Category Archives: carver

Suspects

Yes, we nitpick.  Darryl Carver, WAGA

Yes, we nitpick. Darryl Carver, WAGA

It’s an easy mistake to make, but it still ain’t right.  News professionals like WAGA’s Darryl Carver ought to know better:  If no person has been identified as a possible suspect in a crime, then there is no “suspect.”  There are only bad guys, crooks, attackers, gunmen, swordsmen, killers, robbers etc.

Or, to use policespeak (but please don’t):  Unidentified male subjects.   Likewise, “shooters.”  Please.  No to “shooters.”

But if they merely exist in composite sketches but without any other substantial identifying labels, then they aren’t suspects.

From a Bud Veazey memo dated May 18, 2005:

Foolish optimist that I am, I will once again try to explain the proper use of the word “suspect” in the hope that eventually someone will get it.
Police have a “suspect” when—and only when—they know, or think they know, who they are looking for. In other words, an individual has been identified as a “suspect” in the crime. If no one has been identified, THERE IS NO SUSPECT!
Take a moment and think about the logic.
Until a “suspect” has been identified, police are looking for a robber, a burglar, a purse snatcher, a rapist, a murderer, a reckless driver, a bad person, a clown, a mime, etc.
Once again, if police haven’t identified a person as a suspect, THERE IS NO SUSPECT!!

While producing two pieces Monday on a killing in Riverdale, Mr. Carver violated Mr. Veazey’s dictum five times. He referred to a composite sketch indicating the likeness of a gunman, attacker, killer. He insisted on referring to the person depicted as a “suspect.”

No.  A “suspect” has a name, or a photograph, or is a person known to the investigating agency.  “We have a suspect” means that somebody has been, or is about to get locked up.

Carver is but an unfortunate example.  He has plenty of company in Atlanta TV.

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We dislike Ike

Rebekka Schramm, WGCL

Here’s a topic for your next journalism class:  How do you handle the gasoline shortage story?

The question is worth asking because the news media contributes to the mindset that causes panic, hence shortages.  Is there any way to avoid that?  The story has been out there since Friday, when Hurricane Ike hit Texas.  Gas stations started hiking prices and motorists flocked to pumps to top off.

Since then, TV has done numerous live shots at the tank farm in Doraville, and at metro gas stations.

Darryl Carver, WAGA

Darryl Carver, WAGA

On Monday, WAGA all-but ignored the gasoline shortage story.  Darryl Carver’s pieces at 5 and 6 dwelt on wildly fluctuating prices.  The shots of dry pumps were cursory.  WXIA’s Duffie Dixon produced a piece at 11 that explained QuickTrip’s strategy of spreading gasoline inventories among geographic areas.  Dixon’s piece indicated a method behind the madness of closed-down gas stations. At 4pm on WGCL, Rebekka Schramm reported on why stations reliant on the spot market pay higher wholesale prices for fuel.  WGCL handled the shortage with an anchor vo/sot.

Ross Cavitt, WSB

Ross Cavitt, WSB

But on Monday, WSB was all about the gasoline shortage.  It led its 6pm news with the story, putting Lori Geary live at the tank farm.  Geary interviewed a jobber who explained that shortages are manageable as long as the public doesn’t panic.  WSB followed with John Bachman, live at a gas station, with more on shortages and high prices.

At 5pm, Ross Cavitt was live at a gas station, reporting entirely on shortages.

WSB’s stories were level-headed and responsible.  But here’s the question, class:  Does the mere fact that WSB (or any other station) trumpets the gasoline shortage contribute to the panic that causes the shortage?  If so, does the station have a responsibility to rein in its coverage?  In the age of the internet, does journalistic restraint matter anymore?

Yes, WSB is covering news.  It’s not creating news.  The shortages are legit, as is motorist anger over prices.

But TV has been covering the story since Friday.  Monday, it appeared that somebody at WAGA decided:  Let’s give the shortage story a rest today.  It appeared WGCL made somewhat the same decision.  We say, good call.

Cat and Mouse

Six Flags Over Georgia should have allowed Atlanta’s TV stations onto its property for a limited, one-time-only photo opportunity for their coverage of the accidental death of a teenager last weekend. But the amusement park apparently played hardball, banishing news cameras from the property. This left the stations to their own devices. Some played the game of cat and mouse better than others.

Six Flags’ stance should instantly raise a question among TV reporters: Any shorts-and-a-t-shirt wearing patron can buy a ticket and carry a camera onto the property. Shouldn’t a newsman be able to carry a camera anyplace the public is allowed to do so?

WAGA apparently stayed off the property, as instructed. Darryl Carver’s 6pm coverage Monday had telephoto shots of the property and file tape of the Batman roller coaster, which struck and killed the teen who climbed into a restricted area surrounding the ride.

But WSB found a way around the rules. Ross Cavitt’s 6pm piece had a nice walk-shot of the iron fence the teen apparently climbed. It showed the “restricted area” sign on the fence. It also showed a second chain-link fence the teen traversed. And Cavitt’s piece showed the Batman ride, empty, getting tested by park officials Monday. (Cavitt’s 5pm piece doesn’t show the chain-link fence.)

How did Cavitt pull it off? One easy way: Pay the parking fee and drive onto the Six Flags lot with an unmarked vehicle. Then spend ten minutes shooting video with a betacam. And in the process, get lucky by seeing the testing of the Batman ride. If security stops you, Cavitt steps in and makes apologies while the photog gets a few final shots.

