Category Archives: winne watch


anchorman-2-poster-will-ferrell-ron-burgundyThe biggest cinema event in Atlanta TV news will premiere some time next month.  I’m anticipating Anchorman 2 with a mixture of anticipation and dread.  On one hand, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy was the most important movie ever made about local TV news.  Based on that alone, the sequel is worth anticipating.  On the other hand, there will inevitably be recycled jokes.  The Hangover 2 was a godawful sequel to a fine lowbrow comedy.  Anchorman 2 has potential for similar wretchedness.

But  — it was filmed in Atlanta.  One suspects there will be cameo appearances by local news folk.  I’ve heard no scuttlebutt of any appearances from any personnel from my station; I’m rooting for the other non-WSB stations to have some placement in the movie.  If there’s going to be anybody in it from WSB, I’m rooting, of course, for Mark Winne in a trench coat.

The producers of the movie did not call me, unfortunately (and I failed to make any effort to reach out them).  My appearances in Squidbillies should have had them hot on my heels.  Apparently, my ability to churn other peoples’ comedic material in cartoon voiceover never got on their radar.

Early Cuyler

Early Cuyler

Next week I’m due to do a voiceover for my fourth Squidbillies episode.  This appears to be making me into a bona fide recurring role.  In each episode, I’ve played “Doug Richards,” a reporter appearing on TV within a graphics package that looks remarkably like WXIA’s.

My acting skills are clearly limited.  I suspect they feel they’re kinda stuck with me though, given that they’ve already got a template for my caricature.  Plus, they work with my wife.

120816123554_doug_20on_20squids_0My character is a plot device.  So far, he’s been called upon to

  • report on a crime spree by the main character;
  • report on a north Georgia cave that seemed to alter the theory of evolution;
  • report on the Atlanta Pride parade (mistaken by the main character, Early Cuyler, as a parade devoted to country music legend Charley Pride);
  • report on (fill in the blank.  They haven’t sent me the script for next week’s taping yet.)

So I won’t be in Anchorman 2.  But I will be in Squidbillies, season nine, episode TBD — assuming my boss OKs the script, and I make the episode’s final edit.

As an aside, can we get the guy who does the voice of Dan Halen to cut some news promos on some Atlanta station please?

In other news, an Atlanta radio show sampled a story I produced last week and put it in a song.  I didn’t even know those guys were still on the radio.

Meantime — one of my coworkers shows up in a ten-frame Daily Show cameo, and the flicker of hope remains kindled for yours truly.

Why WSB makes me puke

What follows is petty, childish and very likely, unfair.  It reflects chatter I’ve overheard in the last few years among colleagues and competitors — the ones who don’t work at WSB, of course.  It fails to fully reflect my respect and affection for many of the hard-working men and women who work at WSB  — including the individual whose Twitter bio is described below.

cox-wirelessI root for media companies that produce local newspapers, host local television stations and pay people to produce quality journalism.

Cox Enterprises does all those things.  But Cox disgusts me.  In particular, its Atlanta properties make me want to puke.

I write this as a competitor and as a consumer of its product.  I have sunk many of my American dollars into its coffers.  I have subscribed non-stop to the Cox-owned Atlanta newspaper since 1986 and still fetch a copy of the AJC from my driveway seven days a week.  (I still prefer “Covers Dixie Like the Dew” to “Credible. Compelling. Complete.”  Barf.)

So I’ve been a small-scale stakeholder in the many rises and falls of the AJC.  When the economy (and Craigslist) sent it into the crapper in 2008, I grieved.  I rooted for the newspaper to stay relevant and profitable.  I don’t know how profitable it is, but I like what I read many mornings.  It does more with less, yet it has re-emerged as the best government watchdog in town.

So why the nausea?wsb013

Very simply, it’s the chest-beating.  Every single time the newspaper produces a story about the Atlanta Public Schools scandal, it includes a box that informs the reader that the AJC broke the story and has followed the story at every step.  Every word is true.  The AJC did great work sizing up the test scores and bringing the scandal to light.

And I’m OK with some chest-beating.  All news organizations do it.  But the AJC never passes up an opportunity to do it on countless stories.  Its putrid feedback loop of endless self-congratulation and self-promotion makes me want to hurl.  Lord knows how bad it would be if the AJC had won the Pulitzer it undoubtedly craved for APS story.

This is in stark comparison to the pre-2008 AJC that carefully and almost painfully separated its marketing from its editorial content.  We’ll let local TV sully itself with that, you could almost hear them saying on Marietta St.  How things have changed.  Even its Sunday editorial page column by Kevin Riley or whomever, wherein the boss purports to bring transparency to the newsgathering process, ends up being a predictable exercise in chest-beating.  Barf.

