The statehouse photog

I’m on TV, in short bursts on the evening news.  Because I’m on TV, talking in a manner that conveys knowledge of the subject matter, people often assume I have a measure of expertise.  Sometimes, there’s truth to that.  Oftentimes, I’m merely a quick study on a story where my expertise is limited to the 90 seconds of information I’m conveying.

If you want to find the real experts on local news, find the photographers.

Ira Spradlin, WAGA

Ira Spradlin, WAGA

Photographers tend to have greater staying power in a local market.  They lack the ladder-climbing ambition that reporters and anchors frequently have.  They’re also more under-the-radar, less vulnerable to the whims of regime change in newsrooms.  And regimes, old and new, tend to value their technical and journalistic expertise.  Or at least, they should.

This brings us to a guy named Ira Spradlin, the WAGA photographer who has covered the Georgia legislature longer than any of the other reporters or photographers in the press room.

The first time I got thrown into legislative coverage– an intimidating assignment, where the process of lawmaking is byzantine, and the players are numerous and often cagey — the assignment editor told me I needn’t worry.  I’d be working with Ira.

Ira didn’t schmooze legislators.  But he was around them so much, over a career that spanned four decades, that he became as familiar to them as the doormen to the House and Senate chambers.

It doesn’t hurt that Ira, who grew up on a dairy farm in rural Meriwether County (just north of Warm Springs), has a soft rural Georgia accent that can easily disarm the uninitiated.  He sounds like the good ol’ boys who often still dominate the legislature.  They were comfortable around him.

Like those old timey pols, Ira is easy to underestimate.  Under that southern accent, he can be as fierce as any photographer in town.

He’d be the first to tell you he’s not an artsy NPPA type photographer.  Ira’s value is his knowledge and his work ethic.  Nobody worked harder, or shot more video on a story.  I’m pretty sure Ira never missed a key shot in his life.

I’ll take that gristly newsman anytime.

This year, Ira Spradlin retires.  The legislature honored him this week, and I’m sure Ira took it with a grain of salt.  But I wish I’d been there.  He deserved the applause.

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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.

8 thoughts on “The statehouse photog

  1. live apt fire Post author

    I always liked to make Ira tell me about his childhood family’s ritualistic hog slaughter each fall. If you work with Ira and haven’t heard it, get it out of him before he goes away.

    Reply
  2. Richard Crabbe

    This man is the class of Atlanta photojournalists. I’m fortunate that I got to know Ira and occasionally work alongside him. He never fails to have a good word and never seems to get rattled, no matter the situation (unlike me). I hope his retirement works out as well as mine has. There ain’t many out there like him.

    Reply
  3. Kristi Lawrence

    Ira is such a jewel of a human being. I loved working with him. So kind, respectful, and knowledgeable. Nothing rattled him — always a wonderful, calming presence in the midst of newsroom chaos. Sending you warm wishes for a wonderful retirement, Ira!

    Reply
  4. Russ Jamieson

    Ahhh… Mr Spradlin. In the 15 years or so I worked at WAGA I got to work with him a fair amount. Yes, don’t underestimate the man… I’m glad to see him get this honor, he was an encyclopedia of history and knowledge when I had to wind my way thru the marble halls. Good Luck in retirement Ira.

    Reply
  5. Jennifer Sibley

    I loved editing Ira’s video. He always shot for the script, with actual thought about what video would match the words of the story instead of just spraying the room a couple of times. He also shot actual footage for his stories instead of just expecting us to pull file video. It was so annoying when video called for shots of a building that the photographer was actually at that day, but didn’t shoot. So we’d have to go down in the basement and look for video of the same building back in 1996.

    Reply

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