Fluid break

Jon Shirek got the worst assignment of the day Wednesday:  Go cover a water main break at Clairmont Rd. and I-85.

He was brilliant.

Jon Shirek, WXIA

Jon Shirek, WXIA

Nobody wants to cover water main breaks.  They rank right up there with suspicious packages, gas leaks and knuckleheads holding themselves hostage.  Generally, such stories eat up a reporter’s valuable time which could be spent covering real news.

“Oh, and you’re live at 6,” Shirek was told.  His live shot preceded mine, so I heard his report in my earpiece as I was waiting to do mine.

“This is a fluid situation,” Shirek intoned, spicing his usual low-burn intensity with a hint of mischief.  The “fluid situation” is a phrase uttered in all manner of stories covered live on local and cable news.  But Shirek had actual fluid gushing behind him.

And he knew exactly what he was doing.  Nobody uses language or disdains TV cliches more reliably than Shirek.

Shirek then said “literally and figuratively.”  Just as I might cringe a little whenever I hear “fluid situation,” I likewise cringe at “literally.”  It’s possibly the most misused / overused word in TV.  During the papal conclave, I heard an Atlanta TV reporter tell viewers that “Catholics were literally glued to their TVs.”

But the added phrase showed the Shirek knew exactly what he was saying.  He might have even backhandedly schooled the audience (and maybe some other TV reporters) about the misuse of “literally.”

Fluid ripples

Fluid ripples

Shirek gets an A+ for having a bit of rhetorical fun with an otherwise lousy story.  But he wasn’t done.  He went on to report, with another hint of mischief, that the broken water main would “have a ripple effect” on traffic throughout the region.  Behind him, water rippled.

When I heard this in my earpiece, I doubled over.  I had to work to regain my composure; my report immediately followed Shirek’s.

The story itself was a throwaway.  But if you can cover a story like that while punishing some of the most tiresome phrases in the TV news playbook, you’ve uplifted your little corner of mankind.

I’d wished I’d done it — even if it meant covering a water main break.

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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 “Fluid break

  1. elizabeth

    We were in Atlanta on Monday afternoon and saw all the action on Clairmont; it brought to Richard’s mind all the water main breaks he’d covered and all the reasons why they were such a pain to cover. Your blog sums up his feelings exactly and had we known Jon was there, we would have stopped to say “hi”. Hope all is well with you!

    Reply
  2. Photog turned brewer

    Jon is one of the best reporters in the biz. His scripts are so well thought out. What was that old insurance commercial? “When Jon Shirek speaks, Everyone listens”

    Reply
  3. Mr. Town Planner

    Kudos to Shirek — I chuckled through his whole report. But regarding the boring / un-news worthy nature of water main breaks and sewer overflows — if these occur often enough, then the public gets a $1.3 Billion tab from DeKalb County’s Department of Watershed Graft and Management causing a 200% increase in your water bill over a 3 year period. IMHO neither WXIA nor WSB reported that story sufficiently — no doubt because utility financial issues don’t translate to TV as well as, say, apartment fires or a mentally deranged gunman in an elementary school, or someone famous getting a DUI.

    Reply
  4. Og Ogglby

    I remember years ago, Shirek used to walk to work and pass by my old Montgomery Ferry condo on his way to 11Alive. He seemed like an intense person. I imagined him walking to work dreading getting an assignment like a water main break. Or an apartment fire.

    Reply

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