Category Archives: yates paul

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.


Atlanta TV news took a sudden a-block interest in politics Thursday. An imminent primary election might logically explain it, except it doesn’t.

Instead, we can thank Jesse Jackson. His whispered “cut his nuts off” remark about Barack Obama spurred an atypical lead story on WGCL’s 6pm news. The story is what producers like to call a “talker.” So Tony McNary talked to what appeared to be a random Obama supporter, then supplemented the piece with feed video. In its quest to find and hold an audience, a good ol’ fashioned castration reference may be what it takes to get WGCL to do local coverage of politics. Or, drunks and naked women. Read on.

At 6, WAGA led with a Paul Yates piece on national media reports that John McCain is considering Gov. Sonny Perdue as a possible vice president. Like McNary, Yates leaned heavily on file video. His best source was Chuck Clay of Insider Advantage, the web-based political reporting-and-polling outfit. It posted a twelve-sentence story saying that Perdue is in the top four of McCain’s VP list. Yates apparently didn’t ask Clay the obvious question: Is McCain that hard up?

The best of the bunch appeared deep in WGCL’s 4pm news. Jennifer Mayerle discovered that the owner of a strip club named Strokers is running for DeKalb County commissioner. The incumbent, Elaine Boyer, sent out a flyer headlined: “Terri Fischer’s business is getting young women to dance naked for drunk men.”

And it got better. When Mayerle interviewed Fischer, she hilariously split hairs. She claimed that a) the nude dancers at Strokers “don’t work for me. They’re independent contractors,” and b) not all the men in the club are drunk. “That’s an insult,” said the indignant strip club owner, who is now suing Boyer.

Not that there’s anything wrong with owning a strip club, which is a legal business licensed by DeKalb County. But the race is among many largely overlooked by the local media and TV in particular. Kudos to WGCL for finding an interesting local political story, and producing it well.