The dump

You’ve probably been scouring the internet for Georgia oddities from the 1990s, as chronicled by a fuzzy headed local news reporter.

Work with me here.

You’ve been wondering about the guy who made jewelry out of prescription medicine.

You long to hear the voice, again, of the elderly gent who made a roadside garden out of discarded toilets.

You’re having a nostalgic twinge for the occulist who creates artistic pieces that substitute for what are commonly known as glass eyes.

Plus that guy who built drum kits into the dashboards of his automobiles.


A reporter in Mom jeans does a story about socks

A reporter in Mom jeans does a story about socks

Look no further.  Yours truly has been spending way too much free time dumping those stories, and more onto a Youtube channel.  So far the channel has 96 videos. There are hundreds more, painstakingly dubbed from Beta cassette to digital over the last — what, nine years?  Yes.

It lives again, in all its dated four-by-three glory.

The source is a franchise I fronted from 1996-2000 which produced feature stories that nearly always aired in the :45 slot of WAGA’s hour-long 10pm newscast, three to four days a week.  The franchise was a high point of what passes for my illustrious career, providing glorious freedom to write my own schedule and assignments — something every reporter craves but rarely gets in local news.

It also marked a high point in my changeable relationship with my boss, Budd McEntee, who endorsed the effort and the content for most of that time. “You’re kind of an urbane Leroy Powell,” he once said, which is one of the highest compliments I’ve ever gotten.  Every week I kind of pinched myself, disbelieving the project was allowed to continue. When Budd abruptly pulled the plug in 2000, I was heartbroken but not at all surprised.

One could also argue that the project was an opportunity squandered. I had enormous freedom, yet I rarely used the time to afflict the comfortable or comfort the afflicted. The newsroom had another team of folks who filled that role quite capably.

Enough introspection.

I’m dumping these stories to YouTube for several reasons.

A) I can;

B) I want my kids to be able to watch them, should they choose to do so, at their leisure without having to search through Dad’s hard drives;

C) The folks featured in these stories *might* enjoy internet immortality;

D) I feel obliged to document certain bits of unimportant history, such as the 4am Olympic torch run through Little 5 Points; the now-closed decrepit old bar called the Austin Avenue Buffet in now-trendy Inman Park, the shuttered 85 North Drive-In theater in Chamblee, the hair salon at now-mothballed Engel Stadium in Chattanooga.

The archive reveals I had a fixation with roadside curiosities. Aside from the guy who used toilets as planters, I’m especially fond of the story about the guy in Chatsworth whose lovely sense of symmetry made his junkyard of lawn mowers and hubcaps worth a couple minutes of TV time.

After producing a story we called “Dueling giant chairs,” I extended my roadside fixation to include giant fiberglass cows and giant fiberglass chickens.

Science provided an abundance of raw material.  This included the researcher who studied the aggressive tendencies of crawfish; the Georgia agricultural researchers who used waterbeds to make dairy cows more comfortable and more productive; and the kids who tracked nesting loggerhead turtles.

I’ve forced myself to watch every piece I’ve uploaded.  I recommend small doses.  The writing is decent enough, but I see that I leaned on certain stylistic crutches which, viewed with two decades of hindsight, can appear a bit tiresome.

On the other hand, I frequently waxed semi-poetic about utter bullshit. In my line of work, that’s a useful skill.

A guy at the Atlanta airport teaches a reporter how to putt

A guy at the Atlanta airport teaches a reporter how to putt

If I were to overanalyze it, I would say that the body of work represents one team’s fascination with humanity’s quirks (seemingly cementing the adjective “quirky” to any subsequent description of yours truly).  It took almost no time for Andi Larner to figure out that I was a feature reporter who had little patience for soaring emotion or feel-good quaintness. I wanted weird, and together we gleefully scoured Georgia (and occasionally, North America) to find it.  With scant exception, she edited every piece.  She still toils in WAGA’s newsroom, one-woman-banding the occasional curious feature, a self-taught photographer who shot her first stories on an Ipad.  She is a treasure. She undoubtedly deserves a raise.

The talented Rodney Hall bailed out of local news in 1999 or so to thrive in the freelance world. I last saw him with a camera at a Donald Trump rally this summer.

If nothing else, the collection catalogues the horrors of my wardrobe and haircuts during the late 90s. I’d abandoned my reliable yet expensive barber for cheaper talent that produced some abominable haircuts.  (I also did an overwrought story on that abandonment, suggested by a supervisor who had probably noticed the difference but didn’t have the heart to straight-up tell me my hair was faltering.)

I seemed to have a couple of go-to orange sweaters that are quite overused. My wardrobe advice for any man in similar straits now would be: Wear a sportcoat or suit, always.

Bullsh!t walks

Twenty years ago, I produced two stories that depicted me as a homeless guy wandering among visitors to Atlanta’s 1996 Olympics. The premise still makes me cringe. Yet, I’d do it again.

