Should I stay or should I go?

Hiram, GA.  8pm, 9.20.09

Hiram, GA. 8pm, 9.20.09

When weather gets rough, it’s news.   Sure, a downed tree is sometimes overblown.  But severe weather deserves blowout treatment.  Problem is, weather makes logistics rough.  The story may be good, but it may also be impossible to get on the air.

The result may be a classic crapshoot.  Stay put in the rough weather, and you may be able to deliver compelling live coverage.  But the weather could prevent you from getting it on TV at all.

Sunday night, photog John Duffy and I found ourselves in an epic rainstorm.  We were in Paulding County.  It poured for three straight hours.  Paulding County had already had some flooding issues.  This rain wasn’t helping.

We shot some minor flooding and did a quick live shot at 6.

Then we got lucky.  We stopped at a restaurant to ask the manager about the absence of business over the previous rain-soaked week.  As we shot, rain started to seep into the restaurant from the parking lot.   So began the flooding that socked Georgia for the next two days.

It was 8pm.  The thunderstorm raged.  With its 40 foot mast, our microwave truck couldn’t deliver a live shot under those circumstances.  We had a 10pm deadline.

Should we stay?  The story was just beginning to develop.  We could continue to shoot.  If the storms broke, we’d be able to raise the mast and pop up a shot.

But if the storms didn’t break, we’d be doing phoners.  Nobody wanted that.  So we left Paulding County at 8:15pm.

En route back to WXIA, we drove up to a flooded spot on US 278.  There was a civilian car and a sheriff’s cruiser stuck in the water.  We shot it and talked to a cop.  It was a second stroke of luck.

As we drove back, Duffy said:  “So– you wanted to get back into TV, eh?”  He’d said it about a half dozen times during the shift.  Duffy’s a laugh riot.

When I offered to fetch the truck (a gesture to keep the gear somewhat dry), he shot my mad sprint.

We arrived in the newsroom, soaked, at 9:30 and got the pictures and story on WATL’s 10pm newscast.  The rain hadn’t let up.

On a competing station, they were doing phoners.

This entry was posted in WAGA, 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.

13 thoughts on “Should I stay or should I go?

  1. JeremyK

    This brings up the classic debate about look-lives.

    Look-lives are generally banned in my shop. But because of live shot logistics Monday, two of our Alabama flooding stories were done with show-and-tell intros and outros with the reporter (okay, me) showing raging currents and rising waters… Soundbites were mixed in, and short tracks were b’rolled.

    I don’t like doing them. But I would say they were done well… They were recorded shortly before air, and the producers handled them tastefully (ie: they didn’t start rolling the PKG in a double-box to make it appear live).


    1. live apt fire Post author

      I’m OK with look-lives. As in your case, they can enhance storytelling. Usually, producers ask for them because they provide a framework that works for the show. The only danger is when you use them to deceive the audience into believing you’re actually live. I’ve never actually seen anybody do that. But I’ve led a sheltered life.

  2. Icarus

    Caught your report the other night. Just like getting back on a bicycle for you, I suppose. Welcome back to my tube.

    I agree that severe weather does deserve “blowout treatment”, but my pet peave (usually during Tornado season) is the “eyewitness weather” segments that usually appear to be done when all stations have gone live, the storm either hasn’t fully approached or has diminished, and the talent has nothing new to say. So the time is filled by people calling in to say “It’s raining really hard” or the anchor reports a tornado warning for Cobb County, and then says “We now have Joe Blow from Acworth on the phone who is reporting Tornado sirens going off”. Duh. The sirens are going off because the tornado warning was issued, not because some genius in Acworth has inside knowledge of an approaching cyclone.

  3. jen

    Gee, it makes me think about a station that had its anchor standing in waist deep water anchoring a newscast…

    the water is filthy, people shouldn’t be in it…

    but then the anchor wanted to show he was out of the studio…

    oh, sorry LAF, that was the anchor at the station you work for.

    looked foolish.

  4. mike daly

    Diedra Dukes and I had video of ATL FF’s bringing folks out of a neighborhood on a boat at 5 a.m. Microwave shot didn’t work (we were in a hole, that’s where water goes) and Sat truck in Douglas. They had her do a phoner. We just drove the truck to a shot where we knew we could hit. It was a delightful liquor store near the Fulton Co. Jail. Fed video and went back to scene where we now had video to cover phoners. We had no lightning to deal with. Just the hills of the west side.

  5. tvb

    Don’t they have the internets and 3G service down there in Atlanta? Skype it next time. It’s not the best but sure beats a phoner.

    Or streambox over BGAN if you can convice your NDs to spend some money (yeah, I know, that’s impossible) but if you cover hurricanes, it comes in real handy.

  6. joseph


    so when officials and parents tell their kids to stay out of the flood waters for safety Ted Hall puts on the waders and does a show from the water.

    Talk about live for the sake of live.

  7. arky

    I’m no big fan of broadband live shots… they usually look like crap. BUT, wireless broadband can be incredibly handy in this sort of situation to FTP video back to the station rather than risk raising the mast. It’s not all that expensive. I don’t know why more stations don’t do it.

  8. joseph

    stay out of the flood waters, stay out of the flood water…

    yet one TV anchor does his show standing waste deep in the waters.

    That IS live for the sake of live


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