Category Archives: jones tom

Fined by OSHA

Outside the Fulton Co. Jail, 11.18.09

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has fined WSB $5000 for safety violations surrounding its live truck accident in November.

The accident took place when a WSB crew exited the parking lot of the Fulton County jail with its microwave mast raised.  The mast came into contact with some 115,000 volt transmission lines above Rice Street, causing an electrical surge in the truck that slightly injured its occupants, photographer Leonard Raglin and reporter Tom Jones.  The shock and a flash fire destroyed the equipment inside the truck.

The citations are public record and were supposed to be posted someplace within the WSB monolith at 1601 Peachtree St.  You can download the nine-page PDF here. It’s not as enlightening as one might hope, however.

Leonard Raglin, WSB

Raglin, the truck operator and a veteran photographer, had failed to stow the mast prior to driving the vehicle.  Alarm systems in the truck had been disabled.

WSB was originally cited for two violations.  The first says “the employee operating the vehicle D-TEC and vehicle mounted mast system was not trained on electrical related safety work practices as per manufacturer specifications.  The employee was exposed to electrical hazards.”

The second says “the employees operating the vehicle D-TEC and Vehicle mounted mast system did not maintain a clearance of 10-feet from energized power lines.  The employees were exposed to electrical hazards.”

OSHA spokesman Michael Wald tells LAF via e-mail that WSB met with OSHA to negotiate the final outcome.  OSHA originally fined WSB $3500 each for the two citations.  OSHA agreed to drop one citation, and WSB agreed to increase the fine for the remaining one to $5000.  (The links and such seem to provide slightly varying information, which I can’t explain.)

Wald says WSB was cited under OSHA’s awkwardly-worded “general duty clause”:  Section 5(a)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970: The employer did not furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which were free from recognized hazards that were causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees…

Raglin and Jones were the first to admit that their nearly fatal oversight was the primary cause of the accident.  Yet it’s unclear whether OSHA specifically noted the station’s failure to maintain the truck’s alarm system.  It’s not mentioned in the citations.

Tom Jones, WSB

Both Jones and Raglin suffered from burns as a result of the flash fire that erupted in the truck.  Both men bunny-hopped out of the vehicle to safety (per their training).  Jones was back on the air within days.

The accident also damaged pavement and water lines below the scene of the accident.  That pavement has since been repaired.  Presumably, the city of Atlanta billed WSB for the damage, though we haven’t asked about that.

Although WAGA and WGCL covered the accident extensively the day it happened, it’s notable that Cox-owned media — WSB and the AJC specifically — have mostly ignored it.  WSB mentioned the accident on its web site the day it happened.  The AJC noted it in a brief.

A sharp-eyed reader of Rodney Ho’s AJC blog (and LAF) noted that Ho posted a follow-up a day or so later (wherein he interviewed Tom Jones, similar to a post on this site) — but the post mysteriously disappeared.  I’ve tried to ask Ho if Cox spiked it, but Ho won’t say.

I don’t expect to read about the OSHA fine in the AJC.

Mast v. power lines

Outside the Fulton Co. Jail, NW Atlanta 11.18.09

A WSB TV crew failed to lower its 40-foot mast following a noon live shot at the Fulton County jail today.  WGCL reports the operator drove the truck, mast extended, into some power lines.  That triggered an explosion which damaged the truck and sent a surge of electricity into the ground below, damaging a water main.  Amazingly, the crew survived and sustained only moderate injuries.  Tom Jones was the reporter on the story and presumably riding in the passenger’s seat when the accident happened.  Leonard Raglin, a longtime WSB and WXIA veteran, was the photographer / truck operator.

Harry Samler of WGCL took some photos of the truck.  Samler reports that the mast’s impact with the power lines caused an explosion which blew the dish from the top, as well as a section of the mast.  The photos show a shorched area around the engine of the vehicle.  Samler’s coverage is here.  WSB’s site is here, but at this writing there appears to be no coverage.  (WSB has since added a brief copy story here.)

The photos also show that the power lines are straight-from-the-substation transmission lines.  Samler reports they carried 115,000 volts.

The safe operation of a live truck is a drill that’s recited in TV newsrooms at least as often as the fact-checking essentials of newsgathering.  Trucks have warning labels, front and back, that remind the operator that you can be killed if the mast comes into contact with a power line.  Yet live trucks are also part of the mind-numbing newsgathering routine at many TV stations, where perhaps a majority of stories are delivered with the help of these vehicles.  Truck operators aren’t supposed to get complacent.  If they do, it can be deadly.

Photos by Harry Samler, WGCL

The most dangerous part of the mast vs. powerline encounter can come afterward, when the crew is trying to exit the electrified vehicle.  If the truck comes in contact with power lines, the crew is taught to jump forcefully out of the vehicle, so that they aren’t in contact with the ground and the vehicle at the same time.  Morse Diggs  actually demonstrates this during WAGA’s coverage of the accident.

