Monthly Archives: May 2010


Mark Bullock, WSFA

Noteworthy, overlooked and undervalued observations from the 2010 Southeast Regional Emmy nominations, announced Friday:

Stephanie Maxwell, WAPT

The region’s “best” news anchor may work in Montgomery, Albany GA, Jackson Miss. or Asheville.   Mark Bullock, the Montgomery anchor (and UGA grad) who won an Emmy last year for “On-Camera Talent – Anchor – News,” is nominated again this year.  Ben Roberts of WALB, Larry Blunt of WLOS and Stephanie Maxwell of WAPT are also nominated.  Brenda Wood of WXIA is the only Atlanta anchor nominated in this category.

By the numbers: WXIA got the most news nominations, edging WSB.  WLOS of Asheville got more nominations than WGCL.   Here’s the LAF count, strictly unofficial (and, undoubtedly flawed since I ran out of fingers and toes):

  • WXIA,  24 nominations
  • WSB, 21
  • WAGA, 12
  • WLOS, 9
  • WGCL, 8
  • WYFF, 6

WGCL even somehow got excluded from the “station excellence” category.  That category included WXIA, WSB and WAGA, plus WYFF in Greenville.

Wendy Saltzman, WGCL

Investigative reporting rules. Wendy Saltzman’s name appears in five of WGCL’s eight nominations.  Dale Russell got nominated for his outstanding coverage of the fall of Glenn Richardson on WAGA.  Shawn Hoder and Ross McLaughlin got an investigative reporting nod at WXIA.

Jaye Watson, WXIA

“Interactivity” is a relatively new category.  WXIA got the only Atlanta news nomination.  Via the web, the station connected a soldier serving in Iraq with the high school graduation of his triplets.  Fox Sports South got the only other nomination in this category for an SEC football show.

Michelle Marsh, WGCL

“News Excellence” is a vague category which appears geared for head-to-head competition among news directors.  There are only two nominees:  WXIA news director Ellen Crooke, and WYFF news director Justin Antoniotti.

Jeff Dore, WSB

The General Assignment Reporter category is packed with worthy nominees:  Jaye Watson and Duffie Dixon of WXIA; Jeff Dore of WSB; and Michelle Marsh of WGCL.  Marsh is a nights-and-weekends 2009 newcomer to Atlanta.   The others are solid veterans.  It’s too bad they can’t all win this category.

Duffie Dixon, WXIA

No photographers were necessary, apparently, for WAGA’s “breaking news” nomination.  The station’s nod for flood coverage gives sole credit to two anchors and an executive producer.

Andrew Young, the former mayor / UN Ambassador turned TV documentarian, got more nominations than WSB anchor / diva Monica Pearson.  Jovita Moore, Pearson’s WSB heir-apparent, also got more nominations than Pearson.

The bloviating blogger who chews through untold bandwidth MBps bashing dimwitted “breaking news” gets a nomination at WXIA — in “spot news.”  Figures.

The belcher

Only once in my long and illustrated career have I ever belched in a TV news package.  It was a defining moment.  Herein lie the details:

This child is 20 years old now.

“You wouldn’t believe what they’re doing over there.”

The speaker was Rebecca Paul, the first president of the Georgia Lottery Corp.  The year was 1996.  Her office window overlooked a spot of land south of the under-c0nstruction Centennial Olympic Park.

“Coca Cola is building a theme park that’s entirely a tribute to its own product!”  OK, the quotes are based solely on my memory 14 years removed — close enough, and good enough for historians, but as verbatim quotes go, they’re suspect.

I was in Paul’s office on a story I can no longer remember (unlike the quotes!).  The Olympics were just days away from starting in Atlanta.  Somehow, WAGA was allowing me to continue a self-assigned feature segment called Closer Look.  Paul’s idea sank in and triggered a dim light bulb somewhere within the “story idea” quadrant near my brainpan.

Dressed to belch

Photog Rodney Hall and I arranged to spend all day at the place called Coca Cola Olympic City.  It had entertainment and such.  But mostly, it had Coca Cola — sold in machines for two bucks a pop.  At that time, the price was appalling to me.  As was the entire joint.

I never said that, of course, in the body of the piece — which to this day, remains one of my all-time career faves (thanks in no small part to Hall’s video and the editing genius of Andi Larner).

Allow me to point out some moments, which will not include the hairstyles or absurdly youthful appearance of the talent:

;53  The reporter casually attempts to buy a Coke from a machine, and discovers they cost two bucks

1:20  “the garbage can is sending out subliminal messages.”

1:40  The Coke machine spits out the reporter’s dollar bill.

1:42  “You would not call this crassly commercial?”  “Oh, no.  Not at all.”

1:52  “But if you were thirsty, you’d know what to do.”

2:40 “$165 in memorabilia.  We just came out for a hamburger.”

3:00 The belch.

You have to listen closely for the belch, which Larner was understandably disinclined to use.  The belch was naturally delivered after consuming a bottle of the prevalent product.  I made sure the Beta SP tape was rolling in Hall’s camera when it erupted.

Fueling up

The belch comes at the conclusion of a song sung by an insufferably cute group of youths, with the lyrics “we’re the Coca-Cola family.”  There are four beats punctuating the song following the line.  The belch is deftly but unmistakably mixed into the last of the four beats.  Go ahead and listen.  It’s a beautiful sound, as belches go.  More than anything else, it provided a sound that definitively symbolized the excess of the facility and its namesake product.

But except for Larner, Hall and a few people to whom I pointed it out, not a single person ever noticed.  Though I expected the question, nobody asked:  Did you belch loudly in that story, just before the outcue?