"Sir, may I help you?"

“Sir, may I help you?”

The story was rooted in abundant anecdotal evidence that authorities were aggressively rooting out downtown’s homeless folk in order to prevent them from mingling with Olympic visitors. Most of the evidence came from the homeless themselves, and their advocates. Ask the authorities, and they’d look at you like you were crazy.

In 1996, I was into my first year as a mostly self-assigned feature reporter at WAGA. Prior to the start of the Olympics, I scheduled a two-week vacation and took my kids on a road trip to Yellowstone. During that period, I grew a scraggly beard. On the way back I stopped to see my cousin, a farmer in Missouri, who gave me a well-worn trucker-hat, stained with sweat and motor oil and livestock fluids and God knows what else. In exchange, I gave him a “channel 5 eyewitness news” hat, which I don’t think he ever wore.

Wearing the hat, the beard, and some clothes that I’d gunked-up in Peachtree Creek near the TV station, I set out for the just-opened Centennial Olympic Park. The idea was hatched by the late Robert Miller, a streetwise photog who enthusiastically ditched his big-boy camera for a consumer-grade camcorder, so as to blend in with other camcorder-toting tourists. An intern tagged along as Robert’s apparent on-camera foil, while I lurked beyond her wearing a wireless mic.

At this point, let me say: Any story that’s rooted in bullshit is suspect.  Any act that compromises the honesty of a reporter is dangerous. We are constantly trying to earn the trust of the audience; when we integrate bullshit into our coverage, it undermines that.

But it’s also true that we often get better information when we don’t fully disclose our intentions. In this case, a story approached traditionally would have yielded predictable results.

My act included a wobbly walk and a fluctuating grimace that made me look a little nuts. After entering the park, it didn’t take long for a plainclothes GBI agent to stop me.  His “probable cause” was chilling: “Somebody said you was looking at little kids when you walked by. Anything to that?”

That guy gets frisked

That guy gets frisked

It was a bullshit-meets-bullshit moment. When he found my wireless mic, my act unraveled.

A day later, we returned. At the suggestion of WAGA management, I toned down the quirky mannerisms. But it was clear the cops had been briefed about my presence. They mostly steered clear.  Part two was more of the same, minus the accusatory police encounter.

This story has an off-camera sidebar.

After getting into character on the first day, I entered the TV station and immediately raised suspicion. Two strapping photogs and longtime friends saw me first: Travis Shields and Steve Zumwalt. “Sir, may I help you?” offered Travis. My attire was apparently convincing.

They began to circle toward me in an improvised pincer movement, cornering me in an engineering room. When one of them grabbed me, I ID’d myself, drawing embarrassed whoops. You’ve got to go into the newsroom! Travis said.  Great idea.

The moment I entered the newsroom, Leslie Duffield effortlessly and loudly ID’d me: Whoa, look at Doug! Cover blown but with the intrigue of my co-workers stoked, the news director’s administrative assistant made an evil suggestion:  Go into Budd’s office. They’re having a meeting.

So I burst open the door as she dramatically exclaimed Sir! You can’t go in there!  Budd McEntee, the news director, was with his management team, plus the station’s general manager.  There was awkward silence, followed by Sir, may I help you? from McEntee. I just stood there and breathed hard.

After a moment the general manager, Jack Sander, produced a forearm and used it to sort-of pin me against a wall. Almost simultaneously, Michael Carlin, the investigative EP, blurted dismissively: Oh. That’s Doug Richards.

Disappointment. Groans. Annoyance. I beat a hasty exit.

I somehow still had a job, despite my bullshit.

This corrects an earlier version misidentifying the news director’s administrative assistant in 1996 whose name, regrettably, I’ve spaced. I’m a bit embarrassed. She kinda ruled.

I hate Fridays

I love Fridays.

Friday sucks you in, a temporal destination, a goalpost, an illusory finish line of the workweek. I hate Fridays.

Friday is a destroyer, the marker by which we cheerfully advance our daily and weekly lives while wondering where the time went.

April 1987, in which your boy chalks up one more Friday

April 1987, in which your boy chalks up one more Friday

On June 1, 1986 I began work in TV news in Atlanta.  Over those nearly 30 years, I’ve celebrated 1552 Fridays.

Most of them were sweet, blessed benchmarks of a workweek successfully concluded. Even the Fridays that led to Saturday workdays and more still had that “Friday” taste.

(One standout exception was Friday March 12, 1993.  A day shift routinely vectored toward quitting time — and then I learned I had to spend Friday night in north Georgia because “snow” was expected.  I vividly remember my annoyance while riding to Pickens County.  The snow turned into an epic weekend-long blizzard, and a remarkable experience.)

Accumulate enough Fridays, and next thing you know they’ll call you “veteran reporter.”  It’ll happen in what seems like the wink of an eye.