In this case, Samler tells LAF that it appears the truck lost contact with the power lines after the top of the mast blew off.  This means the electrification of the truck was powerful but brief.  It ruptured the asphalt below the truck.  It set the engine on fire.  And it somehow spared Raglin and Jones from serious injury.

Most live trucks I’ve ridden in have ear-splitting alarms that go off if there’s even a hint that the mast isn’t stowed.  The alarm goes off the instant the driver puts the truck into gear.   On rare occasions, the alarms go off erroneously.  As deadlines approach, the operator’s only choice may be to temporarily disable the alarm.  Sometimes those alarms don’t get fixed, and the subsequent truck operator may not know that this safety device isn’t working.  It’s not clear what happened in this instance.

Samler narrates the video below.  Like him, I’m delighted that I’m not writing about a fatal accident.

The candy man

One can only imagine how many unintentional guffaws this piece generated on WSB’s 6pm news Thursday.

One one hand, we’ve gotta give Tom Jones some credit.  On this attempted child abduction story, Jones had zip.  No mugshot.  No victim.  No video, except for real estate in a SE Atlanta neighborhood.  No police interview.  He had info from a bad guy’s license plate, but no graphic displaying it.

Would you trust this guy?  Tom Jones, WSB

Would you trust this guy? Tom Jones, WSB

But he had Robert Reese, a second grader Jones apparently found walking home from school.  He had Robert’s mother, who allowed the callow youngster to play along.  And Jones had a handful of the worst kind of candy:  Bubble gum, Blow Pops and Now ‘n’ Laters.  The schtick was Jones “tempting” young Robert with the candy, and Robert stoically turning it away.

In the 5 o’clock version of his story, Jones reports that the would-be molester showed up at a bus stop with candy.  He tempted the children, pulled up his shirt, “and somehow his pants came down,” Jones reported.

Jones took a risk when he decided to semi-embody a creepy dude enticing a child with candy. “If you don’t know him you shouldn’t get in a car with him,”  Robert says while Jones waves the candy under his nose.  It’s precious and more than a little weird.

Immigrant Song

Fifteen to twenty people are abducted, tied up, robbed and abandoned in a vacant house. The robbers gain control of the victims by claiming to be federal agents. Sounds like news, no?

If the victims are Hispanic, the answer is “yes, but….” No denying that it’s news. The question is whether it’ll get on TV or in the newspaper.

Local TV news craves the “get.” Get the victim. Get the next-of-kin. Get them to talk on camera about how horrified / sorrowful they are. News managers all but carry a scorecard, recording which station has the better “get.” (The pursuit of the “get” is also one of the many factors that drive audiences away from local TV news.)

But when the victims are Hispanic, the “get” is less likely. There’s the language barrier. There’s the distrust of English-speaking TV, and whether its presence is a precursor to a raid by immigration agents.

So give WGCL credit for pursuing the above story Friday night. Sarah Parker gave the story as much life as she could. Since it happened in Doraville, it benefited from the on-camera presence of John King, arguably metro Atlanta’s most engaging police chief. And it benefited from Parker’s knowledge of Spanish. She  translated the remarks of a Spanish-speaking woman who admitted on-camera that Hispanics are less inclined to seek law enforcement help when they’re victims of crime.

Parker’s story also proved why TV doesn’t rush to embrace such stories. The 15 to 20 victims were nowhere to be found.

Monday night, WAGA’s George Franco somewhat successfully told another story that benefited from Franco’s Spanish-speaking skills. Franco’s story raised questions about the killing of a day laborer by a DeKalb sheriff’s deputy. (The story mimicked a similar story by WSB’s Tom Jones Friday.) But unlike Jones, Franco’s story leaned on Spanish speaking folk to tell it, with Franco skillfully translating on the fly.

Both stories—Parker’s and Franco’s—were worthwhile pursuits. There are many more that we never hear about.


WSB’s lead story Monday at 6 was terrific. Tom Jones interviewed a broke college student who went to municipal court to pay a fine for an HOV violation. When the court added some fees to the $75 fine, the woman said she couldn’t pay it in full. So the municipal court judge threw her in jail.

And Jones nailed it. He had accessed court footage that is apparently routinely taped, surveillance-camera style. The footage had clear audio of the judge blandly ordering the defendant to jail (initially to serve one year!), and the deputies taking her away. Jones had a lawyer and the solicitor saying the judge had overstepped. He also had an off-camera phone interview with the judge herself, who confessed that she shouldn’t have done what she did. Jones’ piece was clearheaded and damning.

If you want to see this story again, watch tonight. The other stations will be chasing it. The AJC may even get around to it in a few days.

Cliche Watch

Three of ’em turned up in Monday’s 6pm piece produced by WSB’s Tom Jones. Jones reported that Clayton Co. “corrective superintendent” John Thompson is

  • “fired up” about his new job;
  • that Thompson “hit the ground running”;
  • and proclaimed that it’s time for the community to “stop pointing the finger.”

For good measure, WAGA’s Chris Shaw threw in one during his coverage of the same story at 5pm, saying Thompson

  • “knows he has a long road ahead of him.”

