I’m overdue to write something nice about WSB.
This occurred to me as I was attending the sendoff the station threw for Jeff Dore, purportedly the first-ever WSB general assignment reporter to retire from the station. If that raises an eyebrow, that’s on you. I’m being nice.
Here’s the biggest compliment I can give to the station against whom I’ve competed for the last 28 years: I almost never hear its employees gripe about their workplace. (There’s one notable exception, but it dates to 2006.)
And they could. WSB’s dayside reporters have to run a gauntlet of hour-long newscasts at noon, 4, 5 and 6pm. Except for the folks enterprising investigative stuff, reporters typically have to deliver material for at least two of those newscasts each day. It has the schedule of a sweat shop.
(My favorite thing to see is when John Bachman covers a story during the day, then anchors their 4pm newscast, then gets shoved out the door in rush hour traffic to do a live shot at 6 on the story he’d covered previously. 4pm co-anchor Erin Coleman gets the same inglorious treatment. You kids in college want to be news anchors? Talk to those two first.)
Yet the affable Bachman, whose daddy is a recently-retired longtime anchor at WHO-TV in Des Moines Iowa, is the embodiment of a WSB employee who has no gripes.
The station’s esprit de corps was evident at Dore’s function. The event’s energy emanated from the troops, not the station’s management (which had sprung for the tab and food at Uncle Julio’s on Peachtree Rd.)
From my view across the proverbial street (a viewpoint from which I am committed to the righteous cause of strengthening WXIA and crushing WSB), here are some notes on my grudging admiration for my doomed competitor.
Although they work their field hands pretty hard, there’s no ambivalence about their expectations. You’ll produce pieces for two or more newscasts each day. You will be in a live truck. And you won’t let one of those other Atlanta TV stations yapping at your heels beat you on a story.
Even if you’re sent on some meaningless “breaking news,” you’ll sell it as such because it is happening now. You’d best get those flashing lights and / or crime scene tape behind you in your live shot.
Your photogs will take their cameras off their tripods during live shots, and you will gesture emphatically toward whatever building or other mise en scene is behind you. Or you’ll display a piece of paper held in your hand or some other prop.
In return, you’ll be the best-compensated local news crews in town. You’ll have ample benefits and vacation time.
You’ll have an abundance of competent backup in a newsroom that has mostly retained the type of employees downsized from other newsrooms.
You’ll use gear that is well-maintained and will never fail you due to neglect or budgetary issues. As a result, you will rarely waste time wrestling with issues that aren’t related to covering news.
You’ll not be saddled with gimmickry or efforts to re-invent your craft. You’ll use video, words, audio and graphics to efficiently and clearly tell your stories, same as you always have.
If there are updates in technology, you’ll have them before anybody else. (Except for HD video in the field. But while HD looks better on TV, the standard def video you’ve been using is easier to work with, uses less hard drive space and is faster to process. So your delay was worker-friendly. And your vast audience never really noticed nor cared that the other stations used HD first.)
You’ll work for managers you respect. Your news director, Mike Dreaden, is a guy who came up through the ranks. When I’ve heard WSB personnel utter his name in the field, it has always been in respectful tones. The evidence indicates he possesses a functioning human heart.
And you’ll do all this for an audience that seemingly can’t get enough of your product.
I’ve written a thing or two that have challenged my friends at WSB, mostly about their attitude and their priorities. I stand by it. But their work is solid. And as local TV stations go, it appears to be a quality place of employment.
They’ll miss Dore. He was unfailingly great to be around in the field. He was a graceful and humorous storyteller in a shop that tends to be very nuts-and-bolts. But they’ve managed to succeed in Monica’s absence. Dore would be the first to tell you that they’ll do OK without him.
So here’s my slow hand-clap for WSB. You guys aren’t half bad.
And we will bury you.