Slow news day

You probably already know this, but this point is worth restating.  TV reporters aren’t necessarily welcomed wherever they go.  Here’s an example from an encounter I had last month at the state capitol.  It’s complete with a video re-enactment, embedded at the bottom of this post.

First, let’s set the scene.  I’m producing a story that we in the news business call a “followup,” or an “update.”  It’s a story first reported days or weeks or months ago, revisited by your friendly neighborhood TV news professional.

Now a lot of folks may think my staff sets up this stuff while I apply makeup and hairspray.

I ain’t got no staff. I gotta make it happen.

I go to the office of a member of the Georgia General Assembly, a behind the scenes player I’d never met  before.  I’m in his office because he hasn’t returned my phone calls.

He’s standing in his office.  I introduce myself, and he greets me with a look that can only be described as a sneer.

“How can I help you?” he says with sneering contempt.

I explain to him that I’m pursuing a story updating a situation that made a lot of news in his district several months ago.  My pitch is persuasive.  My logic is flawless.

He retorts with the following:

“Why you wanna dredge up that mess again?  We ain’t interested in that no more.  That’s in the past.”

Then he follows with this classic.

“Why, it must be a sloooow news day.”  And then he chuckles heartily.

Why does he chuckle?  Because that line “it must be a slow news day” is widely regarded as the cleverest and most dismissive thing you can say when a persuasive and flawlessly logical newsman comes a-calling to pursue a story.

I left that guy’s office without even asking him for an interview.  Instead, I did the story without his input.  And I left his office with every bit of the respect I had when I walked in.

Vodpod videos no longer available.
slooow news day, posted with vodpod
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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.

5 thoughts on “Slow news day

  1. Brett Martin

    Nice one Doug. I really liked the “Boss Hog” interpretation. This one was spot on. Good job. I would have cut to a close-up of the mouth and cigar when you said the words “It must be a slow news day”, but that is just some constructive criticism on my part.
    A quick banner at the top and at the end may better help with the branding of this bit. I think you are on to something. Keep them coming.

  2. Mr. Bear

    We are once again reminded that there is Atlanta and there is Georgia; the line used to be I-285, but it’s further out now. The truth is, however, that at some point, you enter a part of Georgia that is distinctly not Atlanta. If it’s Savannah, that’s fine, but if it’s a lot of other places, you feel like you’re in a foreign country. A place of different culture and different values.

    Every January, representatives from that foreign country come to visit in Atlanta, and to make laws that govern us all. A lot of these people are good and decent people. A few of them are from a place that time forgot.

    No one is safe when the General Assembly is in session. True back then, true now.

  3. Dirty Laundry

    Forget the nonexistent news staff, who’s your personal assistant?… the socks rock!
    (enjoyed the well-produced reflection)

  4. Tom Roche

    Would you have had better luck with your recalcitrant source if you’d shown off the 2nd wave ska socks you were wearing, glimpsed in your sitting-down stand-up??

  5. arky

    I found the old “slow news day” line also to be nervously applied by school board members, city councilmen, etc. when I’d show up to cover a meeting they considered routine, and they’d have to spend the rest of the night wondering what my angle was going to be.

    Another misconception about TV reporters… that they get to just barge in wherever they want (a thought encouraged by innumerable movies where “reporters” do precisely that). “Tough Questions” notwithstanding, people don’t understand that unless you’re in a public meeting or hearing or on public street, there’s very little a reporter can do to force an encounter. I think there are few other jobs that require you to request permission / beg other people so many times a day.


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