Economy with words

In this post, the aging blogger begins with a well-worn 80s-era nostalgia trip, when newsrooms rattled with teletypes, teams of production people ripped and sorted ten-pack script paper, and reporters like Paul Yates pounded cigarettes in the cubicle adjacent to yours. 1510602_10201164375574681_819312756_n

When the late Jack Frazier bought me a plane ticket in 1986 to visit Atlanta and give his TV station a look-see, I spent an hour of my first day in the city in a hotel room, watching the 6pm news.

To a kid somewhat fresh out of Omaha, the newscast was a big market thing of beauty, brimming with solid content.  At the time, Frazier’s station was more-or-less in a dogfight with WSB and WXIA as Supreme Leader of the Nielsen and (then) Arbitron ratings in Atlanta news.

I distinctly remember seeing a piece by a reporter named Paul Yates.  He had the booming broadcast-y pipes of a network guy.  I don’t remember the subject matter, but I do remember the writing.  It had clarity and brevity and I was kind of awestruck.  If these people hire me, I remember thinking, I’m gonna have to up my writing game to keep up with this guy.

Ypaul_yatesates wasn’t the only reporter at WAGA that impressed me, but he (and Mo Diggs and Lisa Clark) were the ones I remember noting during that initial viewing.  (Diggs had done a piece on some kind of breaking-news fire or other mishap, and folded it expertly into a city hall story.  Clark delivered a smart and well-written entertainment segment.)

Yates capped a 40 year career at WAGA last week.  He exited college in 1973, got a job at WAGA and stayed 40 years.  15 or so years into his career there, management decided to make the building smoke free.  Yates gave up cigarettes and never wavered afterward.

And he never wavered from the thing that made him special:  Giving clarity to often complex stories.  As Mindy Larcom, the I-team producer, wrote on Facebook:  “Paul has an enviable economy with words.”

Ira Spradlin, WAGA

Ira Spradlin, WAGA

Yates retired on the same day as Ira Spradlin, the WAGA photog I’ve previously lauded on this site. Spradlin was a newsman at least as much as he was “just” a photographer.  He knew Georgia and its politics better than the people riding shotgun in his live truck — Yates arguably being the notable exception.

Spradlin had announced his retirement nearly a year ago.  Yates’ finale came a bit more suddenly.  Both of them made WAGA a better place to work.

Best wishes to both men.  And thanks for making me up my game.

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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 “Economy with words

  1. Jim Grey

    “He had the booming broadcast-y pipes of a network guy.” Yeah. Whatever happened to those kind of pipes on the average larger-market local newscast? I sure miss them.

    Reply
  2. Tommy Flanagan

    I was fortunate to meet Paul Yates once at a Christmas Party (a wintertime social gathering). Nice guy. I would have liked to have had a beer with him one day and listen to the stories he couldn’t tell on the air. I bet some of the best stories would be putting up with 40 years of bullshit from WAGA management.

    Reply
    1. Joanne

      The thing about Paul is that he would never divulge any stories that he wouldn’t tell on the air. I can see his eyebrows rise and hear him give a simple “indeed” when asked if he had seen a thing or two. There’s that brevity again. Great guy! I haven’t worked in the news biz in quite some time but I enjoyed working with him when I did.

      Reply
  3. Lisa Clark

    I’m flattered (and humbled) to be mentioned in the same column with Paul & Morse … by someone whose writing I happen to adore (I mean you LAF!). I had the extreme pleasure of catching up with some of my dearest WAGA Local Programming alums last night (Karl Zimmerman, Tom Budnick, George Gentry, Ken Limardo, and the incomparable Don Smith!) How lucky was I to work with such amazingly gifted writers, photographers, and producers in my career. Channel 5, in its day, was the BEST!

    Reply
  4. Will Glynn

    I had the pleasure as a freelance photojournalist to work at WAGA for a year in 2011 and remember Yates and Spradlin as not only good journalists, but as really nice guys and easy to work with. I am happy to hear that they are enjoying retirement on their terms, something that happens rarely in this business anymore.

    Reply

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