Category Archives: LAF

No sale

Suspicious Package had a hiccup two weekends ago when I produced a piece that was long on earnest effort, but woefully short on humor. It was a solid concept, poorly executed:  Give used-car salesman treatment to a TV live truck.

Though some of my coworkers have tried to console me by suggesting the piece was still interesting, it looks completely flatfooted. I post it below, and welcome your abuse.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

NO Parking, posted with vodpod
Errin Haines, AP (L)

Errin Haines, AP

The good news: I recovered a bit with another piece (obviously shot the same day by John Samuel, a guy whose talent was badly underutilized on this shoot). This piece explores a theme that I expect to tap frequently: The love / hate relationship between the news media, and pretty much everybody else, including our viewers / readers / listeners.

As we shot the piece, the adorable Errin Haines stopped to chat. Slurping a big-gulp of tea, the Atlanta AP reporter begin to riff on the exact topic I was exploring in this particular Suspicious Package segment.  I obviously need to find an infusion of charm in these pieces.  Perhaps I can recruit Errin as a regular sidekick.

If only she’d shown up for the live truck segment.  She might have redeemed it too.

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Mouth of the South

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My ill-advised and poorly-executed quest for world domination got a questionable boost last week when WXIA aired the first Suspicious Package segment on Sunday’s 9am news.  It’s the video above.

Because of its double (or more) entendre qualities, Suspicious Package is the name I sometimes wish I’d used for this site instead of Live Apartment Fire.

The franchise, such as it is, is an inside-ball look at local TV news.    No matter how cynical we are, I think all of us in the TV news biz take our work seriously.  We value well-told and well-produced stories.  We value timely reporting, accuracy and fairness.  Our competitive qualities make us better and more aggressive journalists.  Our deadlines are facts-of-life.

Yet those qualities that define us — especially competitiveness and deadline timeliness — frequently drive our personnel into weird territory, and the audience sees it.  Yes, they’re glued to the tube when they’re stuck at home during Snowmageddon 2011.  They want to see what’s going on in the world outside their icy driveways.  But they are also clued into our antics, which are mostly driven by our desire to produce compelling material, and the fact that all of us in TV news are flawed human beings.

Local TV news is a source of information.  It’s also a bit of a hometown-flavored sideshow.  The audience recognizes the silly elements of our business, same as we insiders do.  Perhaps even more than we do.

I’m continually amazed that I work for a woman who not only recognizes it, but wants to shed light on it, and isn’t afraid of the audience’s reaction to it.  This on-camera bit was Ellen Crooke’s idea, not mine.  She pitched it when she first hired me.  I stalled for months, then scratched out a couple of scripts in November, and shot the demos while on paternity leave.  Except for requiring that I appear clean-shaven, she didn’t change a thing.

You are free, of course, to dispute or add to the points I’ve made.  It’s just one bloke’s opinion.

The second piece is shown below.  Here’s your insider look behind Suspicious Package: I shot them both the same day.  But for the second one, I zipped up the hoodie, hiding the t-shirt underneath, arguably giving the audience the impression I had dressed somewhat dissimilarly for the two pieces.

As if anyone really cared.

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suspak, posted with vodpod


Update: It appears they killed my segment Sunday due to  — weather, maybe?

Despite her better judgment, the bosslady has decided to allow a variation of this blog to appear in a WXIA newscast.  Depending on my ability to generate content, the whims of management, the numbers, the research etc., it could be a regular feature on 11 Alive’s Sunday morning news, which is broadcast for an hour at 9am.

The piece is essentially an on-camera rant, delivered as is if by the mutated offspring of Lewis Black and Andy Rooney.  The piece is self-shot in the office that has functioned as LAF HQ for lo these nearly three years.  There will be graphics to illustrate points.  But mostly, it’s yours truly runnin’ his damn mouth again.

I shot two different versions:  One at the end of a hirsute period concluding a three-week paternity leave, and one version at another time.  Tune in at 9am Sunday and find out which one got the green light!

November’s child

No child of mine, this

It’s a happy coincidence that my new young ‘un was born November 2, resulting in three weeks of downtime during this month’s sweeps.  Tune into 11 Alive during the Thanksgiving holiday and beyond, and you may stumble upon my dazed return to the news biz.  My hiatus started Monday, when Mrs. LAF went into labor and delivered a boy named Clinton early the morning of Election Day.

An actual photo, the origin of Clint’s name, and other musings on my curious adventure into later-in-life paternity is viewable on another blog I started some months ago at the direction of my mother, who remains disappointed that I didn’t become a photographer for National Geographic or a writer for Life.   I’ve kept it under wraps until now.  Click here and be the first to actually visit this site, which I may or may not update indefinitely depending on my level of energy and spare time.

You parents of babies may know something about that.

Either / or

Photo by Joeff Davis, Creative Loafing

About a month ago, a man named Joeff Davis rang my cell phone.  He identified himself as a photographer with Creative Loafing.  “I need to photograph you for our upcoming ‘Best Of’ issue,” said Davis, whose first name is pronounced “johf.”

“Does this mean I’m going to be the ‘best of’ something?” I asked.

“Can’t tell ya that.  Sorry,” was the answer.   “When can I shoot you?”

I figured the editors of that magazine had run out of local blogs, and had defaulted onto this one as a “best of” in Atlanta.  It didn’t make much sense though, given that this blog packed more punch prior to my employment at WXIA, and the Loaf had never acknowledged it then (except in irregular links in the daily “fresh loaf.”)

