NeNe’s naysayers

I can understand why knees are jerking and tongues are clucking over WXIA’s announcement that it’s engaging the services of “Real Housewives of Atlanta” diva NeNe Leakes.  Perhaps like you, my initial reaction was visceral and negative.  She’s a person I barely know from television.  Yet I feel like I know enough:  She’s mouthy, somewhat obnoxious and has a hilariously high opinion of herself.    And that’s not a pejorative assessment.  That seems to be the persona she cultivates, to apparent great success, on the “Housewives” show.  I doubt she’d disagree.  Yet it helps explain the reaction.

Once I got past the shock, my assessment changed.  To wit:  It’s pretty f—ing brilliant.  (The expletive is a shout-out to the show, which is  rife with them.)

Leakes is showing up at WXIA to shoot a limited number of feature pieces that will appear this summer on “11 Alive Today,” the newscast that airs between 5 and 7am.  In so doing, she’ll have the backup of an experienced news photographer and a news producer. Leakes’ skills as a story producer are unknown and likely nonexistent.  She’ll have journalistic backing in the wings, off-camera.

If this gives you the willies — the “woe unto WXIA, for it’s sending a non-journalist to do a journalist’s job,” I would advise relaxation.  Especially if you’ve worked at, or are a fan of any TV news organization that has used a doctor as a medical reporter, or an athlete as a sports reporter, or a politician as a news anchor, or an actor as a weather forecaster.  Leakes is a socialite.  Her stories will be light and culturally-oriented.  She will not be covering the July primary elections.  Nor will she be taking the valuable salary space of a journalist.  Leakes will be an unpaid presence.

Is it a ratings gimmick?  Of course.  And a pretty brilliant one, as such stuff goes.  For some reason, my wife thinks Leakes is pretty awesome.  She’ll probably DVR WXIA’s morning show to see Leakes’ stuff.  Others will undoubtedly do the same.  Some will want to watch for the train wreck potential, including folks who aren’t necessarily “Housewives” fans but have nonetheless caught a whiff of Leakes’ notoriety.

I doubt I’d be able to pick George Strait or TI or Matt Ryan out of a lineup.  But I’d recognize Leakes.  This side of Monica Pearson, I’d opine she’s as well-recognized a TV personality as any in Atlanta.  You are free to disagree.  My opinion in that regard is quite meaningless.

There are also the questions raised about Leakes in Dana Fowle’s piece on WAGA two years ago. Fowle’s story stung Leakes; recently she reportedly bailed on an interview at New York’s Fox station because of a grudge she holds against the network, thanks to Fowle.

Leakes subsequently admitted to WXIA’s Karyn Greer that proverbial wolves at the door forced her family to move from the Sugarloaf mansion where they’d lived.  Fowle’s piece raised additional questions about husband Gregg Leakes’ business practices.

It’s worth noting that when I praised Fowle’s piece shortly after it aired, she and I were both roundly denounced by LAF readers.

I’ll have none of that now.

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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.

15 thoughts on “NeNe’s naysayers

  1. Jim

    It’s okay Doug, we all decided a while back that the 6am thing wasn’t really a newscast anymore, so it shouldn’t be a problem. (said with tongue firmly planted in cheek:-)

  2. Ed Reams

    WXIA has brought in celebrities before to do packages. Back in 1996, Dave Roberts hired Raven-Symoné from “The Cosby Show” to do stories during the Summer Olympics. I think she was 11 years old at the time.

  3. Jimmy

    I’m kind of shocked that the folks at “better mornings” didn’t think of this. It would have raised their rating from an 0.1 to an 0.2!

  4. Roni

    Three things:

    1) Doctors, athletes and politicians, if asked to be talking heads on topics in the fields in which they work, are speaking from authentic experience–not having all their stuff written out for them. (Not familiar with any politicos as anchors.)

    2) I agree that it’s a smart, probably soon-to-be-successful ratings gimmick. I knew about the unpaid-presence detail, but even before that, it was easy to see it for what it was.

    3) I don’t watch RHOA, but was confident I’d know NeNe if ever I saw her at Rosa Mexicano or some such. Since her latest plastic surgery, she looks unrecognizable. Now, I’d probably pass her on the street now and not even know it unless cameras were trained on her. 🙂

    1. live apt fire Post author

      Sonny Dixon is a former state rep who is now anchoring news at WTOC Savannah.

      Doctors Randy Martin and Stan Winokur have appeared regularly on WSB and WAGA doing medical stories, supervised and edited by folks who write and produce news.

      Ghostwriting is not uncommon in TV news. I can’t say with utter certainty that Winokur and Martin’s material was ghostwritten, but my guess is that at least some of it has been and most if not all of it has been edited by news writers.

  5. Mike Check

    “She’s mouthy, somewhat obnoxious and has a hilariously high opinion of herself.”
    She sounds like my co-anchor.

  6. Mrs. LAF

    To clarify: I’ve never met her. I think she’s “awesome” purely for entertainment purposes. Which is what she will provide on WXIA’s morning show.
    I also think cherry red 4″ platform patent leather heels are pretty awesome. But from afar.

  7. Roni

    It’d be surprising if using a celeb just for the sake of having a celeb so you can cross-promote a show owned by the same corporation adds any value to content. A celeb (or doctor or athlete) who is knowledgeable about the topics being discussed adds authenticity AND personality.

    Ghostwriting to make something fit the format is another thing, IMO. Let’s say you’re a guy who cares nothing about haute couture. I can ghostwrite a segment for you talking about Christian Louboutin, Christian Siriano and Christian Dior, but would you be able to speak on that stuff with any authority if someone wrote every piece of your story for you?

    I can’t believe I’ve spent so much time opining on this. I am laughing at myself!

  8. Mike Daly

    Nothing to worry about. She’ll do fine. The Atlanta Fire Department once had a spokesperson who wasn’t a firefighter. Her name was Connie Smith. The firefighters didn’t like her and some told me that she demanded her own car with a siren and lights and once told a reporter that The Atlanta Fire Dept. had portable fire hydrants so they don’t run out of water. But, they underestimated how good she was at being on TV. She showed them all when she was hired by WXIA, I believe, by Dave Roberts, to be a reporter. Don’t think that went too well, but maybe she can make a comeback and work with Ne Ne.

  9. Pingback: WXIA-TV’s tries to shake local TV news up by not being the other three stations | Radio & TV Talk

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