A common myth got shattered last week when the entity known as the Local News Service lost one of its three subscribing Atlanta TV stations. The myth is this: That the “news media” is a conspiratorial, monolithic entity that works in lockstep to feed garbage and liberalism to the masses. The truth is much, much messier.
In Atlanta, there is very little about the news media that is in lockstep. Sure, they show up at the same stories. They often make similar judgments, the sort that deliver stories like the Cobb County cheerleader thief as the lead for newscasts from Atlanta to Timbuktu. But they are also independent and competitive.
Their independence is what keeps WSB from participating in newly-formed pool arrangements like LNS and the helicopter sharing arrangement between WAGA and WXIA. And surprisingly dissimilar news judgment forced WGCL from the LNS last week.
LNS was formed as a cost-effective way to cover stories considered no-brainers: Press conferences, low-priority but essential ceremonies and events, the occasional meeting and such. One photographer covered this stuff and sent it to all three LNS member stations.
Now there are only two: WAGA and WXIA.
WGCL got out after a series of questionable LNS assignments: It shot press conferences WGCL didn’t want to use. It shot a promotional event for a grocery store. It shot AFLAC night at a Braves game. And LNS is apparently slow to respond to breaking news, probably because the TV stations are playing chicken with one another to see who knows about what breaking news, and how soon.
News directors are the most competitive individuals among the hundreds of people employed by Atlanta’s four TV newsrooms. The news directors at WAGA, WXIA and WGCL agreed to LNS as an experiment. WGCL’s news director, a driven Philly guy named Steve Schwaid, was apparently unwilling to experiment for very long.
WGCL also declined to participate in the helicopter-sharing arrangement with WAGA and WXIA. Economic pressures will probably compel a re-examination of that position. The question will be: Will WSB consider teaming up with WGCL, or will WGCL join the WAGA/WXIA alliance? It’s a question for another day.
As we’ve said before: LNS makes sense given contracting TV revenues. So does the helicopter-sharing agreement. But it’s kinda comforting to see that it isn’t too easy. Wouldn’t want anybody to think that “the media” is anything other than a collection of independent entities making independent judgments, all in the pursuit of better stories and a bigger audience.