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,”


Rest in peace, Dan Keever.  You were a smart, gentle soul– and a great, steadying presence in a rough business.  You’re gone too soon.

Is this where y’all film the news?

When I worked, as a poodle-headed youth, at my first TV news job in Mississippi, I’d hear that question.  It would come from folks touring WTVA-TV.  They would ask it upon entering the station’s airy studio, a familiar sight for viewers of Tupelo’s only TV station.

Photo by Bill Birdsong, official photographer for Gov. Lester Maddox

Photo by Bill Birdsong, official photographer for Gov. Lester Maddox

Why, of course we don’t “film” the news here, I would nonverbally retort while verbally saying “yes, ma’am, and thank you for watching.”  By 1980, TV news technology had mostly discarded film as a newsgathering medium, replacing it with reusable videotape.  Tape was cheaper, lasted longer, required less guesswork / science and could be “turned” instantly — bypassing the soupy processing film required to get the nitrate images onto the film emulsion that gave us motion pictures.

Film was a terrific newsgathering medium for those skilled in its use.  Dan Keever, pictured left,  was.  I was not.

I used film while at KOMU-TV Columbia MO in 1979.  My fellow University of Missouri students and I shot my final pre-graduation project on film.  I did such a poor job of hot-splice editing it that Mackie Morris authorized me to transfer the raw material over to videotape.  That project taught me how to edit tape-to-tape.  I never attempted to edit film again.

Despite the shift in technology, “film” never went away, at least as a verb to describe what one does with a mobile TV camera.   People would see us reloading videotape into our “minicams” (or, back in the early 80s, the clunky tape decks that attached by cable to minicams), and still talk about us filming the news.

Even today, I talk to young adults who grew up shooting video on Iphones — and they still use the word “film” to describe what they’re doing.

I think they may be onto something.

For most of my adult life, I would painstakingly make the distinction:  No, we are not “filming.”  But we are “videotaping,” which is the same thing minus the film canisters, the film processing and the quaint hot-splice editing.

But we no longer use videotape.  We use chips, or “cards,” which encode video into what is essentially a portable hard drive.  What’s the right verb / gerund for that?

“Shooting” is accurate, but it has other meanings and fails to convey that there’s a recording process underway.

“Videoing” is a gnarly word I can’t bring myself to use.  “Encoding” is a word that would require an explanation.

“Documenting” is cute, but has other meanings and sounds a bit pretentious, especially for a guy or gal standing at a string of crime scene tape.  You might-could use that word if you do it with an ironic smirk.

I could continue to say “videotaping,” but that would make us sound anachronistic.  That’s not a good thing at a time when local TV news is struggling to stay relevant to young people.

So aside from the absence of film, “filming” works.  It doesn’t require an explanation.  It’s universally understood and, despite the disappearance of film, remains widely used.  Plus, it’s part of the kids’ jargon.  So it’s a thing.

So yeah.  I’m now part of a film crew.

Y’all filming the news?  Why, yes ma’am.  And we’re damn glad you still know what “the news” is.