Maybe WSB-TV is as self-congratulatory as its “partner” in Cox crime, the AJC.  However, self-promotion has been part of the TV news game since forever.  TV is competitive.  The AJC is the only game in town, newspaper-wise.  So TV chest-beating is more defensible than the AJC’s.

But has there ever been a TV news promo more putrid than this one?

When a gunman burst into a local school, he forced an administrator to call our newsroom! “He said he wants me to give a message to channel two.”  Channel two Action News heard his demands — and the gunshots.  We broke the news!

First of all, let SpaceyG shed a little light on this:  The gunman “told me to call one of the news stations. But I asked him which one, it was so many. And he said, ‘I don’t care. Just call one!’” according to WSB’s own interview with the administrator, Antoinette Tuff, who indicated WSB’s number popped up on a Google search of Atlanta TV stations.

But aside from that, here’s WSB’s message:  Hostage-holding, school-invading gunmen love them some channel two action news!  And so should you.

All together now:  Barf.

WSB’s putridness is frequently personified nowadays by its crews in the field.

The only station that matters

The only station that matters

Used to be, WSB’s field hands shat stinky shit like the rest of us.  For many years, they toiled in a flawed, thankless business like everybody else grinding out local TV news, working small miracles on ridiculous deadlines.  I’m sure they still do that.  They have a 4pm deadline, for crissakes.

But many of their crews are now believing their own press, the one that begins with a banner in their newsroom that says “#1 News Team in America.”  Too many of them bring an air of laughable pomposity to the field, like the best athlete at a crappy college who forgets he’s not playing in the NFL.  Hey WSB:  You’re still covering traffic wrecks and apartment fires for the local friggin news.

One need look no further than everybody’s favorite WSB reporter, Mark Winne.  Go to his Twitter page, and he describes himself, in part:  “…TV reporter at #1 major market station in America. Priorities: God, Family, Truth for our viewers…”  Barf.

Even their interns make me puke.  Who was that heavily made-up blonde driving a baby-blue Hummer to assignments this summer?  Barf.

Humbler times:  Ray Moore, WSB

Humbler times: Ray Moore, WSB

One evening at a local watering hole, I made unexpected smalltalk with a WSB manager.  I casually remarked about “worrying about ratings.”  The retort:  “We don’t worry about ratings anymore,” the manager sniffed. “Except by comparison with other stations across the country.  Nowadays, we consider WPVI (a wildly popular Philadelphia station) our competitor.”  But not the Atlanta stations.


Every word was true, I’m sure.  WSB’s ratings are titanic.  And I will admit:  They do a good job of blanketing metro Atlanta.  They have more crews in the field than the rest of us. Their field hands work hard.  They doggedly uncover fresh elements to ongoing stories.  They’re enterprising and they’re tough.

Except for WGCL, all the Atlanta TV stations started in the same place.  WSB has covered news well and marketed themselves well.  They have ascended to the top of the Atlanta market through hard work and skill and a bit of help from ABC. I admire that about them.

I remain a huge fan of many of the individuals I see working at WSB.  Fortunately, there remains a strong contingent of their staff who take the station’s success with an appropriate measure of humility.

I would even admit to a bit of envy when I see their ability to deploy resources and technology that I may lack when trying to cover the same story.cow-face

But you’re still covering the same story as me.  And your shit smells no better now than it did twenty years ago.

WSB’s stock in trade is still covering meatball news, the grinding metro mayhem that makes local news unwatchable except as spectacle.  (Whenever the AJC needs a mayhem quote, the newspaper nearly always references its source as “channel 2 action news.”)   And they process it with little storytelling nuance, laced with much grab-the-audience-by-the-throat hype.

WSB has the subtlety of a sledgehammer.  Yet it’s that blunt force that makes them who they are.

And like a cow gobbling up her placenta after birthing a calf, the TV audience eats it up.   So yeah — it’s y’all’s damn fault.


Winne Watch 1.23.12

“He’s agreed to talk to Mark Winne and nobody else.”

Those spirit-draining words came from Lt. Sean Smith, the new temporary PIO for the Gwinnett County Sheriff.  We were at the Gwinnett County jail, which was holding inmate Victor Hill.  Hill, a former sheriff, had been arrested following a public corruption indictment.

Sometime this summer: The writer with Mr. Winne

Every local media goon and their brother had requested a jailhouse interview with Hill, myself included.  Hill had a colorful history.  He’d been a bit unorthodox, shall we say, when he was sheriff.  He lost re-election and has been running to regain his seat in 2012’s election.