The “editor’s choice” arguably carries more prestige than the “reader’s choice.”  CL typically does a brief write-up on the “editor” winners, as was the case with this year’s Best Celebrity, Kevin Gillespie’s beard.  The shameless egomaniac in me would have welcomed a glowing graf in the Loaf.

Fast forward to last week, when the “Best Of” issue hit the streets.   Pecanne Log got the writeup for best local blog, again.   The wife found me under “Reader’s Choice:  Best Local TV, Magazine or Newspaper Reporter.”  I got my name in print, plus a photo online, but no writeup.  (Readers’ Choice for Best Blog was a blog I’d never read called The Quick + Dirty Dirty.  It appears to a be a lively, photo-filled blog about the nightlife and shopping exploits of two young Atlanta women.  Congrats to them, Pecanne Log, and Brook.)

In 2004, Mrs. LAF lovingly and shamelessly launched a mini-campaign to get her pals to enter my name in the “Best Local TV or News Reporter” category, and it worked. The Loaf gave me a piece of printed cardboard, suitable for framing.  Mrs. LAF framed it, and hung it alongside her 2000 “Editor’s Choice:  Best Radio DJ” award.

I was amused by the backhanded swipe that the “Best Local TV or News Reporter” award gave to the TV industry.  It was during the time when newspaper folk still had a bit of a superiority complex, generally speaking, vis a vis your TV news goonfolk.  The award clearly suggested that one could be a TV reporter, or a news reporter, but not both.

By 2010, CL had gone into bankruptcy, downsized its still-lively newspaper and generously revised its category title.  By putting newspaper, magazine and TV reporters in the same category, it seems to acknowledge that we’re all equally capable, institutionally-speaking, of covering news.

Mrs. LAF admits to one posting on Facebook encouraging friends to submit “best of” entries to the Loaf this summer.  She included me with Criminal Records, Aurora Coffee and other mainstays.  It was a casual, one-off post, she insists.  She wants me to believe that the people actually rose up and anointed me organically.  I believe her.

I also believe that no campaigning benefited The Quick + Dirty Dirty.   And OJ Simpson is innocent.

Age before beauty

164 years of awesome - photo by Ryan Young on Spink's equipment

  • From left: Alan Hand started at CBS in Atlanta in 1981, then switched to WSB;
  • John Spink started at the AJC in 1984;
  • Doug Richards started at WAGA in 1986, then upgraded to WXIA;
  • Richard Crabbe started at WXIA in 1980;
  • Bruce Mason started at WXIA in 1982;
  • Dave Darling started at WSB in 1981.

The combined experience of the News Professionals in this photo would date back to the James K. Polk administration, if one could legitimately combine such data into such an absurd and historically irrelevant conclusion. One could do that, particularly when one writes a blog that lacks the moderating influence of a sensible editor. In this case, I’ll renounce it myself.

More accurately, all these knuckleheads News Professionals managed to get themselves hired in Atlanta news during the Reagan administration (Crabbe, during the final year of Carter) and somehow managed to never leave. No wonder all those kids beating at the door to experience the Great Adventure of somewhat-large market news can’t get a foot in. These damned old guys won’t open a slot for them. Now you know who to blame.

Another old guy: J.K. Polk

Old guys (and gals) have their advantages. We’ve already successfully hurdled the “jaded and dispirited” phase of our careers, a phase that vexes many of the thirty-somethings who enter midlife asking “you mean this is my illustrious career? I had hoped for better.” We all wanted to work for 60 Minutes once. We’ve adjusted, as will they.

Sadly for those ambitious market-climbing youngsters, for every Crabbe, Hand, and Spink et al, there are another five Spradlins, Ashes, Bevelles, Belchers and Crawleys. So the clog in the pipeline is thick — but it’s getting grayer and craggier.

But it’s all relative. I agreed to pose with these News Professionals because I knew I could say I was the least senior of the bunch. It’s a curious way to cling to what little is left of my youth.

Why I’d want to do that, I don’t know.

Transmission chip

Bill Kalway, in WXIA's sat truck with one of Carrollton PD's finest

“Sir, is this your vehicle?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“May I come in?”

“Please do.”

“Sir, I’ve gotten a complaint that you’re using this vehicle to send messages to microchips implanted in the brains of residents around here.   Got any ID?”

“Ma’am, I work at an Atlanta TV station.  This is a satellite truck.”

Satellite truck? What’s that?”

“It sends a signal to a satellite 22,000 miles in orbit, which then sends it back to earth.”

“…And then into the chips implanted in the brains of our residents?  Sir, step out of the vehicle, please.”

“This is television.  We send the signals into outer space, then the TV station receives them, then sends them to a transmitter or a cable company, which then sends the picture to TV sets in homes across north Georgia.”

Dan Reilly, WXIA; Richard Elliott, WSB

“So you expect me to believe that you send a signal 44,000 miles in order to get it to my TV set just up the road?


“Whatever you say, pal.   What are all these other trucks doing here?”

“Same thing.”

“You know, my iphone sends a live video picture to another iphone.  I don’t need a truck or satellites or outer space. ”

“But that’s a phone.  This is television.”

“Right.  Turn around, hands behind your back.”

“You can’t arrest me for committing acts of television.”

“Tell it to the judge, spaceman.”

OK.  So, the cops really ventured into our sat truck to tell us we needed to move it to another piece of property, which wasn’t very interesting.