Franklin gothic

Nothing to say: Shirley Franklin

The news media got it right when they described as “bizarre” Mayor Shirley Franklin’s last / don’t-presume-this-is-my-last news conference December 17.   WGCL has posted the unedited news conference.  Followers of Franklin, and those intrigued by the give-and-take between a skilled politician and the media will be amused to watch it.

Most of the reporting on Franklin’s newser sidestepped this fact:  Franklin’s contentiousness was clearly rooted in her antipathy toward WGCL and, apparently, Wendy Saltzman in particular.  Saltzman started the questioning by asking Franklin about the “perception” of high crime, despite statistics to the contrary.  Franklin mostly ignored the question.

Morse Diggs of WAGA followed with a question about an expensive party the Water Department threw for its employees.  Franklin answered it, but not happily.  By the time John Bachman of WSB asked the third question, an unchallenging query about about her legacy, Franklin was clearly fed up and began her weird evasions of almost everything asked.

WGCL has done a lot of good work covering the final years of Franklin’s administration.  WGCL more or less owned the story about the city’s whackadoodle water billing.  Franklin blew off a reasonable question from Saltzman about that.  (Watch Saltzman’s edited Q&A here.)

Final answer? Wendy Saltzman, WGCL

I don’t mind admitting that I’m an admirer of Shirley Franklin.  I suspect history will treat her kindly because of some tough and unpopular decisions she had to make (and because crime dropped sharply during her eight years).  I’ve always liked her style, and the fact that her only foray into elective politics was her successful run for mayor.  Early in her administration, she treated the media / politician relationship with maturity and humor.

But this was a low moment for Franklin, who gave the news conference an unwelcome Nixonian edge.  She accused Saltzman of being rude, but Franklin was ruder.  The Mayor cut off questions before they were even asked.  She was inconsistent and evasive.

On one hand, Franklin deserves props for declining the “legacy” questions.  They posed easy opportunities for her to give self-serving answers.  “I didn’t run for office to be popular,” she said instead.  It was self-deprecating and anti-politics, adding to her charm.

On the other hand, Franklin is accountable as long as she holds office.  There were some serious problems under her administration.  She may dislike WGCL’s in-your-face-with-the-tough-questions style (and new “tough questions” mic flags to match.  Too bad the real flags aren’t as cool as the graphic representation on the left).  But a mayor who has made tough decisions ought to be willing and able to answer challenging questions.

She knew the “tough questions” were coming; she should have answered them gracefully.  She’d have probably knocked ’em out of the park.

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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.

6 thoughts on “Franklin gothic

  1. Jack Skellington

    I would guess Mr. Richards, you do not live in midtown. Tough to find admirers in my neighborhood. I think we should present her with the “Mayor Isaac Newton Ragsdale” award.

  2. peach

    kudos to the folks at wgcl. They’re bringing a breath of fresh air to reporting here in the south. They have an attitude. Something every other station lacks.

  3. Been There

    One correction is needed in this story. Jeff Dore was not at the press conference. John Bachman represented WSB [noted and corrected. Thanks- LAF].
    As far as WGCL’s Saltzman, when I came in to set up she stepped up and asked me to please move back because her camera, her cut away camera couldn’t see her. First it’s amazing that GCL has the resources to dedicate a camera specifically for cutaways of a reporter to ask the TOUGH QUESTIONS, which I might add Saltzman never got an answer and actually never got to really finish her TOUGH Questions.

    One more observance as rude as Saltzman was and it was my last press conference I certainly would not have granted her question either. As the Mayor said repeatedly it’s over! Saltzman what part of that answer did you not understand? Saltzman persistence in yelling guestions at the mayor actually prevented Franklin from allowing her staff to answers questions which at one point was going to allow Pennington to field questions.

    So way to go Saltzman you prevented the rest of the press corps that opportunity. My personal opinion, after being in the business for 30 plus years, no wonder the press gets a bad rap when we have reporters like you barking. You were not only rude to Franklin but you were rude to your fellow colleagues! I’m sure your mother is proud of you!

  4. Tvshooter

    And obviously Doug, you don’t live in East Atlanta, Grant Park or Kirkwood either. Yes crime is down….wherever Shirley Frankilin is, crime is down. The sidewalks are nice, the water mains and pipes work perfectly, and there’s little or no panhandling.

    The rest of Atlanta, where Shirley isn’t… is another story. You can’t walk anywhere in Little 5, East Atlanta, or for that matter any Kroger or gas station parking lot without being hit up for money. Break ins occur in the same neighborhoods over and over. Water is flowing weeks after being reported to the water department.

    As for the Tough Questions (uh, yea…riiiight) being asked….last I looked Franklin is still Mayor of Atlanta until Kasim Reed is sworn in…is the new journalistic standard that the last week or so of an administration is off limits? “Hey it’s only 2 weeks…let’s lob softballs at her, cause well, we kinda like her.” I’m sure Ed Murrow would do the same thing.

    And as for having 2 cameras there, well my thought would be worry about your own coverage and let Salzman do her thing. At least you get cutaways of an attractive newsbabe. WGCL sucks, as does 95% of local news…see Nielsen; ratings. Local news ratings…and profits….are shrinking at dramatic rates. Part is due to new technology allowing me to get news instantly and not wait till 6pm. The other is, I could take a showtape from any of the stations from any night, and they’d all be about the same year in and year out.

    Let’s see-Friday’s stories will be feeding the homeless (starve them 363 days a year, gorge them silly on Thanksgiving and Christmas), the happens every year house fire, weather, sports and the kicker-usually someone making some giant food. Make a giant sandwich, you’ll get on tv.

    Living in Atlanta hasn’t and isn’t going to ever be perfect. There’s always going to be crime, city hall corruption, and other things that go hand in hand with living in a large city. But let’s not gloss over the fact APD has been gutted over the years. Poor financial decisions by Mayors Jackson, Campbell and Franklin have all contributed to the pension debacle, the underfunded police and fire departments and deterioration of the city watershed.

    So until Mayor-Elect Reed is sworn in, any and all questions are fair game. For that matter, all policies and procedures are all Franklin’s legacy…and Kasim Reed inherits them all.

  5. Jim

    On an entirely unrelated note, Doug-way to be in the right place at the right time. Love the video of the woman leaving the wreck!

  6. HistoryJoe

    Wow, invoking Ragsdale? He was kind of painted into a corner with the whole “Graft Ring” thing. Remember those were the days when the mayor’s office was essentially powerless and he had little to do with the City Hall contracts.

    Franklin did quite a bit of good in her 8 years trying to make up for 30 years of delayed infrastructure maintenance and I’m confident it will be a positive legacy. Vastly better city streets, 21st century sewers and up-to-date airport work for me! And BTW, the Beltline now exists


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