Thirty years ago at WAGA, I was assigned a desk, a typewriter and one of those telephones with a bunch of buttons that lit up.  If I’d asked, they would have also assigned me an ashtray.

My first workday, a Monday, I covered a truck accident on I-285 at ML King Jr. Drive.  The photog versed me in the vernacular; 285 was “the perimeter.”  One could shorten the other street to “MLK.”

The live truck operator climbed onto the roof of the vehicle and manually pointed a parabolic dish toward a microwave receiving tower.  We fed raw video, shot on 3/4″ tape that rolled through a Bible-sized cassette, through the microwave link.

That Monday, I felt very unsteady learning the circuitry of my new big-market job. But that inaugural Friday undoubtedly came with a sense of triumph.

In the ensuing years, I observed the arrival and departure of hundreds of coworkers and competitors.  I have to suppress a snort whenever I meet a newcomer; instead, I try to empathize by remembering the vertigo that accompanies a new TV news job in a new town.  I move through town now with confidence and experience, though experience can also lead to inertia.  Bossfolk are always on the lookout for that.

Newcomers can do some amazing things.  Three years into his stint at WXIA, Jeremy Campbell (with Matt Livingston, Erin Gutierrez and Lauren Rudeseal) has produced a very watchable, episodic and eye-opening web-only series about heroin abuse in Atlanta’s upper-income suburbs.

I wish I’d done it.  It never occurred to me to even try.

The workweeks fly by in a series of checklists:

  • Get up early, brew coffee
  • Run four / five miles
  • Sort out story ideas while running
  • Solve life’s problems while running
  • Shower and such
  • Fight traffic
  • Attend an editorial meeting
  • Make phone calls / contacts / appointments to gather material
  • Be fair. Keep perspective. Yet make the story sing
  • Meet social media obligations
  • Eyeball the deadline and arrange logistics accordingly
  • Log video, write for TV
  • Make homemade / web-based graphics for TV
  • Read into a microphoneuntitled-1
  • (Edit, if you’re a one-man-band, which I’m not. But I do edit occasionally)
  • Write material in the TV rundown
  • Make the deadline
  • Write material on the web template (and respect the fact that this should be higher on the checklist whenever possible)
  • Get the story right
  • Make contacts for upcoming stories / try to learn stuff nobody else knows
  • Deliver a clean, compelling live shot
  • Shut down computer and go home

Somewhere on the checklist should be “come up with that amazing episodic webcast.”  Even without that, it’s no surprise the Fridays come in rapid succession.

In recent years, I’ve begun to address my conflicts about Friday.  Cheery coworkers would say “thank God it’s Friday.” I would cheerily respond: “Yes. Another week closer to death.”  I got some strange looks.  I mostly don’t say that anymore.

One can update skills and contacts; buy a new wardrobe; stay well-groomed; stay reasonably current on news and culture. But time ruthlessly claims us all, disdaining our weekly triumphs embodied in our short-term celebration of Friday.  Before you know it, thirty years have come and gone.


I hate Fridays.

13 sublime Bowie moments

In my business, death is a headline.  It causes us to shed our feelings and get to work. I’ve done it countless times, and tried to do it when David Bowie died.  It almost worked.  But I was, and am, a fan. As a teenager, Bowie was a cultural touchstone. I remained a lifelong admirer.

David Bowie thinks about his hair and other influences

David Bowie thinks about his hair and other influences

Bowie died overnight prior to the first day of the 2016 Georgia General Assembly. As I covered the legislature that day, I scratched out a remembrance on; the exercise kept me distracted as I recalled specific instances in which Bowie performances kinda blew my mind.

The distraction was week-long, probably because my lovely wife, Mrs. LAF, has been somewhat obsessed with Bowie for much of her life.  As a child, she had a parakeet named Bowie. When I went to tell her the news at dawn Monday, she was in the shower, crying, because she already knew.

The week has given me cause to contemplate some of what I would consider to be the sublime moments in Bowie’s music catalog.  In abbreviated form, here are 12 of them.  The list is, admittedly, woefully incomplete. You are welcome to chime in.

The Bewlay Brothers.  The haunted “lay me place and bake me pie, I’m starving for me gravy” chant is a biting end to a slow and lovely song.

Queen Bitch.  Mick Ronson’s buzzing electric guitar fuels the Velvets-style riff that ignites the song and becomes Bowie’s signature sound for his next record, Ziggy Stardust.

Moonage Daydream.  Ronson’s beeping, outer-space guitar solo at the end of the song does so much with so few notes.  Heard in the right circumstance, it can bring a tear to the eye.

Hang on to Yourself / Arnold Corns version. The prototype of the punk anthem on Ziggy that started off with an unlikely slide guitar and an indifferent yet fetching vocal. It’s a country demo  that pairs compellingly with its better-known rock twin.

