“But I’ve got a nice rhyme…”

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And if you must keep talking, please try to make it rhyme.

Because your mind is on vacation, and your mouth is working overtime.

Edwin Newman, NBC News

– Mose Allison

As a youth, I devotedly watched NBC’s Today. At around the time when the Hugh Downs / Barbara Walters crew transitioned to Tom Brokaw / Jane Pauley, I would always take note of NBC newsman Edwin Newman’s contributions to the broadcast.  Newman was a hard-news guy with a clever touch.  Once I saw Newman sit on the set and read a yearender rhyme he’d written.  I thought it was the greatest thing I’d ever seen.

When Pauley left Today, I stopped watching.  But I remained a Newman devotee as I waded into the quagmire of my own TV news career.  As I became a dad, I appreciated the technique of Dr. Seuss.  But I can’t recall writing any rhymes of my own until a Christmas Eve in the late 80s.

The star-bellied Sneetches had bellies with stars; the plain-bellied Sneetches had none upon thars.

I was working at WAGA.  There was no news, per se.  I asked a producer named Cindy Glozier if I could interest her in a rhyming story about the stylings of decorative plastic Santas.  Glozier embraced it, with a caveat:  You can’t just write a rhyme.  You’ve got to incorporate sound from interviewees.  It went without saying that the sound had to be naturally-occurring; in other words, I couldn’t coach interviewees into saying stuff that rhymed with my prose.  I had to shape the voice track to accommodate the sound.  The rules of news still applied.

The late Tony Small and I prowled around for plastic Santas.  I wrote some lines in a notebook.  We interviewed folks about their plastic Santas and slammed it together for the 11pm show.  As it aired, I stood alongside Sandra Davenport, WAGA’s tape coordinator, and watched it in a feedbay monitor.  Whenever the rhymes clicked, Sandra loudly whooped.

Almost nobody whoops at local TV news stories.  I was hooked.

After Glozier improbably left WAGA for a start-up news operation then called WGNX, my pitches for rhyming stories became a tougher sell.  There’s almost nothing worse than a poorly-executed rhyme, and the fear of embarrassment always loomed.  “You’re no e.e. cummings,” EP Mark Shavin once told me, only half-kidding.

I produced fewer than a half-dozen rhyming pieces in my 21 years at WAGA.  I found the rhyme useful for pieces that otherwise lacked coherent storylines.  In the late 90s, photog Rodney Hall solo shot a piece on DOT employees who pick up trash alongside highways.  Hall’s video sat in my drawer for a couple of weeks as I wracked my brain to figure out a way to make it interesting.  I decided to turn it into a rhyme.  I recall that it inexplicably won an Emmy.

I’m pretty sure that was my final rhyming piece at WAGA.  By then, my pitches to produce rhymes had become a bit of a standing punch line.

e.e. cummings, coz he's all lowercase like that

Fast-forward to Christmas Eve 2010.  Without divulging fully the details of my sordid background as a Theodor Giesel / Edwin Newman wannabe, I pitched a rhyming story to the morning meeting at WXIA.  Again, there was little real news.  They bought it.

I scratched out a few lines that morning, and continued to shape it though the day.  I’d found a helpful site called Rhyme Zone.  If you need to write a rhyme quickly, it’s pretty essential.

Richard Crabbe and I produced the piece for the 7pm newscast.  It’s embedded at the top of this post.

Late that morning, I sent a rare e-mail across enemy lines to Shavin at WAGA, gloating that I’d found a fresh audience for my rhymes.  He good-naturedly fired back the following:

There once was a reporter named Doug

Who was told to cover some thug.

“But I’ve got a nice rhyme

And it works every time,

Plus, it’s like a big holiday hug.”

— haiku version below —

Must work holiday

Depressing me to no end

Trite rhyme could lift mood.

He could have just said:  “You’re no Edwin Newman.”

This entry was posted in 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.

7 thoughts on ““But I’ve got a nice rhyme…”

  1. chamblee54

    to be the first commenter
    on this seventh day of winter
    to make known my feelings
    above the squawks and squealings
    with a video to embed
    like a luncheon spread
    rising up out of the fog
    into a coffice written blog

  2. jcburns

    Doug’s rhythmic post
    sure pleases me the most
    nearly as much as buttered toast
    on a frozen Monday.

    He casts tweets to the wire
    blogs at Live Apartment Fire
    reports, comments, raises ire,
    often brings the fun-nay.

    As for me, oblivious of parameters,
    Something’s way wrong with my pentameter

    And when it comes to rhyme,
    I’ll take Kuralt, Osgood, and Newman anytime.

  3. Jim Burress

    … in my first job, working as the weekend reporter in a tiny Indiana news market, I did the same thing. About a spaghetti-eating contest. It’s still one of my favorite stories. Glad to see old pros can still stretch their legs and have fun.

  4. Pingback: New Years Clean Up « Chamblee54

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