Karma

In most professions,  your competition is a pain in your neck.  That’s certainly true in the business of TV news.  But today I’m here to praise my competition.  I might even say I’m thankful for them.  But that’s just the tryptophan talking.

The tryptophan reminds me of the time when, following the verdict in the Gold Club trial, we TV news goons were covering the exits at the Federal Courthouse, hunting jurors.

The organized crime trial had lasted for months.  The jurors had heard mind-numbing quantities of disjointed evidence.  When it was over, many jurors were eager to vent.  As they emerged one-by-one, cameras surrounded them and reporters asked them about the evidence.  The jurors mostly stood and answered.

And my photog’s camera died.

Died, as in:  Stopped working.  Wouldn’t record video and audio.  Wouldn’t roll when he hit the “REC” button.  Thus, all this one-time-only material went uncaptured by WAGA-TV, which had covered the trial from start to finish.

That’s when a competitor stepped in.  Jon Shirek of WXIA-TV and I had listened to much of the Gold Club trial testimony together.  We’d killed countless lunch hours together in the courthouse cafeteria.  We’d compared quotes from testimony because the damned US Supreme Court won’t allow recording devices in Federal courtrooms.

Shirek saw what was happening to us.  He and photog Mike Zakel offered to dub and share their juror video.  With no other options, I gratefully accepted.  Funny thing is this:  If Shirek hadn’t offered, I’m pretty sure Jeff Dore and / or Lyn Harasin at WSB would have made the same offer.

This sharing-of-video isn’t exactly commonplace.  But in a situation where exclusivity isn’t an issue — and where the competitor is facing an “it could happen to anybody” technical issue — such sharing is a back-alley secret that usually takes place with management never finding out.  The payoff is Karma.  I can’t remember the specifics, but I’ve slipped video to a few competitors in my day.  They, too, were grateful.

UPI photo

This unlikely competitive behavior apparently dates back to the early days of TV news.  Don McClellan touchingly outlines a similar incident in his blog.  The story was the aftermath of the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

As McClellan writes, he was at the Atlanta airport covering the return of King’s remains for WSB.  McClellan was the voice behind a hard-wired live shot as the passengers and cargo emerged.

We were the only live shot when the plane landed.    Our pictures and my voice were the only ones on all three networks:  NBC, CBS and ABC.  There were no others in 1968.   I was trying to describe what was happening from a distance without being able to see things clearly across the tarmac.  Engineers had not had time to set up a monitor.    Suddenly beside and beneath me was Jim Axel [of WAGA] with this tiny battery powered monitor.   Though we were  competitors, Jim held the monitor directly in front of me so I could identify the members of the entourage accompanying Dr. King’s body.

Taking a dive: Don McClellan, WSB

McClellan has been writing some retrospective posts of late, looking back at his long career in Atlanta TV news.  Though he also writes about his medical issues, his marathon running and his skydiving exploits, his recent historical posts are worth reading.

He wrote this about his correspondence with King’s assassin, James Earl Ray.

Here’s a piece about Mayor Ivan Allen hitching a ride with McClellan following a visit to Atlanta by Lyndon Johnson.

Here are two pieces about racially-charged events he covered, one by the Black Panthers and the other by the Ku Klux Klan.

Scroll through his blog back to August 2009 and beyond, and another succession of memories-from-TV flows in his posts.  Don McClellan’s blog is now linked under “Atlanta TV blogs” to the right.

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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.

3 thoughts on “Karma

  1. arky

    I never gave a competitor this exact form of help. But I did once loan my equipment for a few minutes to a cross-town rival crew that, due to a logistical snafu, wound up at a news scene nearly two hours from home without a camera. The fact that the reporter who had to beg me for help was very cute had nothing to do with me saying yes. 🙂

    Reply
  2. Lynn Harasin Johnson

    Dear Doug,
    May you wonder no more, I most certainly would have made you a dub of the juror interviews had I seen your dilemma during the Gold Club Trial. And what a group those jurors made; six of them showed up to hear Gold Club Owner Steve Kaplan’s sentencing, to ask the judge for leniency. None of us senior reporters had ever seen anything else like that in Georgia.
    Years earlier, in another very important trial involving an Atlanta police officer, it was WXIA and Jon Shirek who missed a huge part of news that was breaking around that story.
    Without being asked, I had our photographer make a dub for Channel 11 and gave it to them.
    Had our managers known…ho boy! It’s wonderful how Karma comes around. Miss you all.
    Lynn Harasin Johnson
    Maine

    Reply
  3. scott hedeen

    Oh crap. Karma is a good thing… helping out another crew only came back to help me… i hoped. BUT… there was a time.. if a news director (name withheld by request) found out i helped another crew? … man.

    Reply

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