“We’re not interested.”  The speaker was a plus-sized 40-ish woman wearing a baseball cap.  She was with a group of her relatives, standing alongside a road that had been closed by fire personnel in rural Gilmer County.  Three hours earlier, a house had a exploded, taking the life of one of their relatives.

The woman hadn’t heard my pitch, only my introduction.  As soon as I identified myself, she sent the message:  We’re not interested in talking to you or any other news folk about the 75-year old man who perished in the explosion.

A half-dozen other folks were with her.  While the spokeswoman firmly told me to take a hike, the others stood and watched impassively.  I sensed that they didn’t necessarily share her disdain.  But I wasn’t about to ask them.  Challenging the cap-wearing woman’s authority as family spokeswoman would have only provoked hostility.  Under such circumstances, emotions are already running high.  Too often, news folk become targets.  Thus far, I’d avoided such treatment.

I retreated back to the scene of the explosion.  After talking with the fire chief and gathering video of the smoldering ruins of the house, there wasn’t much left to do.  I cast my eye back up the road to the cluster of relatives.

“If that woman leaves, those folks might talk to us,” I mused to photog Dan Reilly.  The group was about 1/10th of a mile up the road.  The spokeswoman was easy to spot.  She was wearing a royal blue t-shirt, size XXXL.

“What, you want to stand here and wait for her to leave?”  Reilly asked.

“It’s past lunchtime.  She might.”

Within five minutes of that exchange, we saw the woman walk toward a car and disappear.  The car drove off.  She was no longer in sight.  “Let’s go,” I said. Dan and I hoofed it up the road with a camera.

I tell journalism classes that reporters gather news three ways:  They ask questions, they research, and they observe.  Part of the “observe” part includes observing other reporters. We all do it.

Halfway up the road, I noticed a WAGA crew tailing us.   With the spokeswoman gone, the cluster of relatives began to open up and agreed to chat with cameras rolling. A sister-in-law named Elvira was especially helpful.

We asked for a photo of the deceased, but nobody had one.  “Not on a cell phone, even?” asked Patty Pan of WAGA.  “Crystal might have one,” somebody said.  You could wait til she comes back, they suggested.

“Is Crystal the woman…?” I began.  Yeah, she’s the plus-sized woman wearing the baseball cap.

I wanted to be gone by the time she returned, and told Patty about my previous encounter with her.  Having gotten some usable interview material from Elvira, Reilly and I began to leave.

But Patty was tenacious.  As we left, I turned and saw Patty walking behind us with Elvira.  She had agreed to walk to her house to look for a photo of the deceased.  This time, I chugged in the wake of my competitor, and got the photo for our story.

By the time we left, Reilly and WAGA photog Anthony Coppins were directing each other as they tried to un-wedge their live trucks from the dirt road leading to the wooded hollow where Elvira lived, a short distance from the explosion that took her brother-in-law’s life.

Patty Pan’s story was remarkably similar to mine. It’s unlikely anybody else noticed.

This entry was posted in pan patty, WAGA, WXIA on by .

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 “Collusion

  1. JimmyD

    I went to one where an elderly man had perished, and they were working on recovering the body. I was across the street, being respectful, when the local PIO waved me across to where there were about 15 people gathered.

    No sooner had he waved me over, than he left, leaving me standing among these people. About then a TV helicopter flew over, and one of the men said, “damn, wish I had my deer rifle…why can’t they just leave us alone.”

    Yep, he’d left me in the middle of a very redneck, very unfriendly group of family members. They hadn’t yet realized who I was, and the guy did not have his deer rifle, so I survived it. In fact, after a bit of careful explaining, I ended up with two decent interviews.

  2. LoFlyer

    The last Gallup poll reports that 57 percent of Americans do not trust the news media to tell the truth. How did America get to this state? Let me give you a couple of hints. Y2K, hanging chads, Rathergate, Climategate, swiftboating, aggressive reporting against Sarah Palin and the softball reporting of the Obama admin, healthcare reform, and generally anything socialist or liberal.

    You guys are coming out of college wanting to change the world, and all we want from you is when, where, what and how. The local news folks like you just want to do your jobs. I respect that, however on a national basis American citizens are confronted daily and observe the news over the Internet.

    ACORN, a now discredited organization closely associated with Barak Obama was brought to prominence by the American media and credited with changing the finance lending laws that brought about the housing finance crises of 2007 that put millions of Americans out of jobs. Senator McCain in 2004 attempted to bring Fanny Mae and Freddie Mac under control but Democrats voted as a block and defeated the measure. The American news media forgot to report that along with a lot of other things.

    Americans are tired of our news media reporting outrageous claims by our enemies as gospel while deferring our truthful acts as unsubstantiated.

    This truly sux. Do something about it.

    1. live apt fire Post author

      The list of liberal leaders undone by the news media is extensive. The problem is, folks who view news hyperexamining it for bias tend to overlook instances that don’t support their preconceptions. The news media is certainly flawed, and the folks in it retain the biases that all human beings have. But the bottom line is, we want to tell truthful, interesting and relevant stories that can appeal to our audience. You can decide what to watch or read.

  3. DMA82

    Sir…..I’m going to have to ask you to keep your hands where I can see them and step away from the Bernie Goldberg book.

  4. max

    You told us in the second sentence that the family spokesperson was plus sized. There was no need to keep reminding us that she was heavy. The post was downright petty and vindictive.


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