Why he would agree to talk solely to the WSB reporter was beyond my understanding.  Sure, Winne’s a fine reporter for whom I have much love and mad respect.  And sure, Atlanta’s TV viewership misguidedly turns to WSB in droves for its local news. Hill would have had a substantial audience by giving Winne the exclusive.

I didn’t expect Hill to say anything particularly interesting in a jailhouse interview.  But I still wanted the video image of the former lawman dressed in a prison uniform, predictably professing his innocence.

And I didn’t want to see it on WSB without seeing it on WXIA.

Unfortunately, Hill’s attorney was complicit in the arrangement.  When he walked into the lobby, he was highly agitated from a sleepless effort to post bond for Hill, and adamant that he speak only to Winne.  When asked why, he wouldn’t / couldn’t explain it.

My options were limited:  Credit Winne with a “win,” and watch him traipse into the jail for an exclusive; or try to do something about it.   I only had one choice:  I had to gripe.  Like you, I hate whiners.  But I also hate getting my ass kicked by a competitor — especially when I’m on the property, watching it happen.

Fortunately, Gwinnett County Sheriff Butch Conway was answering his phone at just the right moment.  Hill is only going to talk to Winne, Conway reiterated.  I don’t have much say in it.

Conway knew there were reporters from four Atlanta TV stations in his parking lot.  I couldn’t plausibly argue to replace Winne as the exclusive agent of Hill’s utterances.  But Conway has a good relationship with local media.  I appealed to his sense of fairness.  Without saying it explicitly — because I didn’t want to back him into a corner — I was asking:  Who’s in charge at your jail?  Victor Hill, or you?

I proposed an unorthodox compromise:  Agree to Hill’s request to only talk to Winne, but let TV cameras from the other stations record the interview.

Do what, now? 

Let Winne ask the questions, I said.  That gives Hill what he wants.  But don’t allow the interview unless everybody gets to record it.

Conway hung up.  Shortly thereafter, the PIO was telling the assembled media that they’d get a chance to record Winne’s interview.  Winne reacted only by engaging the PIO in a hushed conversation afterward.

Minutes later, the PIO escorted Hill’s attorney, plus Winne and his photographer, past the security checkpoint and into the jail.  Hill had to agree to the arrangement, Lt. Smith said.  If he doesn’t, then we’ll escort WSB back out emptyhanded.

This was a worrisome moment.  Winne was back in the jail with Victor Hill and no other news media.  He was one “REC” button click away from the exclusive I’d tried to undo.   Winne is a wily guy.  If anybody could bamboozle an inexperienced PIO, it was Winne.

A long fifteen minutes or so passed.

Then Lt. Smith reappeared in the lobby.  The cameras can go back, he told Winne’s competitors.  The reporters have to stay in the lobby.

Aungelique Proctor and I sat in the lobby.  We chatted about our children and looked at our wristwatches.

Mark Winne was the only reporter allowed in to ask him questions, intoned Justin Farmer as he led into Winne’s 5pm live shot.  Winne had gotten his exclusive, in a manner of speaking.

But my day turned out just fine.

Mr. Popular

To:  Dough Richards

Even Mr. Winne is chortling at this "best of" thing.

From:  LAF

Re:  “Best of,” my ass.

Some of us have noticed that you’re named as Creative Loafing’s 2011 readers choice “Best Local TV, Magazine or Newspaper Reporter.”  This automatically raises some questions about you, and I doubt you’re prepared to answer them.

Why you?  You’re a TV reporter who writes a blog.  Readers of blogs may be more inclined to vote in the Loaf’s annual “best of” sweepstakes.  Yet readers of your blog know you aren’t the “best” at anything except, possibly, navel-gazing in public.  Have you actually seen what you look like, staring at your own navel while tapping on a keyboard?  It’s not very attractive.  And your navel has not improved with age, big guy.

“Best?”  Really?  Really?  Without even using my brain, I can name a dozen reporters in Atlanta with better sources, who break more news, and/or who can write circles around your ass.  Not to mention, they can actually get newsmakers to return their phone calls.  Have you noticed that it takes people a day-and-a-half to return your phone calls?  I have.  Is it because they take you seriously as the “best” of any-damn-thing?  I think you just answered your own question.

Your voters.  You can deny it all you want — and you went to great lengths to do it last year, when you “won” the same “award” — but it’s quite obvious you engineered a campaign to gin up votes in this contest.  Oh, I hear you denying it again.  But it’s not passing the stink test, amigo.  Are you that insecure?  You think Mark Winne needs some teetering-on-bankruptcy weekly hipster mag to validate his professional status?  These girls made no bones about their desire to be CL’s Miss Popularity in the “best blog” category.  You should mimic their approach to honesty.

