Gotta admit, we didn’t expect much from Dana Fowle’s I-Team piece on NeNe Leakes, one of the insufferable blowhards who starred on “The Real Housewives of Atlanta.” The AJC had reported six days earlier that NeNe and her family had been evicted from the pricey Sugarloaf Country Club home they occupied for the Bravo reality show. That short piece in the newspaper spoke volumes about the phony-baloney quality of the woman who boasted that she doesn’t “keep up with the Joneses. I am the Joneses.” How much more can there be?
Quite a bit, it turns out. Fowle’s piece on WAGA focused on her husband, Gregg Leakes. The reality show describes him as a real estate investor. Fowle learned that he’s actually a property manager. And not a very good one, according to the on-camera finger-pointer who said that one of his tenants — a friend of Ne Ne and his — all but ruined the pricey home the tenant rented under his management.
NeNe & Gregg Leakes
Various legal actions ensued, including the one that forced NeNe’s family out of their TV mansion. It seems they owe over $100,000 in back taxes. Complaints with the Georgia real estate board have driven Gregg Leakes out of business and the family into seclusion. Fowle went a-huntin’ for them, but was rebuffed at the doorway of their townhouse by disembodied voices coming from an intercom. (Leakes did a sit down interview with WXIA earlier– see comments below…)
Who cares? All your neighbors and family members who watch shows like TMZ, the syndicated program that airs on WAGA. TMZ’s MO is to revel in the sport of celebrity harassment. Who cares? All your neighbors and family members who loved or despised the Bravo reality show, who doubtless were shocked by or cheered the comeuppance of its arguably most arrogant yet likable (so we’re told) character. Yes, there’s an audience for this investigative report.
Dana Fowle, WAGA
Did Fowle cringe at the prospect of spending days or weeks stalking this pseudo-celeb, rather than pursuing other important investigative stories on corruption and ripoffs? Not likely. Tearing down a bloviating fraud is good, useful work. NeNe sought the spotlight. The reality show covered up her reality. On its best days, the news biz tears away that baloneyous charade. And Fowle got the goods. Grade: A-
Each Atlanta TV station posts short biographies of its news personnel on their web sites. The bios are usually filled with data about awards and college degrees. Some offer the occasionally-surprising nugget. We learn that WGCL’s Rebekkah Schramm has been a broadcaster since age 15. We learn that WSB’s Anissa Centers was a bone marrow donor. We learn that WSB’s Jeff Dore took out the trash at his first TV station and is the author of an unpublished novel.
Most bios are mind-numbingly similar. They tout the humble beginnings and family values of their subjects. They list resume highlights, awards and volunteer work. There are 42 of them on WSB’s site alone. We’ve perused a fraction of them.
Without question, the best bio we’ve seen is on Dana Fowle’s WAGA blog. Fowle writes “I’m generally disheveled and have a messy car… I also love red wine, rare steak, dark chocolate and strong coffee. I’m Type A, so of course, I wish I were smarter.” This is especially funny, given that Fowle is one of those scary-smart people.
The bio is the best part of Fowle’s blog. She hasn’t updated it in more than a month.
Dale Russell’s blog bio is a close second to that of Fowle, his I-team colleague: “My desk is a mess. I don’t smoke. I do drink. I have a politically incorrect sense of humor and a little problem with authority. (I’m working on that) And, I never get my expense reports in on time.”
Our least favorite bio belongs to WAGA’s Tom Haynes, which starts thusly: “Credibility, experience and a bit of an edge; that pretty much sums up Tom Haynes…” This is especially icky because it’s obvious Haynes wrote it himself. He goes on to tout his “journalistic expertise” and his position “front and center in FOX 5’s new, innovative and interactive newscast.” His bombast is almost Burgundyesque.
The journalistically-expert Haynes could learn a thing or two about humility from some of his colleagues.
TV stations love to overreact to weather, treating every fallen tree limb as if it’s armageddon. Last night, they got it right. Some got it more right than others.
Through 8am, it appeared WSB’s coverage was tops. 2 had interior footage of the CNN Center and Dome (as did WXIA). Jim Strickland’s overnight package on the Fulton Mill Lofts damage was terrific. And of all the TV reporters who were on scene at dawn, you know that Ross Cavitt was the first (and perhaps only) one to actually volunteer to be there.
If WAGA had the interiors that WSB had, I didn’t see them. Tony Thomas stayed up all night downtown (and also may have volunteered) and did nice live shots, but his pictures and interviews were a bit middling– possibly because he was rarely untethered from his live camera. It was fun to watch WAGA call in Dana Fowle, Cheryl White and Ken Cook to co-anchor the little-watched Saturday morning news. And they called in Randy Travis to play catch-up to Strickland’s coverage in Cabbagetown. Yet by noon, it appeared WAGA was still out to lunch on the story at the Fulton Mill Lofts, which was chock-full of residents when the tornado hit.
WXIA’s Jennifer Leslie, holding up a hand during a live shot to stop traffic on Butler St. while she crossed, had the Edgewood Ave. damage to herself. Kudos to the motorist who let Jennifer and her photog cross.
WGCL showed cartoons in the morning. And at noon, it showed a basketball game.
Readers of this space– too many to count– already know that February is a big ol ratings book month. The most audience-friendly “investigative” efforts of TV stations are always on display. Two examples popped up this week– both kinda silly, but to varying degrees. First, a fine reporter at WSB-TV named Tom Regan phoned in a report purportedly exposing a waste of tax dollars. Done in the anti-science tradition of former Sen. William Proxmire (R-WI) and legions of evolutionists, Regan displays a prospectus for which “metro Atlanta taxpayers” spent nearly $200,000 for a study on walking. Listening between the lines, one senses a serious health effort behind the study. But Regan’s report focused somewhat snickeringly on the price tag and the absurdity of a study on the obvious. To his credit, Tom lent some evenhandedness to it. But conveniently, he never mentioned America’s obesity epidemic. And it was never clear whether “metro Atlanta taxpayers” were footing the bill, though a graphic so indicated. Flip over to WAGA, where Dana Fowle, another fine reporter, has been milking an investigation— apparently for months– over the shockingly unsanitary practices of hotel maids. Unlike the Regan report, Dana’s report appeared to be a clean hit. It was entertaining. It was a nice “gotcha,” apparently shamelessly copied by TV stations around America. But the bottom line is: Dana’s exposing dirty dishes. Not even dirty dishes– but dishes not properly cleaned. Call me a news snob, but I’d prefer to see the resources of Atlanta’s finest investigative unit pursuing official corruption and valid abuses of taxpayer funds–and please, something a little more convincing than WSB’s cheap shot on the study of walking practices.