Water, water everywhere

Adam Murphy, WGCL

Callling BS on the commish: Adam Murphy, WGCL

We’re overdue to deliver a slow but sincere one-man round of applause for Adam Murphy.  The WGCL reporter has taken more than his share of abuse on this site for the still-unfortunate Restaurant Report Card.  But maybe that franchise, and Murphy’s tough-guy role in it, has steeled him for the worthy work he’s done in the last few weeks on the Atlanta Water Department follies.

Investigative reporter Wendy Saltzman has been equally tenacious.  Saltzman and Murphy tag-teamed a Water Department news conference last week, wherein commissioner Rob Hunter tried to explain that the city’s bizarre overbilling of residential customers raises “complicated issues.”  Maybe for him, yeah.  WGCL has documented extraordinarily large water bills that have suddenly and inexplicably arrived in the mailboxes of Atlanta residents.

“Let me make it clear.  Commissioner Hunter called that news conference because of our persistence on this story,” Murphy began a live shot.  “In fact, Commissioner Rob Hunter said I was rude when I tried to ask him a tough question.”

Murphy’s package began with Hunter triumphantly telling the news conference about flaws in a list of complaining water customers delivered the previous day by WGCL.  Hunter said the list didn’t include street addresses and phone numbers.  WGCL sent a second photog to the newser.   When Murphy pounced, it was on-camera.

“You mentioned six people were unreachable.  You realize… they all have e-mail addresses.  They are reachable, first of all.  Second of all, are you saying that every one of the people who has contacted us is making this up and lying?” Score a bulls-eye for Murphy.

“Absolutely not saying that.  And I don’t know how you would reach that conclusion,” Hunter stammered.  We’d like to know if that’s the exchange the brought the allegation that Murphy was “rude.”  Murphy never gives the details, unfortunately.

Murphy has been following the story almost daily in his role as WGCL’s consumer reporter.  It’s a story that’s rife with ongoing trouble, made worse by Rob Hunter’s efforts to dodge WGCL’s questions and failure to fix the problem.  WGCL has found and stayed after an absurd and inexplicable story that deserves exposure and affects real people.  If the trade-off is that we must tolerate the Restaurant Report Card, we’re OK with that.

16 thoughts on “Water, water everywhere

  1. Phosphorus

    There are very few stories WGCL is involved in that really matter. This is one of them. The city of Atlanta is doing nothing short of ripping people off, Doug. This is unacceptable! I’m glad they’re a party on the right side of this issue. Stay tuned.

  2. Steve

    Did Murphy mention that one of the “problems” Ch 46 took to Hunter was in litigation? And that two of them were longstanding issues with bad checks, broken payment plans, etc? Hunter rightfully told Murphy that they should have done the research first.

    I saw the news conference live and the reporters were rude, interrupting Hunter on several occasions while he was trying to make a reasoned, calm, statement. This episode does not enhance my already low opinion of Ch 46’s news organization, nor does a rude response I received via email from Steve Schwaid on another subject last week.

  3. Phosphorus

    You call it rude. I call it holding public officials accountable because that is, in fact, exactly what this was. This is the responsibility of the media when a bankrupt city knowingly seeks to steal from its populous.

  4. rumpus time

    I thought Hunter held his own at the conference…and the Ch 46 reporters came off as a little green and small-market. But to take the presser live for a half hour with no cutins is the really ridiculous part…

    It is clear they are desperate to make a statement in a feeble attempt to gather a few viewers for a story the others (rightfully) have covered but not too the overzealous level 46 has

    If a tree falls on Ch46 and nobody’s watching did it really happen?

  5. tower child

    It is amazing how vile some of you are. Here is WGCL trying to do something different at 4 pm and you take them to task. Maybe they should have just run the CBS and CNN fill packages.

    They took 35 minutes of air time to hold to allow the viewers see the incompetence at the city of Atlanta.

    Give them credit and give them credit for becoming a news organization.

  6. Jim

    I’ve got to give them an A for airing the presser. I wish that happened more. Show the people, let them make up their own minds. I will say that Adam’s package standup seemed a bit (okay, maybe a lot) over the top. Starting with an Alton Brown style shot looking up at him from inside a water meter vault, then to feet, and so on…..it was creative, cool, and, unfortunately, took some of the focus off a valid story. Hopefully Mr. Murphy doesn’t start to forget that the story is about the subject, not the reporter. Not seeing that yet, and hope I don’t

  7. Fence Sitter

    And Dale Russell appears to be putting a stake through the heart of Terrell Bolton at the DeKalb Co. Police Dept.

    Good job by local TV news holding the incompetents’ feet to the fire.

  8. connector

    WXIA should learn from wgcl. They’ve done a good job on the peanut story, but they haven’t pushing for accountability. A classic example was tonight and samler’s coverage of a GA government/ag event. Samler challenged the head of the ag department. WXIA has put the most energy in the story, but they can’t seem to close the deal.

  9. Jay

    Doug, since you didn’t mention that WGCL aired the press conference live for the first half-hour of their 4pm newscast, I assume you didn’t know that happened.

    I agree with Jim, I enjoyed watching the conference and am glad WGCL stayed on it for that long. I also wonder how long they planned to stay live with it. Because as others here noted, Saltzman and Murphy eventually rudely interrupted Hunter before he asked for questions from the media. As I watched it I thought the producers must have said, “f**k this guy going on and on providing seemingly reasonable answers to all our ‘tough’ questions, Wendy ask him a godd*mn question!” And the questions they did ask were lame. It really drove home the point that they would rather overdramatize the issue than deal with specific complaints and the problems surrounding them. And Murphy let it slip that a WGCL anchor has had billing problems.

    It was funny to watch the second half-hour of the newscast as they crammed in all their commercials; gotta pay them bills. It was great that they killed all the national filler stories and usual b.s. and only ran a few more top local news stories. I wish they would do that more often. Hell, I’d enjoy watching half an hour of worthwhile news conference footage each day because it sure beats the spin, misinformation and dreadful lack of information provided in some actual reports. For instance, Pam Martin’s report about the conference that day on WSB was pathetic; it was no better than a press release.

    I think Hunter did a good job responding to all the generic complaints WGCL leveled at him and the department. He admitted they had billing problems like any utility or service provider but also clearly explained why some people probably received high bills.

    I’m all for reporters holding public officials accountable, and I, too, think Dale Russell is doing an excellent job with the Terrell Bolton story. But I would give WGCL a C- for their water billing stories.

  10. Phosphorus

    ONE or TWO cases out of HUNDREDS and HUNDREDS of people being ripped off by a bankrupt, mislead, city were longstanding issues. Well, hell, no story there then!? You need to do YOUR homework steve. Give me a break!

  11. radiowxman

    Accountability journalism is a long-lost craft, and not practiced nearly enough anymore.

    If the traditional news media (esp. newspapers) wants to stay relevant in this 24/7 news cycle, they have to advance the story.

    We get caught up in getting the day’s show done, and always seem to miss the folo up since we’ve got more stuff to do the next day.

    GCL may have been a little over the top on this one, but kudos for at least following it.

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