See Emily Play. The early Pink Floyd cover on Pinups is arguably the best of many raucous covers on Bowie’s most fun record.  The chanting vocals in the refrain, plus the playful psychedelic interplay among the drums, piano and fiddles make this song one of Bowie’s career highlights.

Sweet Thing / Candidate / Sweet Thing Reprise.  In Diamond Dogs, the singer is at the height of his Bowie vocal powers.  In this song, his range is so stunning that he never (to my knowledge) tried to replicate it in concert nor on any subsequent album.

Young Americans. The title track is a vocal and songwriting tour-de-force, sufficient to make me overlook my disdain for the alto saxophone.

Right. A song from Young Americans whose call-and-response vocals with a bank of background singers (including Luther Vandross) is multilayered and mind-boggling.

Heroes.  Robert Fripp’s feedback guitar racket never gets old on the lovely title track. But the record has other gems. “Someone fetch a priest!” is a subversive lyrical throwaway in the raucous Beauty and the Beast. Not to mention …

The Secret Life of Arabia.  The song starts gently with Carlos Alomar’s jangly rhythm guitar, then slams into Bowie’s most listenable dance song (and my personal anthem whilst covering the invasion of Iraq).

Lodger is a great and overlooked record.  Its lone hit, “DJ,” probably its weakest song, still delivers with its “time flies when you’re having fun” bridge. The hyperkinetic African Night Flight and Look Back in Anger are unlike anything else in Bowie’s repertoire.

Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps), the beeping and hooting title track to Bowie’s last 70s record, is a joyous horror.

It’s No Game Reprise, the final song on Scary Monsters, is another Bowie song that can moisten the eye under the right circumstances.  The songwriting, and Alomar’s guitar are sublime.

Honorable mentions:



The teammate

For weeks, I’d been asking to interview Brian Kemp.  He’s Georgia’s Secretary of State, the guy who has accepted responsibility — in statements released by his press office — for the leak of the personal data of six million Georgia voters.

The answer — when I’d get an answer at all — was always “no.”

I asked again.  The SOS was about to release an internal investigative report on the leak.  This time, the answer was a modification of no:  We’re already scheduled to talk to one of your colleagues.

Grey haired guys with purple ties

Grey haired guys with purple ties. The guy in the back is winning.

Jon Shirek?  I asked.


Shirek!  The visual could be my contorted face gazing upward, fist shaking.  Shirek! Once again, I’d been bested by a superior reporter.

Instead, I responded with:  “Great!  Thanks.”  Click.

Brian Kemp had already talked to Shirek a week previously — while disregarding my concurrent interview requests.  On Monday November 30, his chief of staff told me Kemp “is not doing any interviews” on the data leak issue.  I urged him to reconsider, darkly suggesting that somebody — not me, necessarily, but an ambitious TV news goon of some stripe — would likely ambush Kemp in a hallway when he least expected it.  A sit-down would be more civilized, I reasoned.

Have fun with that, came the answer.  He didn’t actually say that, but that was what he communicated, loud and clear.

Kemp talks, Shirek wins

Kemp talks, Shirek wins

Two days later, Kemp scheduled an interview with Shirek.  To my knowledge, Shirek’s interviews with Kemp are the only TV chats Kemp has granted on this topic.

And really — who could blame Kemp?

Shirek is perhaps the most admired reporter in our building.  He’s timely, enterprising, legendarily thorough, and one of the two best writers in our shop.  (Fortunately, the other one tends not to request the same interviews I do.)

He’s also much nicer than I am.  In fact, there is no more personable TV reporter in town.  When I competed against Shirek, his was the competitive company I wanted to keep.

Same now.  He actually watches TV.  He stays reasonably aware of what his coworkers are doing.  He heaps praise on them, and me occasionally, when he finds our efforts laudable.

If I was a public official going through a rough patch, I’d call Shirek too.  Especially if yours truly was my other best option.  My MO is awkward politeness, with carefully and respectfully phrased questions that can be a bit uncomfortable.  “You are the world’s worst!” Gov. Nathan Deal once said to me, in an unguarded moment aboard a campaign plane, when talking about reporters trying to get newsmakers to say things they don’t want to say.  He was smiling when he said it. I took it as a compliment.

Shirek is Julio Jones to my Roddy White.  During this year’s NFL season, as Jones eclipsed White, White made believable-yet-not-believable comments to the press about how he didn’t care who catches footballs.  He cared only about the team winning.


So here’s yet another tiresome post praising Jon Shirek.  He’s not exactly kicking my ass, inasmuch as we play for the same team.  But he’s taking care of business that I seem to be unable to handle my ownself.  I only care about the team winning.  I really do.



The rolodex

I lost Killer Mike’s phone number.

It wasn’t the only one. I actually lost my entire rolodex.  But Killer Mike’s number could have come in very handy last week, as the rapper and Run the Jewels artist became the official Atlanta escort of presidential aspirant Bernie Sanders.

