News Directors at 11

press club

Scroll to the bottom of the post for an update.

Eleven snapshots from the Atlanta Press Club forum, featuring Atlanta’s four local TV news directors:

TV news stinks. WXIA’s Ellen Crooke, commenting the state of TV news:  “It doesn’t have to be a list of all the terrible things that happen every day.  That’s why TV news sometimes stinks.”

Mystery solved. WSB’s Marian Pittman, explaining why her TV station inexhaustibly covers traffic accidents:  “You never know when the Mayor is going to be in that car.”

View from below. From WGCL’s Steve Schwaid:  “We had a good May book.  We’re up.  Life is good.”

Blazing, sleuthing. WAGA’s Budd McEntee, talking about the relevance of local TV news to the community:  “And sometimes it is the live apartment fire… and sometimes, it’s great investigative reporting.”

Easy on gas: “I prefer ‘hybrid.'”  –Schwaid, on his preferred term for one-man-band (or backpack journalist).  WGCL has just hired its first “hybrid,” as has WSB.

Watch out, Monica. “The icons are going away.  They are.”  Pittman, in response to a question about highly-paid news anchors.  WSB anchor / diva Monica Pearson was in the audience, as was her less-flashy on-air partner, John Pruitt.  Pittman said she was especially talking about local TV stations rated third or fourth in the market.  WSB is numero uno in Atlanta, ratings-wise.

Who says the news has to be “new?” When asked to describe recent innovations at his station, McEntee listed WAGA’s aces-in-the-hole:

  • The I-Team, which has been around for thirty years;
  • Good Day Atlanta, which debuted in the early 1990s, and;
  • WAGA’s 10pm / prime time newscast, which debuted in 1995.

That wasn’t a trick question! Crooke answered the same question by citing these 2009 innovations:

  • WXIA’s webcasting of editorial meetings;
  • Re-formating the 11pm news to occasionally focus largely on one topic;
  • Leading a newscast with a story about triplets graduating from high school, and attaining video of their father in Iraq participating in the ceremony.  “There was no crime scene tape involved,” said Crooke.

Pittman told the crowd she “wasn’t invited” to a meeting that set up the local news service, a camera-sharing arrangement among WAGA, WXIA and WGCL.  Now, she says “I don’t know if they’ll invite” WSB.  (Pittman also said she still would have declined to sign up.)

McEntee responded by inviting her on the spot.

“Chicken!” – A good-natured audience heckler to McEntee, when he said he wouldn’t discuss anchor salaries.

Update: Click here for another perspective on the APC forum.  The blogger has written more extensively about the event.  He has also linked to this piece of video, showing Ellen Crooke discussing innovations at WXIA (in an “arrogant” and “narcissistic” manner, if you believe some of this blog’s commenteriat.  Did you folks actually attend?  Just wondering…).

Rodney Ho also writes about it here in his AJC blog.

This entry was posted in WAGA, WGCL, WSB, WXIA on by .

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.

12 thoughts on “News Directors at 11

  1. hippo

    I loved ellen talking about how inovative they are by leading with the kid’s graduation. Why is that innovative?

    WXIA news stinks because they think that they’re doing is sharp, unfront and on the cutting edge. Sorry Ellen, that’s NOT innovative.

    Putting your editoriual meetings online? Are you still doing that? Really? It looked like you stopped it the last time I checked.

  2. josephine

    Anyone else there thought that Crooke was a little narcissistic. Honestly, their newscasts have declined in value and they have little news.

    Leading last night with a story about how starbucks overcharged people back in may for coffee, but fixed it themselves doesn’t sem like a news story – at least not for the start of a late newscast.

    It doesn’t have to be if it bleeds it leads, but it has to be news.

    Crooke, if you think newscasts stink look at your shows.

  3. Rick

    I thought it was an okay lead, and newsworthy, regardless of what the other guys led with at 11 on Monday night. I was flipping around (Ch. 2 was on late because of basketball). And I can’t remember the other leads that 2, 5 and 46 came up with that night. Maybe that’s the point. I’m sure someone else will come up with the list and reasons why any one of them was better. I think it was one of those nights when nobody had a lead so everybody’s lead was different and debatable. I could be wrong, that’s what it seemed like, nothing impressive that night anywhere.

    Hey, the double-charging at Starbucks happened on Memorial Day weekend, on a million transactions — how much per transaction did Starbucks make accidently? — it just came to light, and even Starbucks is not guaranteeing that it reimbursed everybody who was accidently double-charged. So, no, Starbucks did not fix it, Starbucks admits that probably not all customers got paid back.

    I just googled starbucks. The story is near the top (as of early Wednesday morning). Lots of news outlets across the country picked it up on Tuesday after 11 ran with it on their 11pm, from what I can tell.

    Maybe it’s news only to people who use debit and credit cards. No matter where they use ’em. So that’s why I was okay with it as a news story and as a lead news story on what seemed like a quiet night.

  4. Jack Buzz

    Ellen, seemed totally full of herself. It seems to me that she is in some serious denial. She puts up a narrcistic, arrogant, iconoclastic front, to mask the fact that her station is facing some serious challenges. A corporate parent that has been hit hard by the economic downturn, massive job cuts, pay cuts, and furloughs at her station, and then steep ratings declines in the May book. There 11pm is now last and a big drop off for their morning news program as well.

  5. Pingback: 6/10: Local news directors all in one room | Radio & TV Talk

  6. spaceyg

    Crook was anything but “full of herself.” She seemed perfectly capable of steering through whatever challenges their station is facing, and I’m certain ALL the TV news stations have boatloads of “challenges” right about now.

    When someone asked the question about what, specifically, had the local news farms done that was innovative lately, Crook had an interesting, compelling, techno-based event to cite. One the WXIA audience had responded very favorably to.

    The others answered with non-answer vagueness such as, “What’s innovative at XXXX is that we’re focusing on content.” WTF?

    Hell, whomever said that gets an “F” in Imagination. He could have just made up something, anything, on the fly that sounded semi- impressive. Couldn’t even do that.

  7. kicker

    Spaceg… so as you say it’s not about content, about truthfulness but just making someting up on the spot.

  8. kicker

    Please, they don’t have crime tape? Ha. You clearly don’t watch them.

    And on the crime stories where they don’t have it, it’s because they’re just late.

    And her created assumption that everyone else ledes with crime all the time is just wrong.

    Heck, I don’t believe WSB lede with it Monday night.

    WGCL rarely ledes with crime.

    Fox, well, they’re the real crime station.

    WXIA is lost in a sea of morass…face it.

  9. Steve Simmons

    I’ve stopped watching local television news because it is so depressing and crime-filled. I agree with Crooke that we don’t need to be presented with the day’s list of who shot whom and all the terrible things people do to each other. With the way most of us get our news online with such speed, by the time we watch it is as “breaking news” hours later on TV, it’s old news. Perhaps they could give us some context and enterprise reporting since that gap isn’t being filled (especially by a shrinking AJC).

    I want to like 11Alive because they at least try to give us news we care about instead of a police scanner recap. But I just can’t get over the annoying way Ted Hall writes so casually in incomplete sentences, as if he’s asking me a question. I’ll stick with NPR and an occasional check of … when their home page isn’t covered in “can you spot the difference” Photoshopped games.

    1. jennifer


      I agree with you a bit about local news. Although I don’t find it depressing, I don’t always care about a police chase or shooting … unless the reporter can tell me a good (well thought out and well written) story. I too like NPR. The News Hour and newspapers are also good.

      I get most of my news by surfing the internet and following stories that interest me.


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