Monthly Archives: March 2009

Smile! No one cares how you feel.

Stephin Merritt (w/ ukelele) and Mark Hayes, WAGA

Stephin Merritt (w/ ukelele) and Mark Hayes, WAGA

On a fall morning in 2006, a reporter wanders over to the copier in the newsroom of an Atlanta TV station.  He picks up his paper, and notices another paper laying on the copier.  The stray paper lists the guests for that morning’s locally-produced 7 to 9am news/ public affairs / entertainment extravaganza.

The reporter’s eyes nearly bug out as he reads the name of one guest:  Stephin Merritt, a respected musician and songwriter of limited acclaim.  Hailing from NYC, Merritt fronts a band called the Magnetic Fields, among others.  The reporter is a fan and can’t believe his station’s predictable morning show actually had an interesting, off-the-wall guest.

The reporter race-walks to the room where the morning show crew is holding its daily post-mortem.  He whispers to a friend / co-worker who books guests:  “Was Stephin Merritt really in the building this morning?”  The entire room goes silent.

“Worst guest ever!” says one voice.

“Oh my gosh.  He was awful!” says another.

“You actually like this guy?” asks a voice, almost accusingly.

Yes, I like him.  He’s wonderful.  I don’t know what kind of TV guest he’d be, but the guy’s a genius, the reporter uneasily responds.

“You can have him,” says a voice.  Another staffer says:  “And you can have this.”  The staffer hands the on-the-defensive reporter Merritt’s newest CD. “I was going to put it into the giveaway drawer.”

Merritt made the record under the name The Gothic Archies.  It’s called “The Tragic Treasury,” songs culled from the Limony Snickett series of audio books.

The CD remains one of the ex-reporter’s favorite records.  And upon review (he just found the segment on Youtube), he thinks Merritt may have been one of the best guests to ever appear on this show.


kimberley-kennedyWhen she was an Atlanta TV reporter / weekend anchor, everybody in town loved Kimberley Kennedy.  She was bright and pleasant to be around.  She had a nice smile.  She “got it,” meaning that she made the best of a flawed profession.  She had an easy rapport with strangers.  She never played the glamor card, though she easily could have.  She was one of the guys, but cleaned up better than the rest of us.

One day, word began to trickle among the ranks that Kennedy had endured a weird and unlikely humiliation:  The man to whom she was engaged bailed out on their large, Southern wedding just hours prior to the event.  Given the fact that Kennedy was always so damned pleasant, it never computed.  And for those of us who weren’t close to her, a word of condolence wasn’t possible.  The subject was too awkward to raise.  To her credit, we never saw her wear the hurt in the field.

Years ago, she left local news and became the host of a weekend entertainment show on WSB.  One would presume that Kimberley Kennedy has moved on.  She has, and she hasn’t.  She’s written a book about that incident, called Left at the Altar.  And she blogs about the complexities of love, often tying it in to reality TV.

We haven’t seen her in years, but maybe we can help her move a few books — and belatedly offer those condolences.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Winne watch 2.26.09

Arthur Tesler with Mark Winne, 2.26.09

Arthur Tesler with Mark Winne, 2.26.09

This one was the real deal, a “get” that probably drove reporters and managers in competing newsrooms a little nuts.  Since the day after 92-year old Kathryn Johnston was shot to death during a botched drug raid in her Neal Street home, every reporter in town wanted to talk with the cops who were behind the raid.  WSB’s Mark Winne actually did it.

And he actually got a decent story from it.  If Arthur Tesler had said anything, it would have been a “talks exclusively with channel two” scoop.   But the interview was compelling, fulfilling WSB’s promotion that promised he’d spill the reasoning behind his guilty plea.

