Holiday sampler

It’s Presidents Day.  For most of you, it marks the start of a shortened work week.  Mine will be a six-day work week.  My coworkers will experience the same thing.  This will be the second of three six-day work weeks for us.

It’s been foreordained for months.  WXIA is carrying the winter Olympics, a wildly popular TV event.  Our news operation gets a spike in viewership whenever the Olympics airs.  Erego, our staff is asked to bust its hump to show these viewers what we can do.

Paul Crawley and a sheet of ice

Paul Crawley and a sheet of ice

The timing of this particular six-day work week is noteworthy (actually, “brutal” is the correct word), given the workload of the previous week.  For most of last week, much of our staff worked 12-18 hour days and never went home because of the round-the-clock coverage we gave to the ice storm that struck north Georgia.  I spent two nights away from the family and sweet-talked my way out of a third.

It really struck me when I turned on the TV Sunday and saw Paul Crawley covering some sort of mayhem.  Crawley was an animal during our 24 hour coverage; it seemed like he was on TV constantly, describing ad infinitum the snow and ice he encountered in Cobb County on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Crawley got a one-day weekend after that, like the rest of us.

So here’s why I’m not complaining.

My workplace is in a dogfight to remain competitive and relevant and to win the hearts and minds of viewers and web users as news consumption habits change.

This is further aggravated by the fact that one Atlanta TV station, WSB, has been wildly successful at all-but cornering the market and hoarding the ratings.  To its credit, WSB appears to have plowed its profits back into its news operation.  They’ve hired talented staff.  They pay them well.  They have lots of up-to-date gear, and they keep it in good working order.  Despite some hubris that comes with being at the top of the heap, they do good work and are a formidable presence.

During the Olympics, many of their viewers keep their TVs somewhat locked on WXIA.  When our newscast shows up following Olympic coverage, our job is to keep those viewers’ brains from firing the synapses required to pick up their clickers and switch the channel or shut down the TV set.

The overnight ratings show that we are somewhat successful in this venture.  The goal is to seduce those viewers into enjoying a fulfilling, long-term relationship with our news operation.

We’ve tried this previously.  We had the same ratings spikes during the 2012 summer Olympics.  When the games ended, our gains were largely temporary.

So why do it again?  Because we can’t afford not to.  Plus, our product is worth showcasing.  There’s no better newsman in town than Paul Crawley.  It’s high time some of those habitual WSB viewers, watching WXIA on a Sunday, noticed that.

The dogfight to which I referred earlier is quite real.   Behind WSB, there are three other stations clumped together, stepping on each other’s heads to try to become the most viable alternative.  The one that fails most could become the first local news operation in town to just go away completely.

Crawley's "storm chaser" is the one on the right.

WXIA’s “storm chaser” is the one on the right.

My boss, Ellen Crooke, has been struggling for six years to make WXIA the top alternative to WSB.  She is sharp, energetic and creative and can be a little off-the-wall.  She is pursuing this goal with one hand tied behind her back; her budget is a fraction of WSB’s, and she can’t do a damned thing about that.

Yet she doesn’t give up — which would be easy to do, given the stubbornness of Atlanta news viewers to stick with WSB.

So when there are fresh eyeballs glued to WXIA, and she asks me to work a bit harder, my response is:  Yes ma’am.  It’s not just because I need to stay in her good graces.  It’s because I want my employer to survive.  If it could also thrive, that would be a nice bonus.

Here’s hoping you’re enjoying your Presidents Day holiday, and WXIA’s Olympics coverage.  And here’s hoping you’ll stick around for the A-block of our newscast.  You might actually like what you see.  And change your viewing habits, already!  Geez.

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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.

5 thoughts on “Holiday sampler

  1. live apt fire Post author

    “Dogfight” might a strong word, given the prevailing civility among the stations and their personnel. Plus, I would define “dogfight” as less Michael Vick, more Snoopy v. the Red Baron.

    Reply
  2. Dave Bearse

    Just a few words of encouragement concerning your blog efforts. I spent hours one day last November enjoying numerous posts the first time I linked here (from Blog for Democracy). I recollect a post remarking there were generally few comments relative to page views, hence my saving an encouraging comment for a post with only one other comment.

    Our household typically has WSB news in the background specifically for “Live Apartment Fire” entertainment, a term we first applied to WSB years ago, our running joke being WSB would roll footage of a cross-country apartment fire earlier in the day if there isn’t one underway or one that had earlier in the day in Atlanta.

    I appreciate the journalism here overall, and especially your inside perspective on local broadcast news. Please continue. Let the boss know that your efforts here make me more likely to watch WXIA.

    Reply
  3. Og Ogglby

    I don’t know why people like the two “stars” on WSB. I get the feeling they would just as soon stab each other than sit next to each other. No chemistry whatsoever. How many years has it been since she really smiled?

    Reply
  4. Basic Airman

    I dislike WSB as much as the next guy, but I do watch it for their 12 o’clock weenend newscasts. However, should one newscast disappear from the landscape as you suggest, my money would be on it being 46. That being said, I do watch the (Brenda Wood’s) Daily 11 at 7, just to fill in time with more local news while waiting for Jeopardy! (It has certainly evolved from the “feel good news” stance it took at its inception, which is not a bad thing because I felt that there were times when certain stories needed reporting but they weren’t getting aired because of their nature.) If I had a choice of another local news outlet in that time slot (7PM), I’d probably watch it instead. I’m not going to go into detail in a public forum as to the reasons I’m not warm to 11Alive, but I will say that Ms. Wood’s soapbox speeches put me off, despite agreeing with some of her stances on occassion.

    Reply

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