What's that smell?
WXIA’s Kevin Rowson is an uncommonly sensible local TV reporter. He’s level-headed, even-handed and can smell baloney from a mile away. When the whiff emanates from his own newsroom, and that of his Atlanta competitors, he recognizes it instantly.
Recently, WXIA sent Rowson to a Cobb County home where firefighters, police and animal control officers had gathered with unusual gusto. TV news producers often salivate at such stuff, more so if weapons are drawn or if animals have been abused. (TV producers love animals and humans as much as anybody. But if it’s going down, they want it on their station first.)
Rowson arrived to find an unusual situation: A man living in filth, apparently unable to care for himself nor the five cats whose carcasses had been removed by animal control. From Rowson’s blog:
What they found inside was horrifying and disgusting… There were feces and fleas all over the home and they removed five dead cats. They also found the homeowner lying on a couch, in obvious need of medical attention. He was taken to Kennestone Hospital for treatment. The next day, he was released from the hospital and returned to the same disgusting home.
Police filed no charges. Rowson and his supervisors at WXIA made the right decision and killed the story. A few folks commenting on Rowson’s blog disagreed. But most agreed.
Rowson told readers that a state agency called Adult Protective Services (kinda like DFCS for adults) began an investigation, as did the Cobb Co. building inspector’s office.
WXIA has greater discretion than other Atlanta stations in such cases. The station produces only an hour of news in the early evening, half the size of the “beasts” that WSB and WAGA feed at 5 and 6pm. It can afford to let a guy like Kevin Rowson make the right decision on a personal tragedy that, at first, smells like news.
The four Atlanta TV stations have sent some of their most competent and experienced reporters to cover the trial of Arthur Tesler. He’s the only Atlanta cop to contest criminal charges against him as a result of the wrongful killing-by-police of 88/92-year old Kathryn Johnston on Neal St. NW. Opening statements were Monday. Some observations:
WAGA’s Aungelique Proctor made the best use of the audio played in court of 39 gunshots, the number of shots fired at Johnston. Her photog edited the courtroom audio under file video of the October 2006 scene, making a video edit with (nearly) each “pow!” It was a powerful way to tell the prosecutor’s story. Two other stations simply played the audio under wallpaper video from the courtroom.
WSB’s Diana Davis was apparently the only reporter to incorporate Markel Hutchins into the story. Hutchins became the Johnston family spokesman, and he made himself conspicuously available in the media area across from the Fulton Co. Courthouse Monday. We came to respect Hutchins, who kept his rhetoric surprisingly cool as the incendiary Neal St. story heated. But Hutchins has the whiff of a grandstander– exacerbated by the fact that he’s now running for Congress. We’re surprised Davis used his predictable news conference material in her otherwise solid coverage.
WGCL also used Hutchins. But 46 used his material in a separate anchor reader following Rebekka Schramm’s package. That made sense. (Someday soon, we’ll figure out how to correctly spell Ms. Schramm’s first name.)
WXIA’s Kevin Rowson chose not to use Hutchins or the gunshot audio at all. Yet he still had the most interesting piece. In a story that can get bogged down with detail, Rowson’s presentation and graphics were clean, and he clearly outlined the players and the stakes in the case. Rowson also smartly led off his 7pm piece with Tesler’s defense. The prosecution’s case against the rogue cops has been made ad nauseum in the media; the details of the defense were probably the only real news to come out of the first day of the trial.