Monthly Archives: January 2009

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Thorn and Starzyk, WGCL

Getting fitted: Thorn and Starzyk, WGCL

Apparently nobody briefed Atlanta police officer E.R. Murray about an obscure fact:  Atlanta, a city in Georgia, is part of America, a country that arguably values freedom.  Murray is now in the running for two prizes:  The Dumbest Cop in America, and the Most Dangerous Cop in America.

Here’s a guy who’s been given the mind-numbing assignment of working the metal detector at Atlanta City Hall, a public building which is routinely accessed by all forms of news media.  Friday, WGCL reporter Renee Starzyk and photographer Jeff Thorn went through the metal detector and toward the Water Department.  There, customers were routinely paying bills at a cashier window.  Starzyk was pursuing an ongoing story about billing irregularities.

While interviewing customers, Officer Einstein shows up and orders them out of the building.  From WGCL’s website:

The officer who let them in then told them to stop.  They asked why they could not shoot video in a public area.  “I need you to leave,” said Officer E.R. Murray…. Thorn and Starzyk moved out of the water department area and began shooting video in the lobby, also a public area.  “You’re in a secure area. You need to go outside,” said Murray.  Officer Murray then grabbed the camera.

“Renee, grab my camera or he’s going to break it,” said Thorn.   “What have we done wrong officer,” asked Starzyk.   Officer Murray replied, “Obstruction.”

"Hey-- shiny!"

"Hey-- shiny!"

Thorn kept his camera rolling as Officer Mensa put it on the floor.  Apparently, Starzyk was able to phone WGCL before the confrontation escalated.  Another WGCL photographer showed up and documented the handcuffing of Starzyk and Thorn.  The raw video is also posted on WGCL’s website.

WGCL says Starzyk and Thorn sat in cuffs for more than an hour as APD tried to change the dim light bulb above the head of Officer Stooge and fix its rapidly-escalating PR problem.  The video finally shows the offending dipwad removing the cuffs.  WGCL reports Starzyk and Thorn were neither jailed nor charged with a crime.  Mayor Shirley Franklin’s office issued an apology.  APD sent its coolest-ever deputy chief, Carlos Banda, to make nice.  Starzyk produced first-person pieces on the incident for WGCL’s evening news.

Officer E.R. "Enormously Rumpheaded" Murray, APD

Officer E.R. "Enormously Rumpheaded" Murray, APD

It’s clear why this guy earns a nod for the stupidest cop in America award.  What makes Officer E. R. “Empty Receptacle” Murray so dangerous?  Unlike most cops, he doesn’t understand the concept of the media’s role in a free society.  All he understands is “security,” kinda like his counterparts in Burma and Tianenman Square.  And he doesn’t have much to do, assigned, as he is, to listen for the ring of a metal detector and view the x-rayed contents of briefcases and purses.  Put a badge and a gun on a guy with that kind of assignment and brainpower, and we tend to get what we deserve.

As Lenslinger would say:  Schmuck!

The cartoonist

From the Red and Black, 1.9.08

From the Red and Black, 1.8.09

Most journalists stopped using paper twenty years ago.  A few still do.  This one, for instance, produces material with paper and ink for a college newspaper that still delivers print copies to students at the University of Georgia.  He would be the first to admit that the future of his medium is imperiled.  He just turned 23.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Bill Richards, cartoonist on Vimeo“, posted with vodpod

Let me be the first to admit this post lacks our usual critical detachment.

Bill’s material began appearing in print, and on the Red and Black’s website four years ago.  He’s frequently been brutalized by commenters.  It’s provided some rough lessons on the perils of subjecting one’s material to the blogosphere.

The job market for editorial cartoonists is even rougher.  The LA Times and Chicago Tribune no longer employ editorial cartoonists.  Pulitzer Prize winners have had to toil in locales like Tulsa and Chattanooga.  Editorial cartoonist positions are more rare than TV anchor jobs.

Just so happens, this one can be had at a reasonable price…

Money shot

WGCL's money shot

WGCL's money shot

If you’re going to spend all night at a hostage standoff, you want one thing:  You want the picture of it ending.  The four Atlanta TV stations spent the wee hours of Monday in Madison, where an ex-cop named David Deitz was holding his baby hostage in a motel room for some twelve hours.  But when Deitz walked out of the hotel room holding the baby, WSB and WAGA missed the shot.

WGCL got the video.  And it wasn’t the best picture in the world– but it clearly showed Deitz emerging from the room, baby in arms.  An accomplice emerged through the same doorway seconds later.  An AJC photographer also got the photo, which WSB used and credited.

How could you spend all night waiting for this very picture, then miss it?  It’s easier than you’d think.

Photographers can’t roll continually on the doorway.  The sheer volume of video would be unmanageable, and they’d drain their batteries.  Likewise, photographers have to shoot other action, like when SWAT team guys position themselves.  They have to shoot spokespersons when they hold news conferences.  They have to shoot their on-camera talent during live shots.  They have to abandon their cameras periodically to edit packages for newscasts.  If the TV station sends no more than one photographer, then the station risks losing the money shot.

Sometimes law enforcement agencies will intentionally divert news media away from the money shot, by holding a news conference as the climactic moment is taking place.  It’s unclear what happened Monday in Madison.

By the time most people saw this story, it was long finished and of rapidly diminishing interest.  But the managers at the TV stations keep score on this kind of stuff.  Score one for WGCL.

Burning love

smashed-cell-phoneBy Andy Funk

It was to be our third date.  We seemed to be clicking, and the hug and kiss at the conclusion of date number two definitely signaled mutual interest in our relationship progressing.  So here it was, a Saturday night — there should be no interruptions from work, right?

Uh, did I mention that at the time I worked in local television news, as a technical manager, and that, except when sleeping, I had to read all emails as soon as I received them on my cell phone, and often take some form of action?

Back to the date.  Dinner was marvelous, the conversation scintillating, and we both didn’t want it to end.  So we took a short drive to “The Chocolate Bar,” a nearby confectionery.  That’s when it began.  The first email simply mentioned a 1-alarm fire at an address, and that a stringer was being sent to shoot some video.  About two minutes later, though, another email came through, and the subject was enough to let me know that the evening was likely to go in an undesired direction.  It was just two words:  “Apartment Fire.”

For the next two hours or so my cell phone announced new email messages — messages I was obliged to read, and frequently respond to — at least every five minutes.  Each time the phone vibrated on my waist I saw the promise of a future with the vibrant woman sitting across the table from me, sipping on her gourmet hot chocolate while taking dainty bites of a scrumptious, chocolate cheesecake, become an ever-increasing impossibility.

Needless to say, I drove her home before finishing my decaf mocha latte or small scoop of  fresh orange and chocolate ice cream.  There was no kiss at the door, and in reply to my phone message the next day, suggesting another date, I received only a terse e-mail message indicating her disinclination to compete with my cell phone.

Did you know that, while wearing ankle boots, one jump can be sufficient to crack the screen of some cell phones?  But, I must say, ten to twenty jumps are far more satisfying.

It’s curious how those with responsibility for managing company cell phones ask all sorts of questions after one hands them a malfunctioning unit with the comment, “Uh, my phone broke last night.”

Andy Funk is a former WAGA news guy now committing behind-the-scenes acts of television at Fox News in NYC.  Funk previously submitted this essay to a best “cell phone disaster” website.  Funk reports that his winning essay won him a lovely leather phone case.  Presumably it will effectively contain the shards of a freshly-stomped phone.