Another possibility: Remove the TV necktie and WSB ID badge and walk onto the parking lot with a camcorder. The camcorder video is likely shot in a format that’s different from your standard TV video. That shouldn’t be a problem. Just go to the live truck, link up some cables and convert it.

In all likelihood, Carver would have had difficulty performing either of the cloak-and-dagger acts described above. WAGA fiercely insists that its general assignment crews roll in unmistakably marked trucks that exclaim: Here comes the media! And its trucks are notoriously ill-equipped to convert video from formats other than betacam. Apparently, it’s a money thing. (In the last couple of years, WAGA started putting inexpensive DVD players in its live trucks. That wouldn’t have helped in this instance.)

Cavitt was justified in making the effort to get the better video. It better depicted the efforts made by this teenage victim to breach security, resulting in a vivid cautionary tale at a place visited by a gazillion people every summer. Likewise, Cavitt matter-of-factly used the term “decapitated” to describe the victim’s death, a term avoided by Carver. It’s a sensational fact. It’s also an essential detail that described how quickly a walk in the amusement park can become fatally tragic.

Prospects

Watching Atlanta TV news on weekends is a little like watching minor league baseball. It lacks the big names and the big audience. (It also lacks the whip-cracking management, which often makes the weekend shifts easier on the nerves and psyche.) There are rookie mistakes. But the game is still played with gusto, and there are gems to discover.

Saturday at 6, WSB had an interesting C-block story by Darryn Moore about thieves who dismantle gas pumps in order to swipe fuel. Gasoline stories are rapidly becoming rather tiresome fixtures in the news these days, but Moore’s photog / editor ramped up the piece with some clever shooting and cool editing. Moore’s live tease was slightly botched with an earpiece feedback problem, but Moore removed his earpiece in mid-tease and kept talking. Ashley Hayes had a similar problem with her lead story from Newton Co., but recovered to produce a solid piece on a TB patient / inmate at the Newton Co. jail.

WAGA’s 10 o’clock news Saturday lacked the technical glitches, and surpassed its competitor content-wise. Julia Harding had some eye-popping surveillance tape shot by an East Atlanta homeowner, showing three young men breaking into her home and running off with a TV set. Harding’s exclusive was also well-shot and well-told. The thieves have struck numerous times. The story could have been hot with emotion and fear, but the production (and interviews with homeowners) gave the story a refreshing cool texture.

Portia Bruner’s coverage of a protest on behalf of death row inmate Troy Anthony Davis was also solid and even-handed. Bruner folded in a previous interview with the widow of the police officer Davis was convicted of killing. However, Bruner’s editor mistakenly used video of the Georgia Supreme Court while Bruner spoke about the US Supreme Court. It was a small, minor-league error on a news day otherwise full of prospect.

Barbie Bandits

Everybody covered the sentencing of the “barbie bandits” yesterday. All four stations have the stories on their web sites. The story sells. Every station had the same video– mug shots, courtroom, file tape. The difference was in the style of the storytellers.

The best was Ross Cavitt on WSB. Cavitt grasped what made the story different and ran with it: The fact that the suspects were former “exotic dancers,” as he put it. The fact that it was an inside job. The fact that various co-defendants ratted each other out. He laid it out efficiently and with just enough snark in his delivery to signal the audience that he was letting them in on a story that was ridiculous from beginning to end.

On WGCL, Rebekka Schramm was almost as good as Cavitt. She had the same tone as Cavitt and covered the same highlights. She overreached a bit, though, by opening her package with an awkward line about the defendants “looking more like Barbie dolls.” A subtler touch would have been better. But Schramm and Cavitt both had the right idea: Show the viewers why this garden-variety bank robbery sentencing was worth your time, and theirs.

WXIA’s Jennifer Leslie and WAGA’s Darryl Carver had solid facts and pictures, but both told the story without much style. At 10pm, Carver never mentioned that the defendants were former strippers. Maybe the fact seemed sensational. But hey– that’s the whole reason TV covered this story to begin with. Might as well have fun with it.

Sneaky

In a column Saturday, the AJC admitted that the Jeremiah Wright story “did sneak up on us.” Supporters of Barack Obama are worried that Wright’s pulpit pronouncements could derail Obama’s campaign. The AJC’s decision to downplay this significant development at its inception fuels conspiracy theorists who see “the media” as a liberal monolith.

The controversy provided an opportunity for local news to view it through the prism of Atlanta’s rich culture of black churches. Only WAGA used that opportunity. But Darryl Carver’s think-piece on the issue came off as a bit one-sided, using much material from the pastor at Ebenezer Baptist, who defended Wright. Carver’s a good reporter. The story at least needed to show Carver asking Rev. Raphael Warnock some tough questions about why it might be appropriate for Rev. Wright to say “God damn America” from the pulpit. And the story ended with a “huh?” as Carver added a useless soundbite from Bishop Eddie Long of New Birth, apparently pulled from a feed. My guess is somebody told Carver to stick it on there.

(By the way– it may seem gratuitous and grandstanding for a reporter to be shown on-camera asking questions. But it serves a purpose. It balances a story that may feel one-sided.  And it shows the audience that the right questions were asked– even if they don’t like the answers. Richard Belcher at WSB is a master at this.)

What’s amazing is that Carver’s piece aired at all. With two late-night shootings, WAGA’s newsroom normally wouldn’t have hesitated to drop-kick the Wright piece so that Carver could stand in front of a crime scene with a “breaking news” banner under his chin.