Good news! Today, this blog launches a service called Who’s Out of Line? It’s a service nobody wants, and does no good whatsoever, designed to resolve the occasional disputes that arise in the field among competing TV news crews. Because most TV news crews in the Atlanta market behave professionally and get along reasonably well, this service will appear irregularly at best.
Last week, there were a couple of unusual conflicts among competing TV crews in the Atlanta market. I will mediate them ex post facto in this post, and another post tomorrow.
Disclaimer: My knowledge of these disputes is second-hand. I’m leaving out names and TV stations. Do I really know what I’m talking about? Absolutely not! Ready? Let’s play!
The situation: TV stations are covering a meditation / prayer vigil in Carrollton on behalf of Aimee Copeland, a young woman who is fighting a life-threatening flesh-eating bacteria. The vigil is indoors in a too-small room, and begins about 5pm — shortly before each station’s 6pm newscast. The attendees arrive at the appointed hour, immediately take their positions and begin a semi-structured, mostly-silent vigil. TV crews are awkwardly maneuvering in the tiny room, documenting the event.
The scenario: A reporter for one station — Station X, we’ll call it — awkwardly requests an interview with one of the principals. He whispers the request, pointing out that he is bumping up against a 6pm deadline. It has the effect of interrupting the vigil, and is exacerbated by the principal loudly a) agreeing to the request, but b) proclaiming that “the media” is ruining the vigil. Irritated, he invites the TV crews to immediately complete their interviews, so the group can resume the vigil uninterrupted.
The confrontation: A reporter for another station — Station A, we’ll call it– loudly admonishes the reporter at Station X in front of the group. The reporter at Station A is working nightside, and has no 6pm obligation. The reporter at Station A then follows the Station X reporter to his live truck, berating him for interrupting the vigil (which resumed following the interviews).
The call: Unfortunately, TV folk routinely have to insert themselves into ongoing events in order to gather deadline information and other elements for their stories. Usually, the events are big enough that the interruption of one participant doesn’t scotch the entire event. In this case, the organizers of the event invited the news media to cover it. The request for an interview shouldn’t have surprised the organizers. The request, and the overreaction by the participant, made the interruption a bigger deal than it should have been. The reporter at Station X had to do his job.
That said, the reporter at Station A was given a golden opportunity to do a bit of grandstanding, and he took advantage of it. His competitor’s clunky behavior in a sensitive situation probably annoyed most of the participants. The Station A reporter took an opportunity to appear to be sensitive, caring and respectful, a rare thing in local TV news. His absence of an immediate deadline made that possible. Yet, had the Station A reporter faced a 6pm deadline, he probably would have done the exact same thing the Station X reporter did.
I too might have been unable to resist the opportunity to grandstand. But I would have made the point, then stayed on the high road (and probably winked at the Station X reporter, because I would have respected the fact that his awkward situation could have easily been mine instead). I certainly wouldn’t have followed the station X reporter to his truck, berating him while he was trying to make his deadline.
Who’s out of line? The reporter from Station A should have kept his grandstanding down to a dull roar, then shut up and let it go.
Join us later in the week — maybe tomorrow — for another edition of Who’s Out of Line?!