Monday, July 12, 2010

Holy Moly: Breaking News

Somewhere along the line a particular news director in a particular town decided that this particular TV newsman lacked balls when it came to breaking news.  He wanted our crews running on all manner of shootings, fires, and car crashes, even if it meant shit-canning a really good story.  His point of view of it bleeds it leads journalism, is part of what has led to the decline of TV news. 

This particular news director took particular delight in trashing my reputation.  He did his best to make sure that I didn't get this particular job in Sacramento.  Have I made mistakes when it comes to breaking news?  I've made plenty in 30 years.  I made two in particular with this particular news director, one of which really wasn't a mistake, but I digress.  The reporters and producers in that particular newsroom live in a climate of fear and repudiation.  It was enough to drive me out of the business.

I tell this story because tonight I was filling in on the 6 and 11.  It's a weekend but I and my other executive producer com-padres at News10 are team players.  After a very good 6 p.m. news we were set for a good 11 with a great lead story.  A firefighter burned in an explosion last week was getting out of the hospital and his company brought a truck to the burn unit for his release.  It was great stuff and one of our ace reporters, who happens to have even more years in this business under his belt than me, was putting it together with one of our hot shot photographers.

Shortly after ten p.m. firefighters responded to an electrical fire which turned into a problem when they discovered that someone had monkeyed with the wiring.  It appeared to be a marijuana growing operation.  That's not too unusual in this area.  The assignment editor wanted to run on it but I said let's wait until we get the lead piece edited and send the photographer.  I didn't see this as being worth blowing up my great lead up over.  In that particular newsroom I spoke about before I would have been broiled alive for not running on it.

At 10:20 another breaker erupted, this time a shooting at a motel in a bad neighborhood.  Again, it wasn't worth running on but as the information began to flow over the scanners it became apparent we had two victims and a large crowd at the scene. I decided my reporter and photographer needed to go.  They hit the road at about 10:40 p.m. with the great package in the can.  I figured they would make it in time for the top of the show and I built the graphics and wrote the scripts and floated them into the newscast.  I knew that it was at least a 15 minute drive and figured it would take another five to ten minutes to get set up.

Much to my surprise I saw the live signal two minutes before air.  The director, God Bless him, said, these guys will be ready for the top of the show.  I floated the breaking news to the top of the show and we were off and running.  We did two other hits with nary a glitch in the newscast and I didn't have to cut weather or sports.  The newscast rocked as did Dave Marquis and Brandon Atchison, the reporter and photographer on this particular story. 

The point of all this is my patience bad off.  If we had run on the fire we could have screwed ourselves on the shooting.  We were the only station live with a reporter on the scene at the top of their news.  Dave and Brandon got two great stories on the air instead of one because I didn't blow up my newscast chasing bullshit.  I'm not perfect and I'll make plenty more mistakes, but one particular news director can kiss my ass.


  1. Good story, Rink, thanks for sharing. It's good to follow your gut - it's always right.

    Sarah McCurdy

  2. Ha! Oh, it's this kind of thing that makes me hate and miss TV news all at the same time. It's always a crap shoot, isn't it?

  3. We had a good night boss (Brandon Atchison).