I find “the Real Housewives of Atlanta” to be mostly annoying. Yet when the missus puts it on TV, it becomes a distraction because the locale is so familiar. Just as I’m averting my eyes from the irritating dialogue and the concocted plot lines, I’ll spot a landmark. As I’m rolling my eyes at the catty drama, I’ll see a face I know from the news business. When I learn that “celebrity stylist” Dwight Eubanks, one of the only appealing characters on the show, lives in a modest house near mine, I’m somewhat intrigued.
Among other TV viewers, the show is wildly popular. With that background, here’s reason number one to love the Atlanta media.
When I covered a V103 mayoral debate Tuesday, I noted the presence of Kandi Burruss in the audience. She’s a “Housewife.” She was also engaged to a man who was killed in a bar fight a few weeks ago. The man had appeared in the show. It was a big story locally because of the TV show. Burruss, best I could recall, had never spoken to the media about the killing.
“Oh, swell,” I’m thinking. The mayoral debate hadn’t begun. Yet I’m picturing the assembled TV folk bum-rushing Burruss for the “get” that has mostly eluded us since the killing. Because I was the first TV reporter to show up, I saw Burruss take a seat in the “celeb” section of the debate audience. Maybe my competitors wouldn’t notice her, I was hoping. I wanted to cover the debate, not Burruss.
But they noticed. Burruss was called upon to ask a question during the debate. Yet when it ended two hours later, the TV folk rushed the stage to question the candidates and not Burruss.
This was a beautiful thing. Best I can tell, no TV reporters colluded to ignore Burruss afterward. We just did it — probably because we like covering politics and hardly anybody liked covering the Burruss murder story.
Reason two: During the debate, a questioner asked the candidates about whether they’d ever paid for an endorsement. All six candidates answered “no,” including frontrunner Mary Norwood. Days earlier, Norwood had been endorsed by career pol “Able” Mabel Thomas. When asked if she’d been paid or hired by the Norwood campaign, Thomas dodged the question. So talk of Thomas’s endorsement, and the Norwood campaign’s alleged willingness to pay for it, has been a minor campaign issue.
Following that question, the debate took a break (for weather, traffic and commercials, presumably. It aired live on V103 during morning drive).
During the break, a man wearing a Lisa Borders shirt stood and began shouting at the stage. The room was already noisy, so it was less disruptive than it sounds; but he was persistent, finger-pointing and accusatory. He was calling BS on Norwood’s answer to the “paid endorsement” question. Norwood and the other candidates ignored the man, spending the commercial break onstage checking their Blackberrys and such.
Two police officers entered the room. The first pointed to the man and waved him toward the exit. The man immediately started walking as directed. A second officer approached him and escorted him. The man continued his loud chatter, but cooperated fully with the cops.
The TV cameras ignored it. This, too, was a beautiful thing.
Debate hecklers have a long and glorious history of becoming the “lead” of a debate story. It happened frequently during the 2008 presidential election. I always found it annoying. Why give an attention-seeking gadfly the spotlight for being a jerk? It was a pleasure to pretend this incident never happened.
Reason number three: WSB photog Alan Hand, who has been covering the Mayor’s race for WSB. He hypothesizes that my presence at WXIA foretells a Shuleresque employment tour through Atlanta TV shops. He offered a try-it-on-for-size prop. I accepted only for self-amusement. Hand is a great American. But I sneer at his employer, because I’m competitive like that.
The reporter accompanying him was horrified that Hand’s antics might result in a mention of her name in this blog.
Almost. But not quite.
Bonus: Click here for one reason to love the Sacramento media, a KXTV reporter named Dave Marquis, and a photog named Damian Espinoza. (It’s embeddable, but for some reason it wouldn’t wait for the reader to click “play.” Thanks to PK for pointing this out).