Monthly Archives: June 2009

In his own words

jim axel1 6.10.09jim axel 6.10.09WAGA produced a nice piece on Jim Axel, the terminally-ill retired anchor who now lives in Florida.  In it, Axel talks about his life, his career, and the cancer that will probably kill him.  It’s a long but moving story, especially for those of us who worked with and admired Axel.

Fireplug

Blogging “has not gotten there yet,” according the WGCL news director Steve Schwaid.  Can’t really disagree.  Some blogs are there– Huffington Post, Gawker, Politico.  But locally, the only must-read (aside from the AJC, arguably) — and the one other bloggers go to most days — seems to be Peach Pundit.  You may disagree, of course.

But if your name is Monica Pearson, you don’t read Peach Pundit.  Apparently, you read this one.  And a few others.

I-priestess  / blogging / twitter guru Grayson Daughters sampled some opinions about blogs and such following Tuesday’s Atlanta Press Club forum.

(In honor of Pearson, maybe we should just change the name of this blog to “doug.”  Or “fireplug,” which is Tom Houck‘s nickname for this site…)

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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.

Camp Kudzu

There’s a reason there were fewer posts last week.  Once I left the TV news business, I realized that I had an opportunity to be more productive with my free time.  Last year, I debuted at a counselor at Camp Kudzu, a week-long camp for Georgia kids with diabetes.  This past week, I did it again.

Last year, I produced a promotional piece for Camp Kudzu (with photography help from Helen Lester).  This year, I left the camcorder at home.

Camp Kudzu is great.  Feel free to make a donation.  My daughter, Leigh, has been attending variations of it since age 7.  She’s now a counselor, showing her old man the ropes.

This has been a public service announcement from LAF Enterprises and TomorrowVision Media.

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Monica’s closet

Well shod:  Monica Pearson, WSB

Well shod: Monica Pearson, WSB

This makes perfect sense.  This is from a piece linked through WSB’s web site.  The topic:  The footwear of “phenomenal news personality” Monica Pearson.  An excerpt:

Just Call her Monica Marcos– Monica says her husband laughingly calls her ‘Monica Marcos’ after the infamous Imelda Marcos, because she has so many shoes… Monica literally has shoes all over the house even under the bed in the guest room. However, Monica does maintain her boxes for her shoes. This immaculately organized media diva keeps her shoes perfectly wrapped and stored. She even retains the tissue wrap, the inside enclosures, and the framing for her boots.'”

If your gag reflex isn’t too sensitive, read the whole post here.  It’s on a site called examiner.com, “the insider source for everything local.”  And go ahead.  Click on the Pearson footwear slideshow.

Cameras in our heads

Patty Pan, WAGA

Patty Pan, WAGA

Fighting off exhaust fumes, one can just imagine the sardonic chuckling emanating from a WAGA live truck as Patty Pan’s photographer edited her piece last week from the scene of a police crackdown / media event that spanned metro Atlanta.

It was Pan’s misfortune to cover a coordinated sweep of somewhat bad guys in the somewhat crime-ridden suburbs of Gwinnett.  She and a photog rode along in a patrol car during the “sweep,” which appeared to consist of cops mostly setting aside fourth-amendment probable-cause standards and cuffing folks for TV (“round up the usual suspects!”), knowing full well that a judge would probably let them go within hours.

Because Pan and other media were in cahoots with the law — tipped off, as they were, in advance of the sweep — Pan overlooked the denial-of-suspect-rights story.

Thank goodness!  From WGCL

Thank goodness! From WGCL

(WGCL covered a similar story in Fulton County around the same time, using the banner “keeping your family safe.”  Not only is that a catchier banner than “cops run roughshod over the Bill of Rights,” but TV is loathe to question such technicalities unless it results in something awful, like the Kathryn Johnston killing on Neal St. NW in late 2006.)

Back to our heroine, Ms. Pan, an enterprising and resourceful reporter.  She clearly lacked much of a story.

The big tipoff was her repeated first-person references to her presence on-scene.  Normally, this is kind of a given.  When you don’t have much material, it’s a safe haven for by-the-numbers news writing.

The first reference was merely “we are out here” at the command post.  That was during her live intro.

The second, during the same intro, was “my photographer and I rode along with Lawrenceville police” as the fun began.

The third, in her package, was “we were there” as stuff kind of started to happen.  At this point, Pan showed some generic video of cops interacting with folks in bad neighborhoods, occasionally restraining them with the casual use of handcuffs.

The fourth time, Pan signaled to the audience that she really had nothing to say.  “Our cameras were rolling as….” well, nothing much happened.  No drama.  No takedowns.  Nothing that one might normally expect to see when hearing such a line.

How many “cameras” did WAGA send to this sweep?  It’s possible they sent an extra photog.  But this staged event demanded only the minimum resources from any staff-strapped TV station:  One photog, one reporter.  Other stations apparently deemed that kind of manpower too much for this police / media circle-jerk.

Pan isn’t alone using this bit of TV boilerplate.  The “our cameras” line is an increasingly tiresome mainstay, driven by news managers who want to “sell” stories with jargon that generates heat but sheds no light.  That, and it’s an easy line to use when there’s nothing else to say.

Thank goodness Pan’s photog had the good sense to hit the “REC” button, thus “rolling” images onto a video card.  If he hadn’t, Pan would have lacked video and a line that usefully consumed precious seconds in her package.

The time-killing line reminds us of a line from a similar Mark Winne package that has stuck in our heads for years:  “There were handcuffs.  Lots of handcuffs.”

Wait a minute.  “Our” heads?  How many heads do we think we have?  How many of “us” are there, exactly, writing this dumb blog?

Never mind.