Your humility.  Please spare us the fractured effort to be all “oh, I’m not worthy” and just go ahead and thank the people that actually took the time to click the link and scroll through the thing to find the category and actually type in your name.  Nobody outside of CL knows the vote tally, but it stands to reason that tens of people actually did just that, and somehow remembered to add your name by the time they got there.  If that many.  So enough, already, with the hand wringing.  Just say thanks.


Winne watch 5.13.10

Mark Winne, WSB

“…Before one of three robbers posing as police gunned down Donnie Glass, one of them stole his big platinum ring with diamonds.  And now (the detective) hopes a description of the fake cops rings true with someone who calls in a tip.”

WSB’s Mark Winne, in a piece about the unsolved murder of a man killed by men posing as cops.

During his live intro, Winne sprinted through a door, then crouched behind it where the victim took the fatal shot.  Drama points:  √√√√√ (out of five possible).

Secret Squirrel

It appears a cluster of irony (and God knows what else) -fueled middle-aged women has created a Facebook page called Mark Winne Is a Badass Crime Reporter.

The creator is blogger Grayson Daughters, who spends much of her time online clobbering mainstream media.  The “irony” clue is that the group lists a president, vice president, secretary and treasurer.

At this writing, there are five members.

Winne Watch 3.12.10

Secret Squirrel

“Fast as he was on the field, you’re saying he wasn’t on the run?” – WSB’s Mark Winne, speaking to an attorney about a former Georgia Tech football player accused of making terroristic threats.

Winne stood in light rain in front of the Cobb County jail for the opening of his live shot Friday.  He tossed to a 1:45 or so package.  When he returned for the tag, he was standing in a downpour.

This revealed a classic reporter-in-rainfall dilemma:  How do you simultaneously hold an umbrella, a hand mic, and a notebook with the mere two hands God has given you?  And flip the pages of the notebook?

And how do you do it without appearing to give the audience the finger?

As they like to say at WSB:  We’re number one!   Manual dexterity points: √ digit (out of five possible.)

Winne Watch 2.11.10

So the key is:  Who are the three men in the small, dark compact car?”

Secret Squirrel

– WSB’s Mark Winne, closing a live shot about the unsolved killing of a gay man.  Police are investigating it as a possible hate crime.

Winne’s intro had an almost manic demonstrative quality.  The black trenchcoat was classic gumshoe wear.  The words were pretty plain, however.  Drama points:  √ for text, √√√√√ for performance (out of possible five).

Winne Watch 1.21.10

Secret Squirrel

Readers of this site have clamored for the return of “Winne Watch.”

OK, that would be a broad overstatement.  The truth is,  I miss it.  I also suspect Mr. Winne, once again a respected competitor,  doesn’t mind the attention.  So here goes:  The return of Winne Watch.

You’re welcome.

“J.J. was shot in the face at a fish fry on Father’s Day weekend.” – Mark Winne, WSB on December 18.

The story detailed the search for the guy who shot J.J.  Drama points:  √ (out of five possible.)

Winne Watch 7.20.09

Down in the lab:  Mark Winne, WSB

Down in the lab: Mark Winne, WSB

Secret Squirrel

Secret Squirrel

“GBI medical examiner Steve Atkinson says the victim had no top teeth at death, but nine on the bottom, two with fillings… Reporting live from the morgue, Mark Winne channel two action news.”

– WSB’s Mark Winne, reporting on an unidentified murder victim whose skeletal remains were found in a shallow grave.  During his live shot, Winne showed some of the victim’s clothing, hair and a decayed ace bandage worn on his arm.  Winne’s “live — from the morgue!” outcue is worth the wait.    Drama points:  √√√ (out of five)

Winne Watch 5.4.09

Secret Squirrel

Secret Squirrel

“This is the guy you want people to take a good, close look at.” WSB’s Mark Winne, interviewing Snellville police chief Roy Whitehead.

“The guy” is suspected of killing a young mother in a Target parking lot.  He’s wearing a wig and a fake moustache.  The surveillance video is almost impossibly pixelated; the disguise likewise makes his ID highly unlikely.  (Later in the piece, Winne carefully acknowledged that “the guy” could be a woman.)

Do you know this man?

Do you know this man?

That said, the absurdity of the disguise and the horror of the killing — an apparently premeditated hit in broad daylight in a public place — made this story pretty interesting (and a nice 6pm lead for WSB).

... and wave 'em like you just don't care....

Our only complaint is Winne’s insistence on calling the gunman / hit man / cold-blooded killer a “shooter.”  A lemon drop is a shooter.  This guy is a murderer.  Winne also allowed the police chief to tell most of the story.  We approve of the technique, but it regrettably minimizes the staccato Winne voice track style.

Drama points:  √ (out of five) Absurdity points:  √√√√ (out of five)