Why, yes.  Yes I did.

Well, that’s just gross.

H/T to Mitch Leff of Mitch’s Media Match for recently fishing this from a tape he’d kept in a drawer somewhere for lo these many years.  Thanks, Mitch.

Champagne and Billy Beer

In 1980, I asked Billy Carter to autograph a can of Billy Beer.  He obliged.  I still have it.  I’ve never asked another celebrity for an autograph.

Mr. Brinkley

In 1984, I approached David Brinkley in the lobby of the Savery Hotel in Des Moines IA and made him shake my hand.  Brinkley was nothing but gracious.   The trouble started when I began to speak:  “Hi Mr. Brinkley.   I just wanted you to know how much I admire you and blah blah blah…”   Because I realized I had nothing interesting to say to this broadcasting legend, I felt like an idiot.  The feeling lasted for a lifetime.

It also begat a personal rule:  Stay the hell away from celebrities, unless you have good reason to approach them.  If you’re interviewing them, that’s a good reason.  But avoid “hangin’ with celebs” -type photos, and skip the autographs.  I’ve never understood autograph collecting anyway, except as a source of revenue, or as a way to give children a connection to sports figures.

Dr. Lowery

But when I re-entered the news biz last year, I re-thought my approach to certain celebs.  In November, I began a collection of photos with civil rights figures.  When I explain to them that my wife is an admirer, they seem almost too happy to pose with my handmade sign.  In John Lewis and Joe Lowery’s cases, the photos followed interviews.  In Jesse Jackson’s case, he was prowling the WXIA newsroom following a talkback with MSNBC.

Rev. Jackson

But last week, I broke the rule that had protected me from the “look – I’m an idiot!” feeling when I spotted a low-grade yet very important Rock Star at Hartsfield – Jackson airport.

I was eating at Paschal’s with three WXIA coworkers.  They heard me say “holy shit!” when I spotted Bradford Cox.  “Who?” they asked.  “He’s the leader of Deerhunter.” I whispered.  “Deerhunter is amazing!”

“What?  He was in The Deerhunter?” one of them answered, too loudly, referring to the 1978 movie (that I’ve somehow managed to never see).   A tall, gaunt man with a bowl haircut, Cox was wandering nearby with a tray of chow, looking for a place to sit.  I was rapidly becoming self-conscious at my own shameless hero worship, and my coworkers deduced that I was on the brink of exhibiting foolhardy behavior.  They egged me on, of course.

Mr. Cox

I called the wife, who’d gone with me to see Deerhunter twice this year.  Though she lacks my obsession with the band, she appreciates Deerhunter’s music.

“Go talk to him,” she said as I watched Cox wedge himself onto a counter seat between two women.

“No.  I can’t.  I don’t talk to celebs unless I’ve got a reason.  I have no reason.”

“This is different.  He’s not a big rock star.  He’d probably be amused — having a buttoned-down old guy walk up to him in an airport.”

She convinced me.  So did the heckling I was getting from my colleagues, which was increasing in volume and frequency.  Though he had his back to us, we were close enough that Cox could have overheard it.  I had to make a move.  “Here I go,” I said.  “I’m going to say hi, then get a cup of coffee.”

He was wolfing down some collard greens.  “Hi Bradford.  Sorry to interrupt.  I’m Doug Richards.  I’m a huge admirer of Deerhunter and Atlas Sound (his side project),” I began.  Cox is all of 27 years old.  He looked up, beamed and stuck out his hand.  The two middle-aged women on either side of him did double-takes as I gave their awkward, lanky neighbor the star treatment.

“Anyway – I enjoyed the show you played with Spoon at the Tabernacle this month.  I saw you at 529 with the Black Lips earlier this year.  Great shows.” He nodded at the mention of each show.  “So nice to meet you,” he said, more graciously than I deserved, considering I’d interrupted his lunch.

It was time to retreat, and I moved into more familiar territory.  I pulled a WXIA business card:  “If you ever hear any news, please give me a call.”   Though he’s from Cobb County, I don’t think Cox recognized me as a local TV news goon.  I’d given him the card mostly as a joke, and as an exit strategy.  He looked at the card and nodded emphatically.  “I will.  Thanks for stopping by.”  He grinned and stuck out his hand  again.  I shook it and departed.

Given the potential for trouble, I felt pretty good about it.  In hindsight, I wish I’d told him that I’ve actually paid cash money for all but one of his albums.  Musicians usually like hearing that.

Mr. Gibson

I don’t expect to make a habit of such behavior.  My best celeb encounter took place in Omaha in 1999 or so, while there for a reunion of KMTV alums.  I was in a bar in the Old Market when one of them pointed out Bob Gibson sitting at the bar, alone, drinking a flute of champagne.  An Omaha native, Gibson is my all-time favorite athlete.

“Go talk to him!” they said.  “No!” I said, sticking to my rule and knowing Gibson’s reputation as a man who didn’t suffer fools gladly.  Once, when catcher Tim McCarver went to the mound to talk to Gibson during a rough inning, Gibson waved him off, growling “the only thing you know about pitching is you can’t hit it.”

Gibson got up and walked to the cashier, which was right in front of us.  On impulse, I jumped up, stood next to the cashier and said “I’d like to pay Mr. Gibson’s bar tab, please.”  He looked at me warily.  “I’m a fan,” I said, tempted to say much, much more about how awesome he is and blah blah blah.

“Well, if I’d know somebody else was buying, I’d have had a few more,” Gibson said affably.  He thanked me, shook my hand and left.  The tab was less than fifteen dollars.

It was a good investment in my own dignity.