Killer Mike’s intro of Sanders at the Fox Theater went kinda viral.  Killer Mike had become — at least, in our local newsroom — a somewhat hot commodity.  I’m pretty sure I was the only guy in the building with his cell.  But it was gone.

My iPhone had become clogged with digital gunk.  I had offloaded all my photos and videos, yet the phone complained it had no storage space.  I resolved to solve the problem.

As iPhone owners know, you back up your iPhone.  You can back it up to iTunes on your computer. You can back it up to “the cloud.”  But you gotta back that thing up.

I had backed it up to my Mac.  It’s the hifalutin Mac Pro tower I bought during my days as an aspiring  businessman.  It’s got, like, four processors and tons of space.  When I bought it in 2008 — a tax deductible business expense — it was top drawer.  Even though Final Cut Pro and other programs on it have become outdated — and even though it lacks the mobility of a laptop  —  it’s still top drawer in my book.

So I backed up my iPhone to the Mac Pro.  Compatible Apple products.  Seemed like a no-brainer.  I did not back it up to the cloud.  It seemed wrong to send Mayor Kasim Reed or Rep. John Lewis’s cell phone numbers to such a place when I am reluctant to share such confidential info with my trusted and beloved coworkers.

Besides, I backed up my iPhone regularly to my awesome Mac Pro.  In the event my phone fell into a lake or got run over by a bus, I thought I was covered.

About my contacts:  They include lots of cell numbers of members of the legislature, several members of Congress, and lots of routine contacts, friends and family and coworkers, and a few outliers.  (Aside from Killer Mike, I’ve got a cell phone number that I’ve never used for Patti Smith. I’m not convinced it’s actually hers. Plus, what would I say to Patti Smith?  “Hi Patti. I’m Doug. I cried like a child at your concert in Kansas City in ’78…”)

Without my contacts, I am nothing.  So I meticulously backed them up.

I backed it up again at 6am Saturday November 21, then proceeded to restore the iPhone.  It essentially wipes the phone, reverting to factory settings.  It’s an option on iTunes — and a good way to eliminate digital gunk.  Once wiped, there’s an option to use your backup to restore your contacts and apps.Screen Shot 2015-11-28 at 10.32.16 AM

So I did that.  Minutes passed. Timeline bars went from zero to 100.  And then came the prompt that said my backup was “corrupt.” Failure.

This happened a half-dozen times.  My contacts never backed up.

Elaine Boyer clutches her iPhone en route to federal prison. AJC photo

Elaine Boyer probably backed up her iPhone before she headed to federal prison. AJC photo

(I knew some of my contacts were corrupt.  There’s the county commissioner who is now serving time in federal prison; the city councilman caught spending tax money on personal business; the sheriff who beat racketeering charges but now faces another criminal charge. Without a little corruption, I’m out of business.)

So I showed up at work with a phone lacking contacts.  It felt like part of my brain was gone — in addition to the parts that already are.

Coworkers would text me. Their numbers would appear, but not their names.  I’d have to guess who was texting based on writing style or what they wrote.  Some of them, aware of my plight, courteously ID’d themselves.  When I went to call my mother on Thanksgiving, I had to pull the number from a handwritten listing.

Without the contacts in my iPhone, I am merely a guy pushing quarters into a pay phone, dialing 411 — or calling the desk on the old two-way radio, requesting the assignment editor to make a phone call on my behalf.  This used to actually happen during the first 20 years of my illustrious career as a TV news goon.

Since Saturday, I’ve done live text chats with Apple service techs.  I’ve had the case bumped up to a senior service tech.  I’ve had a half dozen conversations with him, where I’ve screen-shared my computer and taken direction from him.  Each typically lasts an hour.  Each has ended in failure.  Between each conversation, he has collaborated with backstage engineers at Apple who have hatched new schemes based on files I’ve sent.

I should add that the Sacramento-based Apple guy assigned to my case, a man named Matt Krekorian, has been great.  He seems to have taken a certain amount of ownership of my issue.  He corresponds faithfully.  He is encouraging and upbeat.  Despite an absence of results so far, he gives me confidence that I’ll get most or all of my contacts back — eventually.

During our last conversation, I suggested simply sending Matt my entire corrupted backup, a 5GB file.  That happened the Saturday after Thanksgiving, one week after the crash.

But eight days have passed.  My phone is still in its virginal state, without apps, email, contacts.  Zip.

It’s been a dreadful waste of time.  Arguably, so has this post.  Please accept my apologies.   Here’s the takeaway:

Back up your phone to more than one computer.  Back it up to “the cloud.”  Back that thing up.

The officiant

Behind Manuel’s Tavern, there are prime parking spaces reserved for clergy.  I may be able to use one now.

I say so because I officiated a wedding Saturday.  I did so by virtue of my ability to click through an internet site, and find the “get ordained” button, which I clicked.  A page popped up congratulating me on my new status as a minister of an internet church.

