Category Archives: geary lori

Election night

doug richards, wxia with tharon johnson

Interviewing Tharon Johnson, Reed's campaign manager

Election night is a noble pursuit for local TV news.  It’s about the delivery of timely information to that desirable part of the audience that actually pays attention to issues.  There’s drama and intrigue.  It’s a night to deliver breaking news which doesn’t involve a police investigation.

Below are 10 random observations about election night, which transpired last Tuesday in Atlanta and a handful of other cities / states around the USA.

Along with Kym France Wilson, Devin Miller, Bill Jones and John Samuels, I worked Kasim Reed’s election night party at the downtown Hyatt Regency.  I also brought a camcorder.  The result is below.

1.  Though required to arrive at your candidate’s election night party in time for a 6pm live shot, there’s almost nothing truly relevant to report at that hour.  The campaign is over.  The results haven’t come in yet.  It’s no-man’s-land, information-wise.  You’re there to set the stage and ensure the viewer that — you’re there.

2.  Since meaningful results rarely come in prior to 9pm, election night is mostly about standing around.  You make smalltalk with politicos and other media.  You read a book.  You watch people drink.

3.  If the candidate actually shows up prior to 9pm, nothing good can come of it.  There’s nothing they can say that’s new — unless they’re conceding or claiming victory based on exit polls, which doesn’t happen.

4.  Democrats have more fun at election night parties than Republicans.  They just do.

5.  Mary Norwood’s election night party was at the Varsity, a giant hot dog stand.  I kinda get the symbolism, but I’m pretty sure I’d rather kill an evening at a hotel ballroom.

6.  Kasim Reed’s press guy vowed that Reed would be on the podium, making a speech at exactly 11:01.  Or, at least that’s what I thought he said.  Reed didn’t hit the podium until 11:25, however.  This all but scotched Reed’s face time on the local news that night.

7.  WSB’s Alan Hand wasn’t actually snoozing during the evening.  He and Lori Geary humped into the lobby to shoot a quick chat with Reed as he arrived at the hotel.  See #3 above.

8.  I got my best updated election returns via Twitter, #chrissweigart,  #11alive.  Just sayin.’

9.  The only election night I can vividly remember was in 1986.  I was covering Sen. Mack Mattingly’s party.  Mattingly lost a whisker-thin vote to Wyche Fowler, but wouldn’t concede.   I ended up staying at Mattingly’s hotel HQ through noon the next day, when he finally threw in the towel.  As a guy in my 20s, I could barely handle it then.  I can’t imagine trying it now.

10.  We hear WGCL didn’t do an election live shot during its 11pm newscast until 11:25pm, apparently by design.

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Denver nuggets

The good news: WSB is staffing the Democratic convention in Denver. The station sent anchor Monica Pearson and political reporter Lori Geary. More good news: Pearson apparently team-covered a meeting of the Georgia delegation with Geary in what appeared to be a hotel ballroom. It’s always refreshing to see Atlanta’s premier anchor/diva in the trenches slinging a stick mic.

Pearson’s soundbite with Rep. David Scott appeared in Geary’s piece about the delegation’s desire for unity surrounding nominee-to-be Barack Obama. Unfortunately, Geary’s piece was predictable and leaned heavily on video of a hotel ballroom meeting. She redeemed it somewhat by disclosing that Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond and House Minority Leader Dubose Porter are considering runs for Governor.

Meantime, Pearson delivered a piece on Rev. Cynthia Hale, the Decatur pastor who gave the invocation Tuesday. Shot in Decatur prior to the convention, Pearson’s piece was also predictable. Hale, like Pearson, is a smartly-coiffed middle-aged African American woman. Their dueling hairstyles gave the piece a “whoa!” factor otherwise lacking.

Give WSB’s management credit for recognizing that this year’s DNC is a high-interest story and a welcome respite from the drumbeat of weather coverage. Give its staff in Denver a little encouragement to actually come up with some high-interest material.

The rest of WSB at 6

Do normal people actually watch an entire hour of local TV news? After the shock of watching 2’s lead story, we were too stunned to leave our seat. Maybe that’s what they intended. Observations:

Rachel Kim had a forgettable story about a killing that won’t be news for much longer. The family declined to talk on TV. Neighbors were somewhat helpful. Kim is good at developing stories, but not on this particular evening.

Ross Cavitt had a nice enterprise story about WhiteWater’s plan to dig wells to supplement its water supply. The story gained nuance when Cavitt revealed that it ain’t likely the wells will help much.

Jovita Moore– substituting for the thankfully absent Monica Pearson– had the best scoop of the show: An exclusive interview with the new, and much-criticized CEO of Grady, Pam Stephenson. It was a nice lick for Moore, who frequently spends her days in the trenches covering news prior to her nightly anchor appearances at 5.

Lori Geary had a rare emotional story from the Capitol about school bullying. She deftly removed her earpiece during her live lead-in because a technical glitch created a distracting echo. Geary didn’t miss a beat.

Ashley Hayes had what could have been the show’s most interesting story: Cops in Hilton Head talked at length about the disappearance of an Atlanta couple, and the suicide of the main suspect. But the story lacked immediacy because it was obvious Hayes was relying on material fed from other TV stations based in SC.

WSB ran an anchor reader on a captured fugitive. They must have grit their teeth as they gave a photo courtesy to America’s Most Wanted, a show on their arch-competitor WAGA.

And then there was weather with Glenn Burns:


Afterward– live in the dreaded 6:30 slot– Tom Regan produced possibly the most watchable story of the day: A trade show that opened at the storm-battered World Congress Center. Apparently, the GWCC is in better shape than most expected.

Ryan Young had the gratuitous live shot of the night: “Live in midtown” with a story about a robbery in DeKalb Co. “Live in midtown?” That’s WSB telling the world that they’re making one of their reporters stand on the lawn of the TV station on Peachtree. Why? Who knows.

Sports had the best surprise: Bill Hartman reported on new seats at Turner Field, built in front of the previous front row. The story showed rows of seats that drift absurdly close to home plate– the closest spectator view in all of MLB, according to Hartman. Local TV sports no longer exists in many markets– yielding to the hegemony of ESPN. Atlanta retains a lively and competitive local sports presence. It’s often worth watching.

Perhaps we’ll slog through the 6 o’clock show of another station next time.