Gannett is nowhere near ready to write a check for gear upgrades anytime soon. It’s just another stumbling block for the talented videographersof WXIA and Gannett nationwide.

    (As for the framing of the sots in DC… hey… i had a mgr at the station call my chief photographer to complain about my *wacky* framing… saying it wasn’t “news” or worthy to be sent to a sister station for their use…i was sat down and talked to about it at length. I wonder if that happened here? NOTE… the NPPA photographer of the year is the person who framed Palin wide with the chicken… and that’s ART!

    I was more discouraged by the lack of substance or local attachment in the sots. It’s photojournalism ya know. Truth be told… it looked like whoever did shoot it made slot… my number one goal when i was a company man)

    Reply
  5. Tvshooter

    Don’t worry. Gannett will soon convert WXIA to VJ’s, backpack journalists, or multiplatform whatevers. All the photogs know they need to be looking. WUSA has already made the move, and WXIA is slated to do so as well.
    The morale there at 11 not so alive is pretty low…especially for the photogs. There’s no time to shoot anything interesting, no time to edit and if there were, it needs to be no longer than 1:10.

    Reply
  6. radiowxman

    I’ve watched WXIA off and on for the past year or so (gf’s roomie is a fan). As a former 1-man-band myself (back in the days when we had to lug 3/4″ decks around on our hips), I can see more and more interviews shot 1-man-band-style.

    Of course, I was doing it in Elmira, NY and Monroe, LA….not a top 10 market. But I digress.

    Reply
  7. M. Page

    Look at WSB’s newscast sometime. They too have poorly lit live shots and picture compositions that make a high school video production project look like it was produced in Hollywood.

    Reply

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