The same site also had a state-by-state summary of laws describing whether a person ordained by clicking a button on the internet could legally officiate a wedding.

Behind Manuel's Tavern, Atlanta

Behind Manuel’s Tavern, Atlanta

States have a public safety interest in who can become police officers, lawyers and dental hygienists. There are boards which regulate them.

But it appears most states have virtually nonexistent laws regulating preachers. This is as it should be, of course — just as there is a scarcity of laws regulating journalists.  Both jobs have implied “hands off, big gub’mint” protection in the first amendment of the US Constitution.

Any bozo with a blog and a willingness to use it can legitimately describe him / herself as a journalist. It tends to confuse things, sometimes, when folks want to interact only with news media they view as legitimate or “credentialed.”  Yet it turns out plenty of bloggers are credentialed at Georgia’s state capitol, one of the few places in Atlanta that actually scrutinizes the “legitimacy” of journalists.

But who should decide that I, an internet “clergyman,” isn’t fit to perform a marriage?

Denise, Josiah, their attendants and the "clergyman."

Denise, Josiah, their attendants and the “clergyman.”

The happy couple, that’s who.  And Saturday, Denise and Josiah viewed me as sufficient.

They had a legit marriage license.  That’s the document the state of Georgia does require and may occasionally even scrutinize — but apparently not for the bona fides of the officiant who pronounces them husband and wife.

About the wedding, which took place on the lawn behind the hotel at Chateau Elan:

I pulled the ceremony from the internet and lightly rewrote it.  I trod very lightly in religious language, but strengthened material that lectured the happy couple on how to maintain a long-term relationship.  I felt I was a legitimate purveyor of such counseling.

Because Denise is a native of Germany with family in the audience, I asked the internet — and the German woman who cares for Mrs LAF and my preschoolers — to help me come up with German translations for two key phrases:

  • In this ceremony, we will witness the joining of Denise and Josiah in marriage.   Freunde, wir haben uns in Anwesenheit dieser Zeugen hier versammelt, um Denise und Josiah in der Ehe zu vereinen.
  • I now pronounce you husband and wife. Hiermit erkläre ich Sie zu Mann und Frau.

I practiced reading those lines out loud a lot.

Also eliminated the line that says “by the power vested in me…” substituting the TV news phrase “with that…”  The line about “power” seemed a presumptuous word to use for a guy who surfed the web to get it.

Clint holds his own against his sister.

Clint holds his own against his younger sister.

Our three year old, Yvonne, was the flower girl.  She did a nice job of tossing rose petals.  She also dragged it out a bit.  She knows she’s cute.  She seemed to believe the attendees were gathered to see her.

The ceremony was not flawless.  I realized that my text had the groom saying twice the “I Josiah take you Denise” line, failing to flip the line to the bride. I also spotted some duplication immediately after.  I had to sort that out during what the wedding party (said they) thought was simply a well-timed dramatic pause.  The wife, on the other hand, knew something had slipped up.

Yes, I had practiced the ceremony. But apparently I failed to fully proof-read my copy.  I should have had a second set of eyes on it.

Otherwise, the performance felt solid. The attendees seemed to like it. The couple beamed. Some German speaking people in the audience said my attempt at uttering phrases in their language wasn’t too awful.  The experience was very gratifying.

Afterward, one of the attendees asked me if I was Jeff Dore.  Of course.

If Jeff, as a retired newsman, isn’t conducting weddings by now, he should be.

Then he and I could vie for those coveted “clergy” spots behind Manuel’s tavern.


Alison Parker w/ Adam Ward - WDBJ7 r

Alison Parker w/ Adam Ward – WDBJ7 Roanoke VA

I didn’t want to know the details of the shooting deaths of the two TV news folk in Roanoke.  I didn’t want to let it unduly upset me.  I had to work hard to make that happen Wednesday.

Though stories kept popping up on my desktop Wednesday, I declined to read them. In recent years, I have tried not to dwell on the details of all the repeated incidents of gun violence in America.  I don’t dwell on the details because I am numbed by the frequency and scope of the carnage.

When some guy entered an elementary school and killed 20 tiny children and six adults in Connecticut, I read every detail.  I got upset.  When Congress declined to act on gun violence following that massacre, I decided I needed to stop letting mass killings upset me.

(And what might Congress have done?  Ban sales of assault rifles?  It may seem like a sensible baby step, because assault rifles are ergonomically designed to rapidly take out multiple human targets.  But any action short of weapon confiscation would have little impact on the casual firepower now available to Americans, and the jackboot solution would only pit gun owners against government workers and beget more carnage.  So “gun control” isn’t really an option anymore, if it ever was.)

The Washington Post calculates that there has been, on average, more than one mass shooting in America every single day in 2015.

