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.
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.
Yates 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.”
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.