Sure, Tesler’s story was self-serving.  Why else would a guy headed to federal prison stop to do a TV interview?  Doesn’t matter.  Winne asked the unanswered questions:   Acquitted on state charges, why did you plead guilty to federal charges?  Tesler’s answer sounded sincere:  He didn’t want to see his wife in the audience at another jury trial.  The other answer was less interesting:  What was the raid like?  “Surreal” came the lame reply.  That’s not Winne’s fault.

Yeah, we busted Winne’s chops on the Terrell Bolton story.  But nobody touched Winne on this one. By rights, this scoop should give Winne some breathing room, a week or three to rest on his laurels.  Sadly for his competitors, he’s doubtless plotting his next ass-kicking. Grade:  A

No white stuff

action-news-logo-32092It would be an overstatement to call WSB’s coverage of Sunday’s snowfall “restrained.”  The combination of snowfall and local TV news is typically combustible and comical.  At 6pm, WSB pandered to its audience.  That’s no surprise.  But many of the usual excesses were absent.  That surprised us.  Score one for WSB.

The basketball-shortened newscast bore five reporter live shots from Fulton, DeKalb, Gwinnett, Clayton and Cobb Counties.  All of them essentially told the same story:  It’s snowing.  Watch out for icy roads.

Eric Philips, Darryn Moore, Tom Regan and Tiffani Reynolds produced pieces that heavily overlapped, content-wise.  Each had pictures and/or interviews with folks grabbing supplies at grocery stores.  But none of those reporters overplayed that clichéd element of snow coverage.  Philips was barely able to contain his self-aware amusement as he asked a woman to show him her loaf of bread in a parking lot.

Philips also had video of a woman’s car getting pulled from a ditch on Hwy 316.  She immediately plunged her car into another ditch, on-camera.  Nice.

WSB refrained from any condescending “how to drive in snow” pieces.  There was very little alarmist language from its reporters or weather guys.  Overlap, yes.  Plenty of that.  And zero news content outside of weather.  Not ideal, but it all goes with the territory.

The only real flaw was WSB all-but ignoring the hundreds of flights delayed or canceled at Hartsfield-Jackson Airport.  That little detail appeared in an anchor reader toward the end of the newscast.

WSB’s best work came from Ross Cavitt, who produced a self-contained package from Coweta County.  Cavitt had a nice time-lapse shot of snow accumulating on some shrubbery.  He also played the story for what it was:  A Sunday amusement for most.  Showing kids on sleds, Cavitt wrote “for many, it was a gift from heaven; mother nature dressed in her Sunday best.” It was the best line in the newscast.

(But don’t look for any links here.  By Monday evening, WSB’s often-infuriating web site was still displaying video from Friday’s newscasts.  Snow day, guys?   Must be nice.)

And not once — not one time! — did we hear the phrase “winter wonderland” or “the white stuff.”  That’s restraint.

The candy man

One can only imagine how many unintentional guffaws this piece generated on WSB’s 6pm news Thursday.

One one hand, we’ve gotta give Tom Jones some credit.  On this attempted child abduction story, Jones had zip.  No mugshot.  No victim.  No video, except for real estate in a SE Atlanta neighborhood.  No police interview.  He had info from a bad guy’s license plate, but no graphic displaying it.

Would you trust this guy?  Tom Jones, WSB

Would you trust this guy? Tom Jones, WSB

But he had Robert Reese, a second grader Jones apparently found walking home from school.  He had Robert’s mother, who allowed the callow youngster to play along.  And Jones had a handful of the worst kind of candy:  Bubble gum, Blow Pops and Now ‘n’ Laters.  The schtick was Jones “tempting” young Robert with the candy, and Robert stoically turning it away.

In the 5 o’clock version of his story, Jones reports that the would-be molester showed up at a bus stop with candy.  He tempted the children, pulled up his shirt, “and somehow his pants came down,” Jones reported.

Jones took a risk when he decided to semi-embody a creepy dude enticing a child with candy. “If you don’t know him you shouldn’t get in a car with him,”  Robert says while Jones waves the candy under his nose.  It’s precious and more than a little weird.