I care that the young lives of Alison Parker and Adam Ward of WDBJ-TV were snuffed by a handgun-toting fool in Roanoke.  I do care.  When I allow myself a few sideways glances of their images on the internet — seeing but not studying their smiling young faces, committing acts of television the same way I’ve done for a gazillion years — I do see a reflection. I lament their loss and the grief of their friends and family.

Alison-Parker-24-and-Adam-Ward-500x312It is about the senseless violence that befell them.  It is not, emphatically, about me and the other folks who toil in my business who are, perhaps, allowing themselves to wonder if they might be next.  Because the answer is yes, they might be.  I might be.

But so might you.  So might all of our families and friends and other strangers whose acquaintances we make only after we read about something horrible befalling them.

The TV news business has its dangers, and they are acknowledged only infrequently.  A few weeks back, in the northwest Atlanta neighborhood known as The Bluff, I heard gunfire too-close to where I was doing a 5pm live shot.  We calmly packed our gear and did our 6pm live shot elsewhere.

In late spring, a mob assaulted a WAGA photographer who was covering a story late at night in a rough part of town.

But Parker and Ward were covering a feature story at the crack of dawn at a location where one could not reasonably predict danger.  They were targeted by a madman.  Just like the kids in Sandy Hook.  Just like all the innocent adults killed in workplace violence.

So what befell them wasn’t their occupation.  It was a madman.

And yes, madmen with a sense of planning and a flair for publicity could target other TV folk doing live shots in a fixed, public location with only their live trucks to shield them. Maybe they’ll bear a grudge against members of a mostly unpopular profession.

But I’m not going to worry about it.

Our industry does have its vulnerabilities.  The trend toward using one-man-bands in major markets remains troubling.  In addition to doing the work of two people, they lack the extra set of eyes which could potentially warn against somebody aiming to do harm.

Yet the folks who died in Roanoke were working as a two-person team, not solo.

Out in the world — where TV news folk are frequently welcomed but often scorned — we are merely human beings asking uncomfortable questions and bearing the logos of news operations.  Madmen lusting for blood have target-rich environments wherever they go.  We are merely one of them. My situational awareness is my shield.  In a parallel way, so is my numbness.

I am, darkly, an optimist.  My odds of surviving a workday are quite good.

So I care about my safety, and that of my colleagues.  But I’m not going to let the Roanoke killings unduly upset me.  I’m not going to let that horrific violence prevent me from standing in a public place tethered to a TV camera.  Maybe I’ll be a target.

But sadly, none of us is safe– regardless of what we do for a living.

Since writing this post, I’ve scoured the internet for images of Parker and Ward, and begun to read their stories.  Ward was “vivacious and funny.”  Parker is described a genuinely shining light at WDBJ whose likability is evident in a video the station made touting “7 fun facts about Alison Parker.” Watching that video — and finally reading about her and Ward — have shaken my resolve to avoid getting upset.

I would like to extend my sympathies to their families, friends and coworkers.


Nine holes

I learned something about Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed in June:  He’s a very gracious golfer.  He also has a keen sense of his opponents’ weaknesses, and isn’t shy about attacking them.

Last month I played golf with  Reed.  I produced a story about the game, intended as a snapshot character study of a guy we rarely see in a relaxed setting.

Mayor Kasim Reed with a lousy golfer and a terrible person

Mayor Kasim Reed with a lousy golfer and a terrible person

In the spring of 2014.  I’d heard about Reed’s annual golf tournament.  I asked his then-spokesman, Carlos Campos, if Reed would consider doing nine holes with yours truly for a story.  Campos was wary.

Campos had seen Reed explode at me a time or three on various occasions.  (Reed’s explosions are very measured, not incendiary in the classic sense.  But they are unmistakable and the stuff of legend among Atlanta news folk.)  “I’m not gonna pitch that to him.  You have to do it yourself next time you see him,” Campos said.

I saw Reed in an agreeable setting a few weeks later.  He was dedicating a rec center, surrounded by adoring constituents.  I approached him with a photog about an unrelated issue and he handled the questions cleanly.  Afterward, I pitched the golf shoot, and he immediately said yes.  “We’ll do it before the end of summer,” I recall him saying.  I was surprised and pumped.

Four days before our scheduled match in September, I broke my wrist and had to cancel. Earlier this year, I pitched the story again.  He agreed again.

My secret desire was to see the mayor overcoming adversity.  Like myself, I’d heard Reed was not a particularly good golfer.  I figured he’d spend lots of time in the weeds, the rough, the sand, the trees.  That’s how I roll, golf-wise.  I was pumped to watch him handle that stuff and to potentially heckle, and be heckled by him.  I’m a fan of quality heckling.

Reed wanted to play at Brown’s Bridge, a course off Cleveland Ave. SE.  I brought a ringer, Ayanna Habeel, a fifteen year old girl whose golf stroke had drawn the attention of the course manager, who recommended her when I asked for a young participant.

