Category Archives: hand alan

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.

Three reasons to love the Atlanta media

I find “the Real Housewives of Atlanta” to be mostly annoying.   Yet when the missus puts it on TV, it becomes a distraction because the locale is so familiar.  Just as I’m averting my eyes from the irritating dialogue and the concocted plot lines, I’ll spot a landmark.  As I’m rolling my eyes at the catty drama, I’ll see a face I know from the news business.  When I learn that “celebrity stylist” Dwight Eubanks, one of the only appealing characters on the show, lives in a modest house near mine, I’m somewhat intrigued.

Among other TV viewers, the show is wildly popular.  With that background, here’s reason number one to love the Atlanta media.


The "housewife": Kandi Burruss

When I covered a V103 mayoral debate Tuesday, I noted the presence of Kandi Burruss in the audience.  She’s a “Housewife.”  She was also engaged to a man who was killed in a bar fight a few weeks ago.  The man had appeared in the show.  It was a big story locally because of the TV show.  Burruss, best I could recall, had never spoken to the media about the killing.

“Oh, swell,” I’m thinking.  The mayoral debate hadn’t begun.  Yet I’m picturing the assembled TV folk bum-rushing Burruss for the “get” that has mostly eluded us since the killing.  Because I was the first TV reporter to show up, I saw Burruss take a seat in the “celeb” section of the debate audience. Maybe my competitors wouldn’t notice her, I was hoping.  I wanted to cover the debate, not Burruss.

But they noticed.  Burruss was called upon to ask a question during the debate.  Yet when it ended two hours later, the TV folk rushed the stage to question the candidates and not Burruss.

This was a beautiful thing.  Best I can tell, no TV reporters colluded to ignore Burruss afterward.  We just did it — probably because we like covering politics and hardly anybody liked covering the Burruss murder story.

mary norwood

The frontrunner: Mary Norwood

Reason two: During the debate, a questioner asked the candidates about whether they’d ever paid for an endorsement.  All six candidates answered “no,” including frontrunner Mary Norwood.   Days earlier, Norwood had been endorsed by career pol “Able” Mabel Thomas.  When asked if she’d been paid or hired by the Norwood campaign, Thomas dodged the question.  So talk of Thomas’s endorsement, and the Norwood campaign’s alleged willingness to pay for it, has been a minor campaign issue.

Following that question, the debate took a break (for weather, traffic and commercials, presumably.  It aired live on V103 during morning drive).

During the break, a man wearing a Lisa Borders shirt stood and began shouting at the stage.  The room was already noisy, so it was less disruptive than it sounds; but he was persistent, finger-pointing and accusatory.  He was calling BS on Norwood’s answer to the “paid endorsement” question.  Norwood and the other candidates ignored the man, spending the commercial break onstage checking their Blackberrys and such.

Two police officers entered the room.  The first pointed to the man and waved him toward the exit.  The man immediately started walking as directed.  A second officer approached him and escorted him.  The man continued his loud chatter, but cooperated fully with the cops.

The TV cameras ignored it.  This, too, was a beautiful thing.

Debate hecklers have a long and glorious history of becoming the “lead” of a debate story.  It happened frequently during the 2008 presidential election.  I always found it annoying.  Why give an attention-seeking gadfly the spotlight for being a jerk?  It was a pleasure to pretend this incident never happened.

doug richards, alan hand

The blogger with Alan Hand, WSB

Reason number three: WSB photog Alan Hand, who has been covering the Mayor’s race for WSB.  He hypothesizes that my presence at WXIA foretells a Shuleresque employment tour through Atlanta TV shops.   He offered a try-it-on-for-size prop.  I accepted only for self-amusement.  Hand is a great American.  But I sneer at his employer, because I’m competitive like that.

The reporter accompanying him was horrified that Hand’s antics might result in a mention of her name in this blog.

Almost.  But not quite.

Bonus: Click here for  one reason to love the Sacramento media, a KXTV reporter named Dave Marquis, and a photog named Damian Espinoza.  (It’s embeddable, but for some reason it wouldn’t wait for the reader to click “play.”  Thanks to PK for pointing this out).