Don’t tase me, bro

“Classic Winne” may be a fit description for the live shot Mark Winne performed to lead WSB’s 6pm news Monday. He stood in front of DeKalb’s police headquarters, holding a live taser pistol. We know the pistol was live because we saw Winne pulling the trigger, and saw the sparks emanating from it. Thankfully, Winne didn’t assume a Charlie’s Angels-style pose while doing so. But it was close enough– the buzzing from the taser, the sparks flying, while Winne delivered his material in “classic Winne” melodrama. The story? An “exclusive” interview with DeKalb’s police chief, saying he’d like to arm his cops with tasers. Not bad, not great. But the campy live shot gave the material, shall way say, an added Winne-style jolt.  Would I have done the same thing?  Absolutely.

Two other stories were noteworthy in WSB’s 6: Amanda Rosseter took the slow plane ride to China with Gov. Perdue on Delta’s inaugural flight to Shanghai. The guv’s people were doubtless tickled pink to have an opportunity to make their drawling, Sunday-beer-sales-opposing guy look like a jet-setter. Delta got a couple of minutes of free advertising for the airline’s newest route. Did WSB buy tickets for that flight? Take a wild guess. WSB apparently doesn’t consider its investment in this story sufficient to give it a website posting.

And deep in the show, there was a Tom Jones story about two billboards erected by Clayton Co. Sheriff Victor Hill. Hill’s election opponent complains that Hill is using Sheriff’s Office money to fund a “quality of life” billboard (“no loud music / no loitering” etc.) that looks suspiciously similar to a “re-elect Sheriff Victor Hill” billboard, funded by Hill’s campaign. Jones botched the opening live shot, trying to show a photo of one billboard while standing in front of another. The audience never got to see the photo Jones was holding. And within the package, Jones twice described the two billboards as “identical.” Similar, yes. Identical? Surely Mr. Jones knows the difference between the two words. This story isn’t on the web site either. Wonder why.

No Comparison

LAF is not necessarily a timely blog. By mistake, we just dialed up and watched WAGA’s version of the Wednesday 6pm show. That’s the show we found so underwhelming on WSB. What a difference, at least on this particular day.

While WSB was lamely leading with the Tom Jones men’s-room “exclusive,” WAGA’s Morse Diggs broke news by revealing the DUI arrest of longtime Municipal Court Judge Andrew Mickel. Diggs had all the goods, though no interview with the judge. Mickel was always very media friendly. LAF enjoyed a beverage with him at Manuel’s on Super Tuesday. The Hon. Mr. Mickel’s mug shot is unfortunate.

WAGA then went to live chopper coverage of a shooting, and arrests therefrom, near McNair HS in DeKalb. Didn’t see that on 2 either.

After that, WAGA’s Doug Evans had an exclusive piece about another grow-house marijuana bust in Hall Co. Evans was steeped in the story, so to speak, with ample perspective from previous busts. At this point, WSB was talking about digging wells at WhiteWater.

Then Patty Pan capped WAGA’s a-block with an exclusive bit about thieves breaking into classrooms at Gwinnett schools. Pan is one of the best young TV reporters in town. Hopefully her career can flourish, probably elsewhere.

In other words, 5 packed more news into its a-block than viewers saw on 2 the entire 6pm hour.

WAGA and WSB are the two biggest local news players in town. WAGA will get its tail handed to it another day. But on this day, there was no comparison. Viewers of 5 won.

Ugly. Shameful.

WSB led its 6 o’clock news Wednesday with a story that would have been laughable, were it not so destructive and shameful. Tom Jones was live at the Clayton Co. Courthouse with “exclusive” coverage of a trial of a former FBI agent. He was charged with a misdemeanor, accused of making googly-eyes at men in a restroom at Hartsfield-Jackson. Problem was: The accused was found not guilty.

So WSB showed the defendant’s name. Showed his face. Showed absurdly long slow-motion footage of urinals in the restroom. Essentially, the station smeared this guy needlessly so that it could lead its newscast with an “exclusive.”

Yes, the defendant was on public trial. Yes, the judge allowed the camera in the courtroom (as the judge must unless the circumstances are deemed truly extraordinary). And yes, one can say, as Jones did, that such behavior in restrooms is a “major problem.”

But because WSB had this story to itself, its managers were in an extraordinary position. They had no competitive pressure. The verdict of Not Guilty gave WSB the opportunity to let this man off the hook, just as the judicial system had done.

The news biz routinely covers the sagas of accused persons, prior to ajudication. But this one-day case (apparently) had little if any pre-trial coverage. This was a horse that never got out of the barn. There was no compelling need to tell the story of a man found Not Guilty of some very embarrassing stuff.

Tom Jones had a perplexed look on his face as he delivered the story (though Jones often looks that way). Perhaps the argument was made to make the story simply go away. One can almost hear the 6 o’clock producer: “But I don’t have another lead!” So WSB couldn’t resist ballyhooing an “exclusive” that the other stations overlooked. This is one of those instances where people of conscience in the TV news biz– and there are such people– ought to have trouble sleeping at night.