Reed unexpectedly brought two guys.  He also showed up some 40 minutes late, and of course had a midday appointment he needed to keep.

I went over ground rules.  Mulligans?  Yeah, we each get two.  Strict scoring?  Check.  I pitched a mercy rule:  After nine strokes on one hole, we bail.  He suggested eight.

We teed off.  Reed’s first tee shot was great.  Mine was decent.  The other players hit nice shots too.  We boarded golf carts, then Reed announced:  We’re playing best ball, the same rule used in his tournament.

Best ball means each golfer shoots from the position of the ball that lands closest to the tee by whichever player.  It means that one good golfer can keep guys like Reed and me out of the weeds, the sand, the trees and the rough.  It means that if I hit a shot into an adjacent fairway, it magically disappears and I play a ball that somebody else skillfully hit on target.

It wrung all the adversity out of the match.  Reed and I probably hit equal numbers of crappy shots, but we never had to dig them out of pine straw, briar patches, woodpiles and / or creek beds for subsequent shots.  I have much experience in such stuff, golfwise.  The practice hasn’t helped.

At one point, after I hit a lousy shot, I invited Reed to heckle me.  He declined.  Our tough-guy mayor is a real gent on the golf course when playing a best-ball match in front of TV cameras.  My own semi-rehearsed heckles (“wow, you hooked that shot like a fire chief with an anti-gay book”) never left my mouth.

He did heckle me, but it had nothing to do with golf.  I was chatting with Anne Torres, Reed’s communications director.  In a moment of weakness, I guessed her age and botched it.  Anne is a lovely young woman who brushed off my gaffe.  Reed, on the other hand, spent the better part of two holes cackling about my absence of tact as a reporter and human being.

It was quality abuse, and I deserved every word of it.  I was embarrassed and a bit unnerved.

I would have used the material in the piece, but it would have required too much setup.  Because the piece ran at 6pm, a half-hour newscast, I had 1:45 to distill nearly two hours of material shot by two talented WXIA photographers, Stephen Boissy and Luke Carter.

So it turned out the character study was less about Reed than it was about me.  Conclusion:  I’m a terrible person, not to mention, a shitty golfer.

But I already knew that.

The general’s kid

Update:  Last month, this woman donated a kidney to a stranger.

My brother in law spotted Beth Galvin in a Decatur pub and got all giddy. Who could blame him? Galvin is an talented, humble, good-humored and lovely WAGA reporter who has owned that station’s medical beat for the last fifteen years.

Beth Galvin, WAGA

Beth Galvin, WAGA

“What should I say to her?” he texted me, looking for some inside-ball conversation-starter. In this case, I actually had an answer.

“Tell her you’re a Cold War buff.  Ask her if she’s Gen. John Galvin’s daughter. ”

Who? asked the BIL, a man who is many things– but not a Cold War buff.

Gen. Galvin, I explained via text, was a four-star Army general who became the Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, among other resume highlights.  When he retired in 1992, the Washington Post described him as “without peer among living generals.”

Beth has her own claims to local-news fame. But I’m pretty sure she would say that none exceeds that of being daddy’s little girl.

Gen. Galvin (left) from Life Magazine

Gen. Galvin (left) from Life Magazine

She grew up an Army brat in far-flung posts across the globe, ranging from Belgium and Germany to Panama and Hinesville GA, where she graduated from high school. And wherever she went, she was the bossman’s kid. Her Army brat life was a lot different than most. She was the red carpet brat.

“Talk about opening doors,” says Mike Zakel, the WXIA photog who worked with Galvin for a bunch of years before she jumped ship from WXIA to WAGA in 1997 or so. Zakel and Galvin covered stories together at Ft. Stewart. Guess which general commanded the 24th Infantry Division (Mechanized) from 1981 to ’83 at Fort Stewart?

Gen. Galvin’s daughter is no ordinary local TV news chica whenever she darkens the gates at Ft. Stewart.

“I never minded the ribbing about being the General’s daughter because I knew I’d hit the Dad Lottery.  He is a great, funny, loving father,” Beth writes.  “In the military, he was respected, but he was also loved.  Which is rare in a world in which a lot of people lead by fear – or bravado.  He spoke quietly.”  Somewhere in Massachusetts, there’s a school named after Beth’s dad.

Beth describes her dad as her career’s biggest cheerleader.

Retired Gen. John Galvin

Retired Gen. John Galvin

Today, Gen. Galvin is retired. He has written a book about his life as a Cold Warrior. Posting the info on social media, Gen. Galvin’s kid couldn’t be prouder.

Following our texts, my brother in law stalked Beth Galvin’s table, introduced himself and deadpanned the Cold War inquiry about the General. He says Beth’s face brightened, surprised by the recognition, in a civilian setting, of her pre-TV claim to fame.

Beth writes: “He totally HAD me.  100% played.  I bow to him,”