Category Archives: Elliott

“We have a situation…”

Once, while putting the finishing touches on a story that took all day, the following phone conversation took place:

News manager: We need you to go to Norcross. There’s a police situation.

Yours truly: What’s going on?

News manager: We don’t know, but the chopper is showing us cops with lots of guns. How soon can you be there?

Damn that chopper.

With that, our crew punted a day’s work and spent the late afternoon / early evening watching SWAT team cops surround a house. Inside, a guy was holding himself hostage. We did two live shots.

Tuesday, Atlanta TV caught wind of an event in Decatur, and the best word they could find to describe it was “situation.” DeKalb hazmat teams went to a vacant home where some construction workers reported they’d been sickened by a white powder.

Turned out the powder was boric acid, used to kill roaches. One person commenting on WXIA’s web site noted: “Wow, the toxicity of boric acid is half that of table salt. To get a bleeding nose, those workers must have been inhaling lines of the stuff.”

Anyway. It was quite a spectacle: Folks in moon suits doing the hazmat thing. Wide-eyed neighbors, helpfully telling TV how doggone weird and scary it was.

Our favorite shot, though, was in Richard Elliott’s package on WSB. Hazmat guys were walking behind a neighbor who continued to barbecue his supper within feet of the “situation.” The neighbor showed the correct amount of disregard for this event. Elliott concluded his piece by telling viewers it was “no big deal.”

Yet big enough to earn a couple minutes on the evening news.

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Comparing coverage

All four Atlanta TV stations covered an official bus tour of the city’s tornado damaged areas.  They focused on Vine City, whose residents are less protected by insurance.   What we saw:

Richard Elliott on WSB provided a very by-the-numbers look at the tour, with nothing especially memorable.  He identified tourgoer Millard Fuller,  founder of Habitat for Humanity, as an afterthought.

Clarence Reynolds on WXIA inexplicably focused on the city council members who toured the affected neighborhoods, giving them time to grandstand on camera. The audience learned little from his report.

Joanna Massee on WGCL, by far, told the best story.  With lots of “oh my gosh”-type natural sound, crisp editing and nice writing– she gave a much needed human touch to a story that was stilted and uninteresting elsewhere.  But WGCL needs to be slapped, too:  What’s the point of having Massee do a live shot after midnight (late because of basketball) in a dark neighborhood, many hours after the tour ended?   Same with Jennifer Mayerle, who was live in East Atlanta at 12:15am, fronting a story that had been shot in daylight.  Is it just me, or do most viewers cringe a little when they see such stuff?