News cycle, recycled

The Cronut

The Cronut

We think we’re so smart.  Here we are, finger-poppin,’ pixel-packin’ 21st century multiplatform news media delivery entities, all fresh and hot like a doughnut-shaped croissant.

And yet — try as we might to innovate, to update our technology and our storytelling conventions, one truth emerges:  TV news is wedded to images, interviews, sound and narration.

Lonnie Holley 2014

Lonnie Holley 2014

Last year, WXIA’s Jaye Watson produced a story about Lonnie Holley, an eccentric folk artist who has an eye-catching art habitat southwest of Turner Field.  Watson’s story told Holley’s story, showed his turf and did so with a dazzling array of sound and video that brought life to the art and the befuddling artist.  The piece won photog / editor Nick Moròn a first-place NPPA mention in its third quarter clip contest.

Lonnie Holley 1998-ish

Lonnie Holley 1998-ish

Now rewind 15 years, or so.  Yours truly visited the same artist at his previous habitat in Birmingham, AL.  The stories are remarkably similar, except Moròn and Watson used shorter and more frequent nat sound pops.  Watson’s writing is a bit crisper and cleverer. Mine had the editorial benefit of a conflict between Holley and the neighboring airport.  Mine was ably shot by Rodney Hall and edited by Andi Larner.  We let Holley’s rambling descriptions of his art play out in slightly longer bursts. We didn’t win diddly squat.  I don’t remember entering it in any contests.

How much of a difference does 17 years make?  Not much, it turns out.  In 1998, Hall and Larner and I produced a piece looking at the 50th anniversary of a killing in Coweta County that became the subject of a book and movie.

I wrote a kind-of throwaway line at the end of the piece, speculating about whether the road named after the killer was “the only road in America named for a man executed for murder.”  That line became the premise of a story Steve Flood and I produced this month, which also looked back at the killing and the why folks on John Wallace’s home turf still cling to the legend of the executed killer.

I hadn’t re-watched the 1998 piece prior to shooting the 2015 piece with Flood.  Instead, we independently had the stroke of genius to shoot a jittery / grainy re-enactment sequence of the 1948 highway chase that led to the killing.

Exactly like the 1998 piece, it turned out.  Innovative?  OK, not really.  But watchable?  Arguably, yes.  It used sound and pictures and interviews and narration, our familiar tools.

The biggest difference:  The reporter’s mom jeans, conspicuous in the late 90s Holley piece, had thankfully disappeared by 2015.

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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.

3 thoughts on “News cycle, recycled

  1. Richard Crabbe

    Here’s another recent example: someone “discovered” there’s a Gwinnett-based company that markets a firearms training simulator that’s used by the US military, so that became a promotable sweeps piece. Set the WayBack Machine about 30 years, when Joe Washington and I found out that 1979 Formula One World Champion driver Jody Scheckter had developed a computer-based laser-disc firearms training simulator, which was quickly being adopted by a number of military and police organizations. FATS, Inc was in one of those non-descript business parks out in Gwinnett, off I-85. Other than the fact that the weaponry is cooler, the technology evolved, and FATS was absorbed by some big conglomerate, it all looked pretty much the same.

    Reply
  2. English Major

    You and Jaye did basically the same story, 15+ years apart, but they’re good and leave me wanting more. Specifically, there seems to be a missing chapter here. Should we assume Lonnie Holley accepted the money from the Birmingham airport? Did he use it to re-locate to Atlanta, and when? What happened to the art that was “integrated” into his hillside – did he sell it, bring it with him, or was it destroyed? Does his art still hang in that airport? And Bill Arnett is a controversial figure himself – that’s a whole other story. Obviously Matt is his son or a relation – following in his elder’s footsteps? More more more, please…

    Reply

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